Monday, September 12, 2011

What next?

After the 7km swim I experienced a bit of a race hangover. I had been training and planning for my races for months and once they were done I found myself listless and irritable. I'd wander around the house picking up my favourite TYR bathing suit or fingering my swim cap or goggles, and lamenting my empty pool knapsack sitting forlornly in the back of the hall closet.

I picked up my bike and rode around the city some, visiting parks and exploring new bike paths. I found myself riding to Kits Pool and swimming lengths, but it just wasn't the same. Besides, after Labour Day, it shut down for the season.

When a new friend encouraged me to get back into yoga, I signed up at a studio I'd been wanting to check out and went to my first class in around a year. It was fantastic! I felt flexible and open and great. But it didn't satisfy the yearning I was feeling.

Matt and I embarked on a three day/week training program to get our running muscles in shape. We're on week four of the program and are both feeling stronger and like we're finally getting our running legs back. We've talked about signing up for some of the many 5km running races held year round in Vancouver. I thought this may awaken some of the drive I had earlier this year, but so far it hasn't. I am enjoying the training and looking forward to racing, but something is still missing.

Sometime last week, with all these doubts and worries swirling around my head, it became clear to me what was wrong. It was around this time that I realized that I tended to be attracted to endurance type sports because what turns me on, what really gets me going, is that point when you know you are too tired to continue and you just want to stop and give up; when your body is sore and beat up and you feel like a failure. And then the next second you go somewhere inside yourself and find something that helps you keep going. It is the exploration of that thing, that place, you see, that's my drug.

So then last Sunday I met Eric at Ansell Place. It was a quiet day and we spent quite a lot of time on the rocks enjoying what we knew would be one of the last hot days of the year. We talked about motivation and goals. We talked about goals driven by ego and goals driven by something truer. Something more honest. We talked about proving our merit to others vs. proving it to ourselves. We talked about trying to re-create something we had in 2009, when we were diving two or three days a week and we were focused and determined.

Looking back at my diving past I seem to have these brief shining periods of diving for the pure joy of it, and then these long, darker periods of being mired in something else. There is so much pain tied up with diving for me. There's physical pain, yeah, I wrenched a shoulder practicing dynamic years ago and have been in rehab ever since, and this spring I damaged a calf muscle using a too-stiff monofin. But there is other pain tied up with it too. What I told Eric and what I now know to be true is that before I began freediving, I spent my whole life avoiding anything that I wasn't good at. It was easy for me to see myself as successful (in my career, in my life choices) because I avoided anything that I did not have a natural aptitude for. Never mind if it was something that intrigued me, or even something that I genuinely enjoyed doing; if I wasn't good at it, it wasn't for me.

Freediving was the first time that I did something solely because I enjoyed it. I struggled with it and I stumbled, over and over. I opened myself up because I simply loved it so much I couldn't stay away. It was the passion I had been searching for my whole life. And so, I allowed myself to be vulnerable. I risked failure. I risked exposing myself to friends and strangers as someone that didn't have it all together, that wasn't great at everything she did. Looking back now, I wonder if my friends and family ever did really see me that way. I hoped they did. I spent so much time and energy trying to build that image that it would have been impossible for me to believe anything else.

Of course, maintaining that kind of illusion is impossible. You end up chasing a dream, like a hamster on a wheel. It's exhausting and painful because you know all along that it is complete and utter bullshit and that one day you will be exposed to everyone for what you really are.

And when it happened to me it was a doozy.

When I "failed", I failed spectacularly. Matt tells me now that in 2006 I simply broke, and he didn't know how to fix me. I spent at least a year feeling like Humpty Dumpty; in a daze and looking around me at the bits and pieces I used to be. What happened to do that to me is irrelevant. Who was right and who was wrong, doesn't matter. It is enough that freediving brought me there and that I was smart (lucky?) enough to let freediving save me from it.

So now I go there. A lot. Whenever I can. I go to that place where I don't know if I'll succeed or fail or finish the race or give up entirely. I go there and wallow in it; I let myself breathe there. I tell myself it's OK, that I've been there before and I'll make it out again. And I let go.

That's the beauty of freediving for me. No matter how tough you are, how big, how strong, you can never muscle your way through the ocean. It will win. Every time. Without even trying.

That's just the way it is. And, scary as that sounds at first, it's remarkably freeing to know that you have absolutely no control over the outcome. All you can do is try your best to prepare yourself and then hope that the water is kind to you that day. If it isn't, you go away and try to figure out what you were doing wrong. This type of training just takes you deeper and deeper into your own ego, your own struggles, you're own humanness. And it teaches you to forgive yourself and go gently.

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