To Swim Or Not To Swim? Part II

Did I mention that the idea of keeping my head under the water was a terrifying one? Yes, I think I did. Well, just a reminder, in case you forgot from part I

I was traumatized!

For me, that was a major hurdle. According to Popov, a great Russian sprint freestyle swimmer, (and may he rest in peace): "The water is your friend. You don't have to fight with the water, just share the same spirit as the water, and it will help you move." Okay, Mr. Popov. You say it's that simple? Right. Easier said than done. Yeah, fat chance of it happening just like that.

But over time, I made progress… little steps… relaxed more… gained confidence… began to enjoy the water… almost embraced it… remembered Popov's words… the water is your friend… share the spirit… share the spirit… the water… your friend… the water… your friend… the words played over and over in my head, like a mantra… Om. Om. Om. Om. Om. Om. Om. Om.

And all went well until the day Madame Instructress dropped the bombshell!

It was D-DAY!

"Today we're gonna put down our boards and we're gonna ———"

Gonna what? Swim without a board? Never. Negatory. Nooit. Not gonna happen. Not in this lifetime. Not while I have breath in my body. (Well, barely… because I'm at the point of hyperventilation…)

Read my lips. THE. BOARD. STAYS. End of story. No ifs, buts or maybes.

Meanwhile, Madame Instructress smiles, graciously. My heart is thumping, louder and louder. She's gotta be kidding me! I had been doing fairly well up until that point (with the help of the board, of course) I had managed to keep my head under water, simultaneously kicking my legs and propelling my body forward! And all this with my eyes open. NOTE WELL: EYES OPEN! For me, that was MAJOR progress. And now she was determined to ruin the friendship.

To cut a long story short, I have a vivid recollection of the SECOND lesson WITHOUT the board. (The first remains hazy…) It starts something like this…

Madame Instructress: How are you today?

(What a question! What do you think?)

Me: I've been better, thanks.

(Actually, I think I've relapsed. Back to square 1.)

Madame Instructress: And so have I… been better, I mean…

Me: Oh, have you been ill?

(She seemed okay at the last lesson. Though I can't really remember…)

Madame Instructress: Not really. Just nursing a tender patch on my arm (points to her upper arm)

I notice faint, blue marks on her upper arm.

Me: Oh, did you fall again?

(She does seem to be accident-prone. Was even knocked over by one of the kids she tutors)

Madame Instructress: No. This is where you gripped me. Held on for dear life. Panicked when you couldn't feel the wall in front of you.

I feel terrible. Embarrassed.

I apologise, profusely! That first lesson without the board is just a blur. But the marks on the upper arm say it all.

Me: It's a wonder you didn't charge me for GBH? (Trying desperately to lighten the moment of awkwardness…)

AND BY THE WAY, I HOPE THAT PUT A SMILE ON YOUR DIAL. AND I HOPE THE SMILE IS ONE OF SUPPORT FOR MY AMBITION – NOT FOR ANY OTHER REASON. LOL. (and don't you dare ask about the progress from this point onwards… because I'm not telling. End of story!)


  1. Alex J. Cavanaugh on May 25, 2013 at 5:31 pm

    At least you tried!

  2. Crystal Collier on May 25, 2013 at 9:56 pm

    LOL! Would you like to borrow some of my fish-ism? I think some of us are born loving the water, and some the opposite. I don't know that you could have gotten away with not facing the water if you lived where I do. (Florida.) But then, I grew up in the desert. *shrugs*

    • Michelle Wallace on May 28, 2013 at 3:07 pm

      I would LOVE some of your fish-ism!  LOL I live on the coastline, right by the sea PLUS we have the best climate in the whole country. We're the warmest spot during winter (during the winter season, the out-of-towners flock here) so I don't know how to explain it…

  3. L. Diane Wolfe on May 25, 2013 at 10:26 pm

    I must be one of those "one-with-the-water" types, as floating underwater is my favorite thing to do because it's so peaceful.

    Maybe flippers would help you?

    • Michelle Wallace on May 28, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      Floating underwater? Sounds like bliss! I'd even be happy with floating on top of the water…  🙂  Flippers? Would that help with streamlining? Or buoyancy in the water? Or balance?

  4. Emily R King on May 25, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    Ha! I’m proud of you for sticking with it!

