The Time I Wore a Bikini

The aquamarine water beckoned me.

come play

I longed to swim in the sea. I longed to dive into the current and swim hard and fast until I couldn’t breathe.

I longed to taste saltwater on my lips and feel the sunshine soaking into my skin.

I longed to take my crashing waves of emotion and let the undertow drag them out to the middle of nowhere, never to return again.

longed.

yes I’m grounded, got my wings clipped
I’m surrounded by all this pavement

But I heard the words — first uttered at the tender age of 8, turning into words taunted by cruel middle school boys and quick cut downs by middle school girls, words that echoed and repeated for years.

Years that ended up in a dive bar when he said  you don’t give me butterflies and a confession that he had never been attracted to blondes and didn’t know why he was attracted to me. Years on years of words. Slowly settling deeper into the layers of my skin.

Words that defined my worth and beauty and my value.

When I sat on that beach, listening to the ocean calling me, I realized I had a choice. My choice was years of words or a moment of brave. A moment of freedom. Where I let go of everything that brought me security to hide all the parts of my body, a body I still have not learned to love, and run headfirst, bravely, into the water I’ve always loved.

So I chose brave. And a tiny bit of denial if I’m honest.

I stood up. I took all the coverings off and stripped down to my bathing suit.

I waited for a moment. For the horrified gasps and snide remarks. I steeled myself for the comments. The suggestion that maybe you should cover up and yet they never came. I looked over at my friend and asked if she could watch the bags and towels and drinks while I went for a swim. Her eyes met mine briefly with a smile, “sure, have fun!” and she went back to her book.

So I walked tentatively towards the water. And then I started to jog. And the run. Run to the ocean, to the waves, and I went running through them and let myself collapse into the warm water, giggling like the little girl who I’ve always believed still lives inside of me. The one who knew no shame or belief that she was anything other than lovely.

I shed this skin I’ve been tripping in
never to quite return

I turned to face the oncoming waves, eager to surrender to the water’s control, and dove under the the break. As I found my way to the surface, I wiped my eyes, turned my face to the sun, and laughed.

I never want to miss this. I never want to miss out on something again because I’m afraid of a theoretical person’s theoretical opinion on my body. I never want to miss out on life again. 

And I swam. Hard. Against the current, under the waves, until my lungs were screaming for air and my feet couldn’t touch the bottom.

So I floated. I let the crashing of the waves crash into my emotion and carry it away. I let the sun soak into my skin and burn away the pain. I let the saltwater hold the weight of my world. I stopped thinking. I stopped processing. I stopped feeling. I stopped analyzing. I stopped worrying. I stopped pretending. I stopped trying.

someday I’ll fly, someday I’ll soar
someday I’ll be, so damn much more

I stopped. And I just was.

After awhile I started to swim back to shore, the euphoria of being brave still settled around me, protecting me from the thoughts of taking myself out of the cover of the water. And as I walked back to my friends and my towel and my hiding, I realized that I hide in so many ways in my life.

I hide my needs, my wants, my hopes. I hide parts of who I am because I’m afraid they’ll be mocked. I’m afraid to tell pieces of my story for fear of theoretical people’s theoretical opinions. I’m afraid to run into the Jock and his new fiancee. I’m afraid to hear the words of how I might have impacted someone’s life because they might just shatter the careful bulletproof glass I’ve installed around my heart. So I hide it away, under a half of who I am. Allowing carefully crafted images to come out on my terms, pulling back when I feel I’ve said too much or shared too much or been too much.

It’s okay, forget I said anything
I don’t want to be an inconvenience
I’m fine, don’t worry about me 

While my heart screams out that it is not okay, I am not okay, all is not okay.

I grabbed my towel and felt the warm air drift across my damp skin. Covering because I was cold, not because I was ashamed. I knew I had been hiding. Covering. Withholding. Missing out on the depth of life because of fear.

I wish I could say I left the fear at the beach that day. I wish I could proclaim I’ve chosen to be brave every day since. I wish I could tell you I’ve stopped hiding. But the truth is, that just isn’t the case. I have not been brave with my words. I have not been honest with all of who I am. I have no admitted my needs and wants and desires. I have not.

But just like the ocean beckoned me, so is life. Life is beckoning me. Drawing me in. Asking me to be brave. To choose. To decide. To show up. To be known. To be seen.

maybe I’ll tangle in the power lines
and it might be over in a second’s time
but I’ll gladly go down in flames
if a flame’s what it takes to remember my name

to remember my name 

 

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