It can’t all be fun — learning to swim, learning anything. In Lesson Eight, I hit a big bump followed by a few weeks of struggle and doubt.
Part of it was timing. October was full of wonderful life events — but still time-consuming, exhausting. I hosted my first Open Studios, two weekends jam-packed with art lovers visiting my studio — a success far beyond what I had hoped for. Then a quick trip to London for my only child’s wedding — moving, exciting, and fun but emotionally exhausting in addition to the eight-hour flight each way, trapped with hundreds of coughing people and the time adjustment.
I went to Lesson Eight (after Open Studios and before my trip to London) with the excitement and joy I’ve gotten used to feeling before each lesson, though I had practiced only once between lessons.
Beth was moving my hips and legs for the kicks, and I was making sure I could see my arm and hand in the imaginary box in front of my head while the other came forward in the air preparing to enter the water. She asked me if I could feel the weight of my stroking arm coming up and over — was I bending my wrist, making a tight fist, or letting my hands be loose and wrist straight?
Beth was turning me over and over — I was thrilled because I was breathing and moving my arms and kicking and so excited to be doing something that felt close to swimming, when suddenly the world tipped and I felt sick to my stomach. I recognized the severe vertigo as it hit. I’d experienced it a few times in the past, absolutely hate it, and never want to experience it again. I thought the feeling might pass and I so wanted to keep experimenting and experiencing swimming, the rolling over — and then it hit again, the world tipping, and stomach dropping. I had to stop my lesson and felt extremely nauseous walking back to the locker room. Taking a shower was a challenge, the world continued to tilt and rock.
I didn’t want to drive home in this state. I sat in my car crying — freaked out and afraid that this would be the reason I wouldn’t learn to swim.
When I got home my partner, Carol, saw how pale and sick I looked and didn’t have to insist I lie down immediately.
I came down with a bad case of the flu. It stayed with me the next four days.
After the flu passed, I made myself go back to the pool to practice. I didn’t feel the ease or excitement that I’d come to expect. I felt sad and apprehensive and angry that I’d had vertigo and that it had left me feeling uncertain.
For the first time I approached my next lesson with apprehension and fear, afraid that I would experience nauseating vertigo.
I didn’t tell Beth how sad and frustrated I’d felt after the last lesson. I felt betrayed by my body and I was afraid that maybe I really couldn’t learn to swim. These kinds of things don’t slip by Beth though. At the end of the lesson she gave me a hug. It made me feel like she wasn’t giving up on me — that she believed I would learn to swim. So far, the flu was the cause of the vertigo because it hasn’t returned.
Dear Shoney: I would never give up on you or any student. I know you’ll reach your goal. Your determination is impressive. Life happens to all of us. The trick is to pick one’s self up again after a setback and trust in the process. ~Beth