When I moved to Maryland, I made friends with a neighbor who is a little bit crazy. When he found out I was a swimmer, he started trying to sell me on jumping in the Chesapeake Bay in January. I explained to him that jumping into freezing-cold water had NOTHING to do with swimming, but he was undeterred. I finally relented, and last January I jumped in with a great group of guys for The Polar Bear Plunge.
When the date for this year’s Plunge rolled around, I figured it would be simple. I’d been in cold water before, and have always found it invigorating. The feeling of climbing out of freezing-cold water, even into freezing-cold air, makes your body tingle in a very cool way.
For some reason, however, this year’s Plunge was TOUGH! Maybe it was because I forgot my extra pair of shoes to wear into the Bay, which meant I was standing in the cold sand for 20 minutes prior to heading into the water. Whatever it was, my feet were in more pain than I’d ever felt before.
Last weekend (January 20), as we drove across the Bay Bridge to the jump point, I couldn’t help noticing that almost the ENTIRE BAY was frozen. This is NOT a good sign. The entire way across the 4.5-mile bridge, my kids kept reminding me how SILLY this was. But I knew I wasn’t alone, and that I wouldn’t be leading the way. I learned last year that if you’re first in, then about 1,000 people are chasing down behind you, and you can’t get OUT! I planned on being in the middle of the pack this year.
Why do it? Why subject myself to the pain in my toes, and the hour or so of shivering afterwards? For community. To put my money where my mouth is, in a way. To not sit idly by, but to at least try to get involved in a small way for kids. See, this is all to raise money for the Special Olympics, which, to me, is a great cause.
I’ve never had much of a problem with what I call "selected pain" — the kind of pain that I CHOOSE to put myself through. Whether it’s the long hours of training I endured as an athlete, or jumping into 33-degree water, it’s completely my decision. There are many individuals, however, who don’t have the same choices. If you are born with a disability, sometimes you have no control over the amount or type of pain you experience.
I’m not writing this to ring my own bell. I’ve just made some decisions in my life that tend to keep me on edge, which, in turn, keeps me alive. When I decide to do something that also benefits others, then the DOING becomes all the simpler. Just do it! 🙂
I’ve made some great friends by jumping into freezing-cold water with them, and, for that, I’m very glad. We have a great time, get all pumped up, and hang out afterwards as a group. It’s actually a lot of fun, but MAN that water was cold!