fifty-six: water

i have a bunch of unrelated thoughts. i’ll just write them here.


i don’t usually have baths, usually only if i’m feeling little and triggered and i need to calm down i do. and when i do, i make it so so hot, put in baby soap or essential oils, and, as i cry (which i often do) i let my head sink under the water so my ears are covered, and i close my eyes, and just listen to my ragged breathing and my heartbeat until they both slow. sometimes i add more hot water. then i lie there some more. until the tears are done, or, more often, until someone bangs on the door with an urgent need to pee in this particular toilet or until someone pokes her head in to check if i’m alive in there.


i also thought about ani difranco’s song everest, and about one my favourite lines: that the moon was so beautiful, the ocean held up a mirror. i love that. water as a reflection of the sky, as a mirror of what’s above.


i am from a province where there are many beautiful lakes and rivers, but not near the sea. my wife has the atlantic ocean in her blood, and for her, coming home means being near the sea. it is so interesting that i have come to love it with the passion that i do, given my origins and my roots. but i just find i can breathe there. that it soothes me. that the sound of it, the smell of it, the coming and going of the tide, its movement and constant life, also feels like home to me.


we got married by the water. and, water poured from the sky as we exchanged vows…our original plans of being outdoors foiled. we had a backup plan though, we didn’t even care, we were the furthest thing apart from bridezillas you could imagine. and the sunset that night, and then the meteor shower later on? more than made up for it.


this blog is also about water; about the sea, the place where pocketbrit and i meet. ages ago i asked what her sea looked like, and it gave me chills, because it was so similar to mine. more recently, i asked her what her cottage looked like, and there were more variations there, but the basics were the same: the pounding surf outside the windows. warmth. coziness. a fireplace. room to stretch out or curl up into a ball, depending. blankets. each other, as close or as far as feels tolerable, given the day. love.


did you know that our bodies are up to 60% water? that’s wild. also wild: the amount of tears i shed earlier today, while i sat on my bathroom floor, on the phone to pocketbrit, as i panicked. i was so young. she was so gentle. and then, part deux, tonight with my wife, as i confessed how so very not okay i have been, how i’ve been hiding it from everyone (i’m sorry), how lately, i just keep thinking how much better things would be for everyone if i weren’t here. i couldn’t see anything, for hours, for the water; the struggle continues as i try to finish these words.


i recently watched a video of me bathing our newborn daughter in the NICU, the second bath of her life (the first given by a gruff nurse as she screamed bloody murder) (our baby, not the nurse) and i was struck by how very…purposeful i was. i was gentle, but i was confident, i knew what i was doing, was not remotely swayed by her tiny slippery body or her (numerous) indignant protests or her newness or the fact that this was the first bath i was giving our baby, the one i’d waited for my whole life, the one i thought would never come, especially after five rounds of fertility treatment and a huge bleed early in the pregnancy. no, in this video, i had a job to do. she had sticky molasses-like poop up her back and down her legs, and i was tasked with getting it off.

but then, by the end, when she was really yelling, her fists waving, her legs kicking, i gathered her up onto my chest, and i rocked her, and i swayed, and i apologized as i pressed my cheek onto her wet hair, and she quieted. and the video kept playing for a number of seconds with me doing that, and watching those last few seconds the other night (over and over again), it all got very watery then, too.


I love water. I love swimming, I love being in water. I just love it.

I’ve always been known for it. For swimming for hours when we’d go to the beach, and for going in the freezing UK sea no matter the weather. Or even the season, actually. I once went in in February as a kid in my underwear because we definitely weren’t expecting to be swimming. They’re a photo from when I was about 4 or 5 I think, of me diving (sort of – the way little kids dive) into a swimming pool, no arm bands, and it makes me smile.

This past summer was uncharacteristically nice here in the UK, and I went swimming in the sea as often as I could after work.

There’s something about being submerged. The way you dive under and all the sounds that were there before are muffled. The way you go from being surrounded by people to being entirely alone, under the water, with the water flowing over your body.

I dont really have words for it, how to describe how water settles me and grounds me, all I can say is it helps me so much. Be it having a shower or better, listening to crashing waves, sailing through them, or diving into them…or just feeling it flow around me as i make myself streamlined and push myself through the water.

I kind of want to end it here, keep it positive. Annoyingly though I can’t seem to let myself. Because there’s something else that comes to mind… One of the things my brother would do when we were kids (and in my teens too) was to push me under water and hold me there. He’d have his hands on the top of my head or on my shoulders and he’d keep my head under. I’d writhe and panic like crazy and try to get out of his grip, but wouldn’t be able to, not until he let go, no matter how hard I tried I was never strong enough. He never drowned me (obviously, I’m here writing this), but sometimes it felt like it came so so close. I can hold my breath pretty well, but when you’re terrified, when you’re panicking, it’s so much harder. Id often have no air in me, id have let it all out, sometimes by sort of screaming in the water at him, and then he’d still hold me under for a bit longer. By the time I got up I’d be gasping for air, tears streaming down my face (not that you’d know, of course, because of all the water). Id be relieved, and fucking terrified too.

But yeah, I now don’t like swimming in pools, or the sea if its crowded. I don’t like people coming near me in the water. I don’t like people touching me in the water. And my biggest fear is of suffocating. And this is one of the ways that I can imagine it all too clearly and horribly.

And I am so mad about that. That something that could be so good for me, I can’t do, because it’s too cold to swim in the sea most of the year here (I’m not that brave anymore), and I don’t like pools, because im too close to other people in the water. So I can’t swim most of the time. And that’s crap. I hate that he took that.