Last week (or possibly slightly longer ago….time is still slightly amorphous for me while living in Toddlerville)) I posted about trying to find my creative path, and create a working life that works for me, and I kind of hinted that something had come along that really excited me… I’d really been trying to put the question out to the universe ‘what do I want to do with my life’ and written a list of things I wanted to try out doing. One of the things which featured on the list was ‘get a monofin and try out mermaiding/freediving’.
I have a slight confession to make. I nearly didn’t put it on the list at all. In fact, when I was originally writing the list I left it off , even though it had popped into my mind, because I felt kind of embarrassed about it…… I actually felt that people would laugh at me for wanting to do this (hey, maybe some people are…if so – That is really mean! Stop it!) partly because it is a little bit out there, and a whole lot because I definitely do not fit the beautiful slim mermaid body stereotype and I thought people would think the idea of me in a mermaid tail was the most ridiculous thing ever thought of. Maybe it still is, but I’m not sure if that’s a good reason not to do something.
I recently read a great great great article about exercise and bodily movement by Naomi Alderman, who made a running app called ‘Run Zombies Run’. The gist of the article, if you don’t want to read it (but seriously, go read it, it is great!) is that as a fat person, she felt like she wasn’t really ‘allowed’ to make an exercise app (but luckily she got over that and did). Her other main point was that the link between exercise being a chore (and often in fact a punishment for being fat) not only alienates people who don’t fit into the beauty norm from exercise but completely detaches them from the joy of what it feels like to move your body. I SO identified with this story. I hated PE at school, and once I left school actively rejected any form of physical exercise until I hurt my back in 2010. Since then I’ve realised that I need to maintain some kind of level of physical fitness in order to enjoy life, and graded exercise was a huge part of my recovery process from chronic pain. However, I am still overweight and I still don’t really like exercising. I cannot think of anything more dull than pounding the streets in my trainers, or splashing up and down a lane trying to burn as many calories as possible.
Reading this article reconnected me with a memory of what I DID love doing in terms of physical movement as a child and that was duck diving under the water, and generally playing in the water, doing anything but lane swimming. I also loved seaswimming, which I still do as an adult (admittedly not much since having Etta) and I think that has always appealed over pool swimming because somehow I have always disliked the on-display, echoey, shouty, divebomb-y , lane swimming atmosphere of swimming pools, and felt much more self conscious about my lovely lumpy body in that set up. I don’t know why that is…
Anyway I digress slightly. The reason I brought up the body image stuff is because when I finally plucked up the courage to write mermaiding down on my list of things I wanted to do, I started thinking how cool it would be if there was a place where people who feel similarly to me about exercise and their body could try out mermaids tails, and swimming like a mermaid and also just get back in touch with that love of bodily movement. I started to dream about a Body Positive Mermaid Playground (Yes I already have a name for it!), where we’d do a bit of mindfulness, do some movements in the water that just felt really good rather than designed to be exercise of any sort, and then people would be free to splash about and just play, in a very accepting and non-competitive space. Oh and also try out swimming with a mermaids tail on of course! My idea was basically that everyone deserves to get to live out their mermaidy dreams, no matter what their body looks like.
I think I was slightly ill with a fever that weekend, because I was suddenly seized by the idea that I should post about my idea on Facebook. Against my better judgement I did so, and waited for the howls of laughter. But instead I was happily reminded what a nice bunch of people I am friends with when people were not just supportive but actually really quite excited about the idea too. In one of those strange serendipitous synchronicity things, someone put me in touch with a freediver in Brighton who already had a mermaids tail. She invited me to go to her freediving club, called No Tanx, a monofin came up on Ebay super cheap and I got some bi-fins too, and I went along to try it out.
Freediving was amazing, like nothing else I’d ever tried. I am going to my second session tonight and already can’t wait. The club’s ethos is very non-competitive and the whole thing seems very meditative. This video seems to capture most what a session was actually like (though there was a full hour out of the water doing yoga and breathing exercises first as well as the underwater part)
The group was quite small and because of this I got to use my monofin and could even have tried out my friend’s mermaid tail , but I held back on that for now!
So, I’m not quite sure where the freediving and monofinning will take me exactly, but I have an idea of somewhere I’d like to go with it eventually, so just going to see where this takes me, for now!
What do you think of my Body Positive Mermaid’s Playground idea?