In January I wrote a blog about winter swimming. How wonderful it is, why just a few minutes of immersion in cold water is enough to make you smile for the whole day. Much of that smile wasn’t created by the cold water though. It was created by others. By the people I would meet to share that moment of idiocy, sanity questioning and food with. To share in the squeals, the swearing, the lobster tan. To chat to on the way to and from the water, to plan our next trip out with.
But the winter of 2020/21’s different. Right now, 12 days into lockdown 2 in England, I can only meet with one other for exercise. We’re encouraged to avoid unnecessary travel so I’ll be staying close to home. Even if and when this lockdown is eased I suspect we’ll return to only meeting in groups of 6. This is the winter of caution, not quite knowing how willing people are to meet up, worrying even more than normal about how we may be perceived by passers-by.
2020 has often felt like the year of judgement as well as a year of constant uncertainty.
I miss sociable swims. I spend a lot of time alone and social swims offer me an opportunity to actually see and chat to other people during the day. Even more so over winter when the days can be dreich.
All is not lost. I can still swim with one other. The Short One has and always will be a regular feature. No gym or pool open means she’s dragging me out for more early swims too.
The potential loneliness of this winter is part of the reason for my Dip a Day November . It’s making me go outside. It’s making me expose myself to nature and the cold, which I know does me so much good over winter. It’s making me share that experience with others. I’ve declared my intent to social media (it makes me cringe that that’s a thing), so I’m following through on it. It’s making me interact with others when otherwise I might just hide at home and become withdrawn. Even if much of that interaction can only be virtual.
I’d much rather be out dipping with actual real human beings. To share food, a giggle and some frankly very missed cold weather, dressed in all the clothes, Michelin man esque post swim warm up hugs. But this year we can’t. This will have to do.
I’m learning from it too. For all my mixed relationship about social media I’m enjoying sharing proof of my swims. I’m sure some would rather not see it but I know it’s making some people laugh or smile at a time when things are a bit crap. That really matters to me. Knowing I’ve brightened someone’s day, as well as my own, by sitting in some cold water is what this winter will have to be about.
If you’re reading this and missing those social swims, please don’t be sad. Grab a single buddy or go it alone (safely of course) and go and enjoy the tranquillity that a lone or two person dip can bring. Dip your feet, listen to what’s around you, take the time to look. Really focus on that cold zing, the pins and needles sensation of your skin in cold water. Breathe through the cold, enjoy the mindfulness that concentrating on your breath can bring. Take it all in. Take it at your own pace, unbound by the timescales or needs or chatter of a big group. Say hello to the also lone passers-by, they’ll likely appreciate your smile and interaction too. And if you feel like it share it with someone, a message to a friend, a post on social media. Something to shake away the potential loneliness of this winter.
Just because this year’s events have taken away our ability to enjoy winter swims in the way we may like it doesn’t mean it can’t still be wonderful. Happy swimming!