No cold feet, I declared with vehemence.
It was mid-December. I was weeks away from leaving work, but mentally miles from it. I’d told everyone my plan was to get a plan, that I wanted to test other waters, get outside my comfort zone. I had no earthly idea what form(s) that might actually take.
Idly paging through an events calendar for Rehoboth, I came upon the Delaware Special Olympics’ Polar Bear Plunge announcement — a fund raiser anchored by a dip in the frigid Atlantic on the first Sunday in February. I’d seen posters for this event before and thought Are you kidding? Why would anyone do such a thing?
And thus I sealed my own fate. Having committed to an enterprise that was all about pushing past the internal censors, all about not stopping at “Why would anyone do such a thing?” I honestly didn’t think I had a choice but to sign up, to commit to going past my very literal comfort zone and plunge right in.
So I did. I made up a team name and logo, you know, in case I wanted to make sweatshirts.
And just to be sure I wouldn’t back down, I announced it on Facebook and tried to persuade any of the 450 remarkable women with whom I graduated from Girls High and the 50 fab folks in my Leadership Arlington class to join me. Clearly I’m no marketer, because no one took the bait, although a few hardy souls gave it gracious consideration.
No matter. I was in.
My parents were alarmed — and not without reason. I’ve had body temperature regulation issues for much of my life. Dropped in a dead faint upon walking into an air conditioned bank from a warm May day. Spent a day in the first aid lodge at a ski resort recovering from hypothermia. They called to ask me to reconsider. (Oops – that was a mistake. I don’t think of myself as much of a combatant, but even I get my dander up when people try to walk me away from something I’ve decided I need to do.)
I promised myself: No Cold Feet.
As the day approached and the temperatures stayed cold (this was a cold winter, remember??) and the winds howled, I confess I wondered what I had gotten myself into. My husband D. reminded me I could always change my mind and he would still love me. My niece R. offered a warm hat that she wouldn’t mind me wearing into the water.
Day-of dawned overcast and chilly, mercifully less windy. Air temperatures in the mid 30s; water temperature, 37′. But the crowd was hot: jazzed and communally conscious that we were all about to do something that was patently ridiculous, but for a good cause, and we were pumped.
There were 3,500 of us signed up for the plunge. Another 7,000, easy, on the beach to offer emotional support, warm beverages and dry towels. Music blared. People walked by in funny costumes with mittens and hats, chatting with others around them, laughing.
And then the whistle blew and we all ran, screaming, into the surf. Which. Was. Cold. But also invigorating, and wonderful, and so much fun, and over so soon it was hard to remember having been wet.
I ran into the water, determined to go as far out as drysuit-clad emergency personnel would allow. I got in up to my chest and turned around. Just short of the beach I stumbled and went in up to my ears. Mission Accomplished: no toe dipping for me!
And mission accomplished: anticipation is so much worse than the actual doing.
And mission accomplished: sometimes the things that seem the most scary, the most outlandish, are actually the most fun, the most empowering.
I opted for the Plunge because it was a concrete way to act on a promise I had made for myself, a way to make literal a figurative commitment. I’m so glad I did: having done that, what can’t I try? I’m actually contemplating Plunging again next year — and, in delightful validation of the whole escapade and clear proof of my infectious enthusiasm, R. thinks she might join me. 🙂