Sink or float

Good morning!

First of all, I am MELTING in this heat. Phew!!! Okay, so I was born and raised in Trinidad – an island almost ON the Equator – so I should be used to 30+ C temperatures every day, but damn. 

I don’t know if I’ve shared this before, but I can’t swim. Yes, I know I just said I was born and raised on an island, but the truth is that my dad grew up near the sea and is an amazing swimmer, but that talent had not been passed down to us. As children, we ALWAYS went to the very safe beach: no waves, not very deep. We did go to the beach often, but out of an abundance of caution, we were never allowed to venture out to swim. We would play on the shore under Mummy’s very watchful eye and one by one, my dad would take us out to the deep for 15 minutes. We would get dunked and just hang out there for a bit, but make no mistake, our tiny fingers were clenched around Daddy’s neck the whole time. After all six of us were washed and had our time, my dad would go out by himself for about 20 minutes and swim and float and just enjoy the water in a way someone who is absolutely comfortable with it is. My mum almost never went in.

I’ve never thought of that before – the fact that my dad is such a strong swimmer, yet none of us were taught how to swim. Hmmmm…the fact that we weren’t taught how to ride a bike either as children was also because we weren’t allowed to venture. Hmmm…very, very interesting.

I love the smell of introspection in the morning!

Flashforward 30 years and now I have my own son and I don’t know how to swim. Lame! Kidlet’s dad didn’t know how to swim either, so we decided that swimming was something that HAD to be learned. The next generation HAD to be better than ours, so from very early on, he was in swimming lessons.

It’s a strange feeling watching your small child do something that (frankly) scares you. I often wondered if I was holding him back. He would go to the pool, but I would have a super watchful eye on him (just like my Mum), making sure he didn’t go too far or didn’t lose his footing. I was overly cautious because as his mother, I knew fully well that if something were to happen, I wouldn’t be able to help him. So basically, my inability to swim (which is my own problem) had made him cautious of the water as well. Sigh. For a long time, this bothered me and we stopped going to the pool for a bit because the last thing I want to do is hold him back. Over time though, as he got more comfortable in the water, I did take him to the pool, but I would sit it out, letting him swim at his own pace and test his own boundaries while I watched him from the sidelines. I wanted him to trust his own ability and not let my fear literally drag him down.

Last night, he had swimming lessons. He had made it to Star Level 1, which is an intermediate level, and I promised him I would go down to the far end of the pool, which parents aren’t really allowed, to watch him. There was no seating, so I stood there for half an hour, watching my child, the fruit of my loins do laps in the full length pool effortlessly. He was a natural, swimming up and down, on his back, submerged, on his tummy, on his side. The pride in my heart was overwhelming. I hadn’t broken him! He loved it and despite my fear of the water, he was not afraid! I had a big smile on my face the whole time! As soon as he made it out of the pool, I said very exuberantly (and a little too loudly), “Wow! You’re amazing!” to which I was immediately and vigorously shushed! haha

He’s such an inspiration to me. Pushing himself past his circumstances at a very young age. I do credit myself with taking him to the pool often and getting out of his way, but ultimately, it would be easy for him to still be scared and cautious, but he pushed himself and that’s a testament to his developing character.

I don’t know if it was sign, but at the pool, right in the area where I was standing, what do you think was going on: adult swim lessons. There were four adults – three men and one 60+ woman – learning how to float. I could see the panic, I could see the distrust of the water and of themselves. I felt vindicated looking at them. I felt like saying, “See? It IS scary!!!” but then I looked over to Kidlet, flippers on, arms threading in and out of the water, swimming exclusively due to his own determination, I thought, “I can do it!”

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What if I didn’t what if?

Today, I want to share about fear. Fear of failure, fear of disappointment, fear of not meeting expectations, fear of actually being happy, fear of a host of irrational things. Where does it come from? Why do we let it grab a hold of our dreams and not let go?

I’ve always been an overly cautious person, choosing to look at least three times before leaping. Most big and small decisions have to be met with at a series of ‘what if?” scenarios. I’m not one of those “F**K IT!” type of people. Of course, I wish I was, and I am working on it, but I often wonder what would happen if I just leapt. What would happen if I just did what I wanted to do without thinking of the what ifs?

