This afternoon I surprised two of my grand children, aged five and two. For the first time, they saw me in a bathing costume.
They laughed, and so did I. They laughed a lot more when we entered the indoor swimming pool. The five-year-old had a large water pistol and proceeded to shoot me. The only thing was, he was laughing so much he could not see straight and luckily missed his target much of the time. The two year old, resplendent in her pink ‘Tinkerbelle’ bathers, took to the water like the plastic yellow duck and three baby ducks that her mum had given her to play with and I was busy keeping up. (Mum is expecting baby number three in three weeks and was looking on from the pool side – she was laughing too).
For an hour we frolicked in the indoor pool like seals in the sea. Happy, happy, happy. Why was this simple event so important to me?
Because I let it happen! When my daughter was aged five years, she gallantly swam 50 metres in the ‘big pool’ as a junior member of the local swimming club in the town where we lived. I made sure she and her brothers had lots of opportunities – swimming, ballet, brownies, cubs, tennis, horse riding lessons and more. But I never once got in the pool and played with my daughter or her brothers. Or went to a rehearsal, or went to a gymkhana, or went camping with them. Not once. The rigidity of thought imposed by decades of eating disorders prevented me doing many things that I knew I would have enjoyed, and wanted to do, but could not allow myself to do.
Before we went to the pool this afternoon, I accompanied my daughter and grand daughter to the primary school where my eldest grandson began his formal education two weeks ago. We waited in the quadrangle with other Preparatory Class parents and grandparents, for him to emerge from his class. Standing there, and thinking back 30 years, to when I was aged 31, and my daughter was aged five, I felt momentarily overwhelmed by grief. Grief for lost moments with each of my four children.
I had never gone to their school to greet them after class – I was always at work when school was out for the day. Doctors, rightly, had encouraged me to work – work was essential as the only small part of my life not negotiable with ‘Ed’ and Ed was raging when my children were young. If I had not worked, I would have had no self-esteem at all and most likely would not be here to write this. I was afraid to be a parent. As afraid as I was to eat three meals a day. So, I was reminded of this, briefly, today.
Briefly, because I have learnt to shove such thoughts aside, and focus on the moment. Damned if I will lose any more of my life to ED! So, with a minute or two before my grandson appeared, I swept up the two-year-old and watched as she climbed in the school playground and caught her as she flew down the slide, shrieking in glee.
Back to the swimming pool – my grandson was so impressed at having my company in the pool, that when I suggested maybe it was not such a good idea to shoot Grandma in the eyes with that water pistol (because I needed to keep an eye on his little sister, proper little fish that she was), that he took off his goggles and said: ‘Here Grandma, put these on’. To be offered goggles by a young grandson is very special indeed.
I loved swimming as a child. Growing up by a river in rural Australia, I swam several times a day during the summer holidays – together with the snakes, goannas, platypus, salamanders, bearded dragons, eels and whatever else had made its home in the river. I love water. Full stop. I love to look at it, hear the sounds (of rain, waves, rapids) and most of all, being in it. If only my grand children knew, what great medicine they are for me.
It is a little more difficult to go swimming now, with a titanium rod in my cervical spine (A Girl Called Tim) but the helpful young staff at the swimming pool have assured me that a snorkel will be a perfect solution, enabling me to breathe underwater as I swim. Oh, what joy! My daughter is as happy as me. I am even going to try an aqua aerobic class on Thursday of this week.
Life. This is living. Shake off ED and that lingering rigidity. Allow yourself to do what you know you will enjoy, too. Never too late to make a splash!