It’s funny. I’ve spent more than half of my forty-two years living within 100 meters of the beach, yet I’ve never consistently made a habit of going.
I have a core memory of going for a swim one morning when I was in high school. It was one of those perfect days with pristine visibility, just the right-sized waves, and no danger whatsoever. That day was my most alive day of high school. I distinctly remember how crisp and clear school felt afterwards, and thinking to myself, I really must do this every day.
Main Beach: I’ve lived here for twenty-five years out of forty-two.
Well, finally, I’ve made that pact a reality. I’ve been swimming in the ocean every day for two months now.
It started when I was on the tail end of Covid, and I was completely fed up with my own shit; the lack of energy, the depression, the negative thought patterns and the heaviness in my body. I threw it out there to a photographer acquaintance that I really “should” get to the ocean, and he pushed me to do it. (Thanks Trent.)
That first swim helped me a lot. I’m traditionally a “fair-weather swimmer”: I like it calm and warm. That’s why I so rarely get to the beach, which is unpredictable and rarely calm and warm.
I never know what I’m going to get from one day to the next.
Day one was shockingly cold, and the cold gave me a burst of energy that had a knock-on effect throughout my day, helping me to break out of that feeling of stuckness.
In fact, that first swim felt so good that I decided to go every day until I was feeling better.
At first, my swims were cursory. It took me fifteen minutes to walk to the beach, take a quick plunge and walk home. I always fully immersed myself, but I rarely stayed in for longer than a couple of minutes.
But my dips were having another impact on me. They were creating space between my thoughts (ego) and my higher self (the observer of the thoughts). The beach became my meditation.
As the mornings passed, I found myself learning about the world during those quick dips.
I learned how to be still and calm and find a feeling of safety in my body when the world is in chaos. I did this by witnessing my discomfort on windy and rough days when the wind is howling, the sand is blowing in my face and the current is sweeping me from one end of the flags to the other in two seconds flat. I found peace in that chaos.
It is so important to feel discomfort. It pushes you to greatness and keeps you moving forward.
I learned how important it is for humans to be uncomfortable. I’d forgotten. During my travels, I regularly experienced uncomfortable and unpredictable situations. Since being grounded by Covid and motherhood, I’ve gotten too comfortable.
Humans crave certainty. I’ve found mine in being indoors, tucked away with my babies in a familiar environment. It kept me safe and completely stuck.
The beach turned that upside down. I’ve found comfort in being cold, in being thrown about by waves, in walking home in my bathers with the wind lashing me. I’ve found comfort with wet sand stuck to my body. I’ve found safety IN my body for possibly the first time in my life.
On one stand-out day, I realised how easy life is when you swim with the current and how hard it is when you resist.
Going with the flow.
I think that we, as humans, spend way too much time forcing circumstances and trying to bend the will of the universe with our own will. I notice how much we dishonour the natural cycles and rhythms of life, the completely natural ebbs and flows of energy that should be honoured, not ignored.
The ocean knows nothing about force.
Some days, she is calm. I can float on her surface and find complete relaxation. She pulls me neither one way or the other.
Calm and gorgeous.
Other days, she is furious, knocking me over and pulling me aggressively this way and that.
I can’t fight her any more than I should fight the circumstances of my life. I surrender to her. And I find joy in her.
The ocean just … is.
And she is perfect in every way.
These days I take a lot more time for my swim.
Some days, I feel playful and alternate between jumping over waves and ducking under them. I open my eyes wide and watch the whitewash swirl above me.
The ocean is playful.
Some days, I feel introspective, and I leave the water to lie on the sand, peeking through my fingers at the shapes and textures of the sand and shells. When the sun hits just the right way, I see bokeh, rainbows and light effects all over my body and hers.
Little treasures on the sand.
Some days, I feel heavy emotions, and I scream and scream underwater, releasing my rage.
Afterwards, I walk slowly across the park, grounding my feet into the earth and feeling my connection with all things.
The ocean has taught me to face my fears (on rough days). She’s taught me that worrying has no impact on what will happen (on the day the bluebottle sign was up, and I witnessed my spiralling thoughts and worries in the water. I didn’t get stung.)
She’s taught me how inconsequential my life is in the big picture and how important it is to, therefore, live it fully and only for myself.
My life means nothing to the universe but everything to me and my loved ones. I want to LIVE it. Every ounce. I want to feel it.
I am so grateful to her.
P.S. All pictures were shot by me on Olympus last month. Another gift the ocean has given me is a rediscovered love for capturing my experiences with a camera. There are many more adventures to come.
P.P.S. You might not be as fortunate as me to live so close to the ocean, but I promise you there is knowledge in nature and connection. If you haven’t found it already, how can you?
**Originally published to my email database on the 22nd of November 2023**