Recently, I thought about an experience I had years ago. I had gone out with a new friend and a couple other women. We had not hung out socially before, but it was a birthday, I don’t drink and I was child-free, so I offered to be the designated driver. The music was great, the dance floor packed, I looked good, I felt good. I was having a great time! As the night wore on, though, the women I had come with found dance partners and I ended up wandering on my own. I might have looked lost or bored or something because while I was walking through the crowd, I felt a hand on my hand and a voice say, “Hey, you wanna dance?” Even in the dark, I could see what a great smile this guy had. I thought, “Hmmmmm…” I was bored, I couldn’t find my friends and I thought, “Well, I’m the driver, so really it’s up to them to find me! Ha!” so I started chatting with this young man.

The conversation was engaging. He was an engineer, originally from an African country (I forget which one) and he had a great smile. We chatted for a while and I too started smiling. All the while I was thinking, “This guy is cute, he’s engaging, he smells good.” I don’t know if it was the fact that I was basically alone in a sea of strangers or I was just enjoying the attention, but in that moment, I remember thinking, “If he tries to kiss me, I would let him.” I didn’t stop to think about the what ifs. I didn’t stop to think,

“Is he here with someone?”
“Is he single?”
“Would my friends think I was a hussy if they walked up and I was making out with this guy?”
“Is he boyfriend material?”
“Am I sweaty?”

None of that came to mind. The only thing I was thinking was wouldn’t it be nice to see what happens? I would never get to know what could have happened because my friend’s sister found me and needed me, so I ended up just exchanging numbers with him but I never saw him again.

I still think about that night as The Time I Didn’t What If. For once, I was willing to put aside all fears, irrational or otherwise, and just live in the moment and do what I wanted, do what felt good. For that one night, I was a f**k it kind of person. I just did what I wanted, not what I thought was the right thing to do. I probably should have gone looking for my friends and I probably shouldn’t have been entertaining the idea of taking that guy back to my car (EEEK!) but I didn’t stop myself. I didn’t give into the fear. Even today, telling this story, I don’t feel judgement of myself nor am I worried about your judgement of me. I don’t feel regret for thinking any of it. Isn’t that interesting?

The point of this experience is for me to remember that I am capable of just leaping and that not every decision should be dissected and overanalyzed and that sometimes you just have to do what feels good and forget about the fear and the what ifs. Actually, I should say, remember that what ifs also include:

“What if you do this thing and it’s the best thing that ever happened to you?”
“What if I get my heart broken?” What if I fall in love and stay in love?”
“What if this is the biggest mistake of my life?” What if this is the best decision I ever made?”
“What if I look horrible?” “What if no one actually cares what I look like today?”
“What if everyone is thinking about my muffin top?” “What if everyone is looking at my smile instead of what I’m wearing?”

I guess the only what if I should be asking is,

“What if I did it anyway?”

V

Plan B

Morning!

Kidlet and I went to the drugstore last week. When I pulled into the stall, I hadn’t seen the box nor did I see it when I came out of the car to go into the store. It was when I was walking back to it, I noticed the blue box on the ground.

Photo taken by Vikera Hunte. Do not copy without asking, please.

Photo taken by Vikera Hunte. Do not copy without asking, please.

For those who are not aware, Plan B is emergency contraception. Apparently if the condom broke or you have unprotected sex or you forgot to take the pill, you just pop this puppy and no diapers and university tuition for you!

I saw the box and it reeked of desperation and anxiety. I didn’t get close enough to see the actual teeth marks, but it looked like there might have been some on it. She probably swallowed it with no water either, with one foot on the ground and the other in the car then tossed out the evidence and, with shaky hands and a prayer, backed out of the parking spot and on with her life.

Plan B. Hmm…what a concept!

When you’re young, you think you will have full control over the life you want. Sure, some people at a very young age, decide what they want to be or where they want to live or who they want to share their lives with, and they bring that into fruition. It’s an amazing thing – to make your dreams materialize. For the rest of us, we have to carve out our lives day by day, not knowing what the hell is going to happen next. Our whole lives are a series of plans – in no particular alphabetic order. How many times do we think we know how something’s going to go or what’s going to happen only to be thrown completely off track? Some of us don’t get to take a magic pill to keep us on track!

