Yesterday I heard some tragic news. Another woman I know of, aged just 52, died, her life cut short. Obviously it has made me very sad, especially for her mum, who was one of my mum’s closest friends. But it has also made me feel very grateful. Especially for this moment a couple of weeks ago when I chose to play rather than spectate at life.
On the last night of our Donegal holiday with my 3 girls, we took a last walk along the beach. It was about 9.30pm at night and the older two wanted to get back to the cottage (and their phones!). But they agreed to come for a bit and humour their auld mam as I said goodbye to the sand and the sea and this place that gives me so much strength (“Oh god, she’s gone all woo woo on us again” their rolled eyes explained.)
It was stunning. The sky was so expansive it felt like we were on the edge of the world. The sun was setting and the sea looked like it was spotlit.
This holiday was extra special for me. I’ve been on a mission to face my fears in all sorts of areas of my life. One of those is sea swimming. Despite diving in my 20’s and taking up windsurfing last year (in Greece it has to be said, not freezing my whatsit’s off in Ireland!) I still couldn’t put my face in the water to swim. So I bit the humiliation bullet and took a swimming lesson in June and learned how to swim (with goggles) with my face in the water.
It has changed my life. Nearly every day of this holiday, regardless of the weather, I swam in the sea, my eyes open, my face in the water, and I found a high that not even 3 Gins can provide. I declared I wanted to be a mermaid when I grow up. I am filled with regret that I spent the last 8 years up here standing by the edge of the sea, but am so delighted with myself to have found yet another new passion in my life.
But. On this evening, it was late, getting cold, and I had to put the roof box on the car and pack, and you know, I was dressed in clothes. So when my youngest announced she was jumping in the sea one last time I gamely held her jeans for her as she ran off to the waves. “Come on mum!” she yelled as the freezing foam convulsed her.
“Yeah, no,” I thought. There’s Gin to be had, and I’m in my clothes and I’ll just admire the view.
And then I caught myself. That was the old me talking. The new me knew that this was one of those moments you choose if you are a bystander in life, or a player. So I took off my trousers and ran into the sea. It was skin-freezing and heart-warming and glorious and after our swim we put our coats on over our wet tops and walked home in our pants not caring who saw us because we were mermaids.
We had a moment that I nearly lost because often our default mode is to chose the path of least resistance. To spectate rather than play.
No matter how long we get to live this life, it will always be too short. Play whenever you can.