    • Michelle Wallace on May 28, 2013 at 3:11 pm

      Thanks Em, you don't know the half of it… *shakes head*…

  5. Jocelyn Rish on May 26, 2013 at 12:18 am

    You're so brave for contrinuing to try in the face of something that scares you so much. You can do it!!!

    • Michelle Wallace on May 28, 2013 at 3:13 pm

      It's one of the scariest challenges I've ever faced! Probably THE most scariest to date…

  6. Carol Kilgore on May 26, 2013 at 3:30 am

    I giggled 🙂 Congratulations on sticking it out. You will be fine. The water is your friend.

    • Michelle Wallace on May 28, 2013 at 3:14 pm

      The water… my friend? Is it? I'm not so certain… glad you had some chuckles  🙂

  7. Michael Di Gesu on May 26, 2013 at 3:34 am

    Poor Mme. Instructress…. BUT you survivied and did RELATIVELY WELL! CONGRATS! I does get easier. Always remember to BREATHE! I know that is difficult while under water, but you will find a way… LOL … I just know it!

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend Melissa. TOO COLD to swim here. 50 degrees today.. What happened to the 78 degrees on Monday? 

    • Michelle Wallace on May 28, 2013 at 3:17 pm

      Survived? Well, barely… 🙂 Breathe? How on earth is that possible when you are under water? Okay, I'll try… Thanks for the vote of confidence, Michael!

  8. Lexa Cain on May 26, 2013 at 4:57 am

    You deseve a HUGE amount of credit for doing something so hard for you. I think it's much harder to learn to swim as an adult than as a child. Be PROUD of what you've done so far! 🙂

    • Michelle Wallace on May 28, 2013 at 3:19 pm

      It's super-hard for an adult to learn to swim… well, that's been my experience anyway…  🙂 I don't know whether I've made much progress. Time will tell.

  9. Elise Fallson on May 26, 2013 at 3:55 pm

    You are slowly overcoming your fears! That is awesome. Give yourself time, and you'll see, you'll be swiming like a fish before you know it! Proud of you lady! (: 

    • Michelle Wallace on May 28, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      I think that I'm over the worst… don't know about the "swimming like a fish" bit? 🙂

  10. Lara Lacombe on May 26, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    You're doing well!  Just think, before you started the lessons, you wouldn't even put your face in the water.  Now, you're practically Michael Phelps! 🙂

    • Michelle Wallace on May 28, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      Michael Phelps? OMG… If only I had a tenth of his fish-ism I would be super-happy! 🙂

  11. Nas on May 26, 2013 at 8:16 pm

    That's awesome, what you did! You did great!

    All the best!

  12. Sherry Ellis on May 26, 2013 at 11:39 pm

    Water is your friend…water is your friend…..water is your friend…


    Yeah.  One of these days it will sink in. 😉

    • Michelle Wallace on May 28, 2013 at 3:37 pm

      Sherry, something is going to sink… that's a given… but, it may not be those words… 🙂

  13. Lynda R Young on May 27, 2013 at 11:15 am

    I think you did well despite the fear!

  14. Misha on May 27, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Oh yeah, you have my sympathy. After I nearly drowned aged (I think) 6, I've been terrified of deep water. Once (aged 12), I very nearly drowned my school's principal because he took me to the deep end of the pool when I expressly refused to go. Panic makes one do ugly things. 

    • Michelle Wallace on May 28, 2013 at 4:49 pm

      *laughs* So you know exactly what I'm going through… brave or stupid? I'm wondering which category I fall into… 🙂

  15. Hilary on May 27, 2013 at 3:42 pm

    Hi Michelle .. well done – I'm so pleased I learnt as a child – although I'm a hopeless swimmer …  I congratulate you on being brave enough to continue and be determined to succeed .. 

    Cheers Hilary

    • Michelle Wallace on May 28, 2013 at 4:50 pm

      I think that swimming is one of those activities that you HAVE to learn when you are still young!

  16. Kirsten @ Short Story Ideas on May 27, 2013 at 7:28 pm

    Ha ha ha! Oh dear, I shouldn't laugh, but you do tell a good story. 🙂

    I hope you don't mind, but I've nominated you for a little award over at <a href="">Short Story Ideas</a>. I hope you'll have the time to pop over and accept it. 🙂

    • Michelle Wallace on May 28, 2013 at 4:52 pm

      Go ahead and feel free to laugh! I laugh at myself… all the time… 🙂 Thanks for the award!

