You know those things that are meant to be just like riding a bicycle; you never forget how to do them? Well apparently swimming isn’t one of them. At least not for me. Come to think of it I can’t ride a bike either!
Until Saturday I had not been near a swimming pool since I was 14 (16 years) and until this week I had not owned or worn a pair of bathers in equally as long. It does seem sacrilegious to be living in Australia; the land of sun, surf and sand and not indulging in this favourite Aussie pastime so I decided if you can’t beat them, join them.
The last time I wore bathers in public was a tad traumatic, I remember getting into the water at our local pool (a favourite activity of mine) and doggy-paddling my way from the wall when a small boy of about 6 remarked to his Dad, “look Dad, that girl looks like a monster”. I was crushed. I realize how melodramatic it sounds but I never went swimming again.
Once I did decide to go again I looked everywhere for the perfect neck to ankle ensemble but alas, I guess Bhurkinis are just not that widely available in Perth. In the end I settled on a one shoulder black and chocolate brown number and prayed for the confidence to actually wear it, the thought terrified me. There would be nowhere to hide AND I wouldn’t be able to wear my chicken fillets!
As it turned out there were very few people at the pool that day and there were 3 very pretty girls sunbathing
Lesson one: Settle down Nina, no one is looking at you!
It took me ages to get into the water. The pool was not heated so I did that thing people do when trying to acclimatise to a piping hot bath. I inched my way in one toe at a time.
When I did get in, I swore (it was really cold) and remarked to my boyfriend, these bathers are giving me a wedgie, I hope nobody saw me flashing”. I spoke in what I thought was a mild volume
But as I was not wearing my hearing aid, it was actually a yell. Oops.
Lesson two: Be careful what you say, you never know who can hear you.
I am no Ian Thorpe and if I am honest I never passed stage 3 in my swimming lessons. I am visually impaired now and far less stable on my feet than I was when last I swam but still I thought I could swim. I could not.
We were in waist-deep water yet I was scared I would drown, that and I didn’t want to get my hair wet. Lucky for me Matt is very patient. He walked me around that pool for nearly an hour whilst I clung onto him for dear life. He then tried to teach me to float and I very nearly did.
The longer I was in there the more confident I got so, when it came time to get out I went to heave myself up on the wall. The steps were right next to me and, seeing the accident waiting to happen Matt suggested I use them. “No” I said “I can easily get up this way”. As I said this Of course, I slipped and fell back into the water. I flailed about for what seemed like ages before hearing Matt telling me to relax and feeling him lifting me to safety. Only my ego was hurt and yes, I did get my hair wet.
For the record, I have now committed to learning to swim again.
Lesson three: Stay calm, swallow your pride and learn to take advice.
I’m not always a weakling though. That night the 42 inch television toppled off its stand in the living room. At first I thought “at least I didn’t do it” then I thought, “how the hell are we going to get it back up?” God forbid we miss the footy!
We devised a plan to slide the TV back onto the stand and then lift it upright. It sounded good but I had my doubts. Was I strong enough? What if I accidentally let it slip and it broke? Eventually we got it back onto the stand and, with Matt holding it steady I was able (with some effort) to lift it to its original position. Phew!
Miraculously it still worked perfectly.
Lesson four: Trust yourself, you are more capable than you think and it’ll be alright on the night.
For those of you who don’t know, this week saw me have my very first article published. Does this mean that now I am legit?
I had such a good response from not only those who know me but complete strangers as well. People have begun to reach out to me, share their stories and compare notes. Apparently I am not so different after all.
The article can be found at http://www.abc.net.au/rampup under the title of to see or not to see disability.
Lesson five: You are not a princess, the world does not revolve around you.
Gee it’s been a busy week!