From Chicken Soup for the Dieter's Soul

The Swimming Lesson

We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon—instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.

Dale Carnegie

Boy, did I want to swim. A water lover by nature, it was hard for me not to dive in and let the cool water surround me. How I love the feel of being immersed and swimming to my heart’s content. A sense of freedom and giddiness always overcomes me when I’m half-naked in a pool. But that was the problem. Being half-naked. After giving birth three times, I had let myself go and the weight had crept up on me like a thief in the night, stealing my self-confidence and my ability to do the things I loved so much, swimming being one of them.

Watching my family splash and laughing together in the hotel pool was almost too much for me. I wished the other people in the pool would disappear so I could take an unself-conscious plunge. Glancing down at my extra-curvy body took away what little guts I had built up.

My husband, always my greatest cheerleader, begged me to come in. “Honey, you are beautiful,” he tried to reassure me. He knew why I wouldn’t come in. Sitting with my Diet Coke and my baggy clothing, I shook my head and wished he’d shut up. People could hear him. I imagined they were probably thankful I wasn’t donning a swimsuit.

“Please,Mom,” echoed my kids, “get in!” they hollered at me. By now I was thoroughly mortified that everyone in the pool area knew I was too embarrassed to go swimming.

The blue-green water beckoned me. I thought back to the days when putting on a swimsuit was nothing more than, well, putting on a swimsuit. I would spend hours and hours playing water volleyball, laughing and racing my friends in underwater relays. I closed my eyes and could almost feel the water carry me away, freeing me from everyday life and surrounding me with good, old-fashioned fun.

I enviously watched the people in the pool, and as a few of them left, my husband tried again. “Come ON. It’s no fun without you.” His brown eyes almost convinced me. Almost.

He swam up to the edge of the pool, trying to persuade me. He whispered loud enough for only me to hear, “You are sexy and gorgeous to me,” he reasoned. “Who else matters?”

Men are so basic. I wish I could have that thinking process.

“Mom-my, Mom-my,” my kids chanted. I saw my husband whispering to each of the kids. Grinning, they all climbed out of the pool.

“We’re not swimming until you get in.” My husband was now using his guilt tactic—a bargaining device that is usually my expertise. I could see that he was serious, and then I realized he was right. If he wasn’t embarrassed at his wife wearing a swimsuit in public, then why should I be? He knew how much I loved swimming and how hard it was for me to miss out. This was love. Real love.

The group of teenagers that I was most intimidated by finally vacated the pool. Only a few stragglers remained. I really had no excuse now. I bit my lip and involuntarily flinched at the thought of myself in a bathing suit. And yet, I knew if I missed out, I would regret it. I was tired of regretting things. I wanted for once to be glad I did something, not sorry I didn’t.

Hopping up, I headed for our room and changed into my suit as quickly as I could—before I changed my mind. Beach towel wrapped around my hips, I scurried down to the pool. I flung the towel off and dove in, not a second’s hesitation. When I came up for air, my family was grinning and shouting, “Go Mom!” We played for a long, long time and I loved it. I caught my husband watching me with a strange expression on his face. His eyes glimmering, he motioned me over to him. Feeling like a mermaid, I happily swam to his side.

“You are SO beautiful,” he said intensely. I searched his face for some sign of embarrassment or sarcasm. All I saw was sincerity. I giggled like a sixteen-year-old and his smile grew bigger. “You should do things you like more often. You look so happy, you actually glow.”

He meant it. And I vowed to never let myself stand in my way again.

Susan Farr-Fahncke

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