  17. Annalisa Crawford on May 28, 2013 at 4:35 pm

    I'm very impressed actually. I keep meaning to learn properly – I describe my current technique as actively not drowning!

    • Michelle Wallace on May 28, 2013 at 4:54 pm

      At least you have a technique… of sorts… you can probably stay afloat, and that's a whole lot better than my non-existent abilities… 🙂

  18. S.P.Bowers on May 28, 2013 at 5:24 pm

    Good for you for getting out there and working on it!  Don't let anyone give you a hard time about it, Because you are conquering your  fears.  Good luck!


    • Michelle Wallace on May 28, 2013 at 6:39 pm

      Thanks Sara. I've really had my fair share of ups and downs with this challenge… it hasn't been easy.

  19. Madeline Stringer on May 28, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Hi Michelle, I am totally with you on this one : I HATE my face under water, and i have upset many swimming teachers by insisting on swimming with my face dry! (they think you can't, my point is always, well, if I am swimming to the island off the sinking ship, I need to look ahead – yes?) also a very myopic childhood with someone who said you had to take your glasses off to swim didn't help. But I can swim, not well, but enough to enjoy it, and I never put my face down : exept when I went to Crete and there were pretty fish, and I bought a mask and snorkel from a beach shop. Very sensible German lady selling the masks said once I put it on "you make vacuum, yes?" and once I found one which 'made wacuum' i was in the sea lying face down: and for the first 10 seconds it was major panic, but then a beautiful fish swam under me, and I was breathless with awe instead, and my breathing calmed right down. Now I just wish I lived closer to warm seas, you wouldn't keep me out! (I was never out of my depth…)

    Keep going, and don't let that teacher bully you!

    • Michelle Wallace on May 29, 2013 at 11:38 am

      Thanks for sharing your experience Madeleine. So from what you've said, it makes me think that there's nothing wrong with wanting to keep my head above the water! My main grouse is, do I have to keep my head under the water??? I need to reach that stage of calmness, and then everything else will fall into place (hopefully… fingers crossed…) and it will become more enjoyable. And look at you now… it sounds like you can't stay away from the water! There may be hope for me, yet… thank you for the encouragement 🙂

  20. shell flower on May 28, 2013 at 11:22 pm

    LOL. Great story. Truth is better than fiction many a time. And those bruises in the shape of your hands, well, that's what Madame Instructress gets for trying to get you to let go of the board before you are ready. Geez. You'll be swimming like a fish some day. I just know it.

    • Michelle Wallace on May 29, 2013 at 11:39 am

      You have such faith in my as-yet-to-be-realised swimming abilities, Shell Flower! Thank you!

  21. Medeia Sharif on May 29, 2013 at 3:34 am

    Keep at it. You'll overcome your fear. 

  22. tara tyler on May 29, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    oh, mish!

    your escapades are hilarious! especially your inner dialogs. love it!

    and love that you dont give up!

    • Michelle Wallace on May 29, 2013 at 1:44 pm

      It's an attempt to lighten up on a topic that is anything but light-hearted! LOL If that makes sense… ?

  23. Donna K. Weaver on May 29, 2013 at 12:42 pm

    I'm glad you wanted to try. When was 11, I was jumped on in a swimming pool and had to be taken away in an ambulance. Pulled all the ligaments and tendons in my upper back. I was bound and determined that I would jump off that high dive again. Took more than one try, but I did it. Good luck!

    • Michelle Wallace on May 29, 2013 at 1:46 pm

      You met the challenge head on – and succeeded? Well done! It must have been a frightening experience. Your story inspires me. Maybe there's hope for me.

  24. M. J. Joachim on May 29, 2013 at 10:36 pm

    You can only do what you can do. I think you handled things very well, considering. 🙂

    • Michelle Wallace on May 30, 2013 at 7:40 pm

      That's true. But I really wanted to push myself to do what I could… and beyond. 🙂

  25. J.L. Campbell on June 1, 2013 at 12:31 am

    It is hard to let go of a security blanket. Have to applaud you for even trying to have lessons. Not so such I would have gotten that far. Hate to think of what would happen to people like me if we had a tidal wave or anything of that sort.

    • Michelle Wallace on June 3, 2013 at 4:13 am

      Learning to swim has been the scariest thing I've ever attempted. And I still haven't conquered my fear of having my head under the water! Eeeeeeek!

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