16 Laps of Pells: Sarah Paget

This piece is addressed to our writer-in-residence Tanya Shadrick, whose presence at poolside this season altered Sarah’s swim experience in an unexpected way…

After my usual poolside ritual – splashing water on my legs and arms to move through psychological resistance to the cold pool – I found myself swimming towards you at the other end where you were quietly kneeling at a low table, completely absorbed in your writing.

Your presence had me consider more deeply my own process of being in the water, which I realised is your invitation to us all: To experiment with the time it takes to really be with ourselves; for some reprieve from a world where we are constantly distracted…

So your being there communicated to me the possibility of joining in. What I asked, do I notice about my experience in the water, what am I feeling, thinking?

I began to pay attention to the movement of the water, the myriad colours that began to emerge on closer observation…

At some point I lost count of the number of lengths I was at. I usually set myself a twenty-minute swim in which I am currently able to achieve 16 lengths. Yet when I lost count I began to wonder what 16 lengths meant to me as an identity: What if I were a 12- lengths person instead, or an 18? Would I feel better or worse about myself? What would it be like to let go and just enjoy the process rather than stay fixed on the outcome?

As my thoughts moved within me, sometimes disturbing me, sometimes bringing me to a greater connection, there you were, dressed in a way that enabled me to imagine you as a woman from a more ancient time, some older being who knew what it was to focus on something important. You looked so steadfast.

There was a sequence of words that came to me as I swam – I am not sure I am able to articulate the full weight – but it gave me a sense of something deeply meaningful: ‘There is only ever the blue line’: This is what came to me as I swam along the one painted at the bottom of the swimming pool.

And with that thought I swam into a space I often don’t give myself permission to occupy. Thank you.

Sarah is an Arts Psychotherapist with a passion for supporting people to connect with their creativity to transform their lives.

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