If only all your bad decisions and things you regret can be washed away by a pill bought over the counter mere hours after your poor choices. Wouldn’t that be lovely? It just does not work that way. All your choices are a sum total of who you are a person and they all direct your destiny. Even if this woman was able to avoid pregnancy, her life will be changed by the “close call” at the very least. Almost getting pregnant if you don’t want to be is sobering, especially if it’s by Random Guy. Perhaps that experience, once reflected on, will lead to self- discovery…or not.

I don’t know, but sometimes the more I think I can control my life, the less I see I have actual control. Everything that happens to me these days I take in stride. I try not to get carried away and freak out because in the end, not every situation has a Plan B box that I can just rip open and swallow and get on with my life, not even bothering to dispose of the wrapping. Sometimes I get a second chance. Sometimes I don’t. That’s just the way it goes…

I’ve just embarked on a new journey fraught with uncertainty and excitement. My heart and mind tell me to have a Plan B tucked away just in case, but the reality is that now that I’ve embraced the fact that life will do its own thing and we don’t get our script until it’s too late to change it, I’m much more relaxed about stepping forward. Sure, things could happen that I probably won’t like or enjoy, but it’s all part of living.

So I go forward, with an open heart and mind, a smile on my face and only Plan A in my back pocket!

V

If loving you is wrong….

Meanwhile, this whole time I’ve been lactose intolerant. Can you believe that?

As is the tradition in our family and in most Trinidadian families, I suspect, every morning, to greet the day, we have a steaming cup of Lipton orange pekoe tea with two teaspoons (or tablespoons, who cares?) of sugar and a healthy spoon of condensed milk or a generous pour of evaporated milk or a splash ‘water milk’ as my Mum called it, which I think would be equivalent to ‘regular’ 3.25% milk in North America. I don’t really know. The point is, it wasn’t lactose free milk and I’ve had milk most days of the year. Couple that with the milk and cheese in the weekly Trinidadian staple of macaroni pie (which is our version of baked mac and cheese), I have consumed A LOT of dairy in my lifetime. The thing is, not knowing that my body did not really care for milk and its by-products, I just pressed on with my daily tea and cheese on everything.

Flash forward to this job I’m at now where a couple co-workers are lactose intolerant. They often bring in milk for sharing for coffee and it’s invariably skim milk or lactose-free milk. Because I never thought it needed it, I have never really had skim milk before. Besides, it was too watery for my tea. Anyway, one day, my co-worker was talking about the effects of milk if consumed and I stood there, wide eyed and stupefied. It sounded like my morning routine! That was when I suspected my body had a hard time with lactose. I went out and bought a 2 litre box of lactose-free milk and ate a bowl of cereal just to see if I would notice the difference. Immediately after having that bowl of milk, I felt the difference. I didn’t feel bloated. I didn’t feel gassy or had an upset tummy. I felt ‘normal’ and then I knew! It made me think for a long time. What else have I been doing that’s not good for me but I kept doing because I didn’t know any differently? How long and in what other ways have I been ignoring my body and its needs? Hmmmm

Flash forward to December: eggnog season. Hmmm…eggnog. I’ve ALWAYS liked it. In Trinidad, we make this thing called ponche de creme, which is like three kinds of milk and eggs and RUM. I have always enjoyed sips of the drink, but because of the alcohol, I didn’t get to really enjoy it (I don’t drink alcohol at all). When I moved to North America where you can just buy litres of its equivalent with no alcohol, I was all over that like a dirty shirt! I looked forward to December where I could have cups and cups of the stuff. This time around though, I knew that while my taste buds enjoyed it, my stomach was NOT looking forward to eggnog season. What should I do?

What do you think I did knowing what I know? I bought litres of the stuff and drank it all.

The point of this story is that sometimes you do bad things to yourself over and over again without even knowing it and then wonder why things aren’t good. Then again, sometimes you do bad things to yourself over and over again fully aware of the repercussions, but you make that conscious choice! It’s called being a human.

Having said all that, realistically, I can’t live my life without cheese, so, I pick my battles and make that conscious choice to be bloated and gassy (sorry to the people I will be around). I don’t over do it. I try to have green tea at work, so I cut down on the milk consumption and I do buy lactose-free milk for home now. I will take the bullet for cheese though.

I know it’s wrong, but I don’t want to be right….