Sink or Swim

By tamara on

WP_20140810_07_30_55_ProLast night I had a terrible night’s sleep; tossing and turning all night long. When my alarm went off at 5:30 AM, I was already awake, lying in bed reflecting on my tortured dreams – which foreshadowed the days events that lied ahead.

Later this afternoon, my real estate agent scheduled the first Open House to try and sell my home.  The move to Manhattan was beginning to feel real.  A moment of panic and a gasp for air followed by a quick mental scan of a list of people whom I could call in order to calm me down. But my entire support system is broken right now, as most of the people who normally prop me up aren’t speaking to me at the moment.  Plus it was 6 o’clock on Sunday morning, who would even be awake?

So, I got dressed. I put on my bathing suit and sweat pants and a sweatshirt.  I ate half an almond butter sandwich and a protein smoothie and off I went to Belmar, New Jersey to take part in one mile ocean swimming race.

I never swam in the ocean before. The extent of my swimming has been limited to a pool with water temperature set at a tepid 82 degrees.  This swim was meant to be practice for a triathlon that I am doing in two weeks. I was nervous and my dreams reflected this anxiety.  And although the dreams were mostly about swimming somehow, I thought that they were exacerbated by the move.

Once I arrived in Belmar, I registered and then headed down towards the water.  I laid my towel down not to far from a woman was struggling to put on her wet suit. I watched her and empathized, as it reminded me of the wet suit shopping, I did two weeks ago.  Those suits are so difficult to put on – as my mother used to say, it is like putting 10 pound turkey in a five pound bag.  So I decided to go without one.

The woman walked over and asked for my help.  There is always a great amount of camaraderie at these events and its always nice to meet people with experience that could offer advice.  This woman had a fair about of experience so I was glad to listen to her guidance.  But once I got into the water no amount of text book knowledge could prepare me for this experience.  I swam out and out and out and before I knew it, I was so far out that I couldn’t see another soul.  Suddenly I felt so alone and isolated.

I tried to aligned myself in the direction of the next buoy, but as I looked up I couldn’t even see that buoy. I was terrified. The ocean was just too vast and task seemed too daunting.  Mentally I was overcome and I was ready to give up – not only on this race, but I also foresaw my triathlon goal fade away as well.

I stopped swimming and looked around for the life guards on surfboards.  I raised my hand and called him over.  I felt defeated and was going to let myself fail – and somehow I was ok with that.  He paddled over to me and I told him I was too scared to continue on.  But he wouldn’t let me stop.  He said that he watched me swim and that I was capable of completing this race and he promised to stay by my side the entire way.

So I swam and every few stokes kept checking to make sure that he was still there.  And he was.  The distance felt long although physically I wasn’t t tired.  But when I was able to touch bottom, I was so relieved.

So, in the end, yes I did it, but I don’t have that feeling that I’ve persevered and accomplished.  Instead I am nervous about the upcoming triathlon.  The way I feel right now, I don’t ever want to swim in the ocean ever again – ever.  And with that kind of thought in my head – what am I going to do?


  1. Wow – Tamara.. congratulations! That’s a phenomenal accomplishment & one you should be proud of. I think you should continue on with the triathlon – at least then you can say you tried, even if you don’t complete it.

    • Thanks Nata,
      I don’t feel like I accomplished because I didn’t command authority. I now look at the ocean like he is a big bully that I try to avoid in the schoolyard. The woman that I met at the race said that there is an open swim this evening with one of the swim clubs and she suggested that I go to that. Maybe I will, if I can get up the nerve. Thanks for the support – that always helps!
      xo, Tamara

  2. The ocean is not something you figure out in a day or a year or even a lifetime. Unlike a box of chocolates you never know what your going to get. You need to get out of the pool and start putting in some time in the ocean. More importantly pay attention to the conditions wind, waves and currents. Start slow and remember the ocean always wins. Keep trying and don’t give up.

    • I’m not sure if I’m encourage by your words or more scared. The ocean “winning” is precisely where my fear is coming from. Swimming as far out as we did for this race seemed like I wasn’t giving the ocean the proper respect it was due.

      Thanks for the support.

  3. Tamara that is not like you to give up. I know you can do it. So go to it and do it. You might need some practice in swimming in the ocean. It is much different than the pool. For me I preferred the ocean. One has to get used to the waves. Do not give up. Just do it. Teta Lesia

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