Today was my eightieth day in a row submerging in a glacial lake. My neighbor and I started the ritual on November 29th. Every morning at 7:30 am we go down to the corner of my block, cross the busy road, walk down a tiny hill, take off our boots, and wade into the ice cold lake. We estimate the temperature is about 39 degrees. The air is usually a little bit colder, sometimes a lot colder.
My goal is to make it to one hundred days because by then the water will be warmer and the spring bulbs will be up and it will feel like summer compared to what we’ve been doing these past few months.
Every morning my neighbor and I look at each other right before we go into the water and ask each other why we are doing this. We laugh and then we do it anyway. After wading chest-deep in the water for a minute or two or three, we count to three together and go fully under. We try to stay under the water for several seconds. Then we pop up, smile at each other, wade back to shore, wrap ourselves in our towels and robes, and climb up the little hill to go home.
I feel compelled to go into the lake every day. Last weekend I trudged through ten inches of snow to go into the lake. It felt amazing like it does every single day. The moments when I am walking slowly into the lake I feel brave. In the minutes I stay in the lake, feeling my thighs tingle with cold, I feel more brave. When I conjure the will to submerge fully for those last few seconds I feel the most brave. And when I am done I feel victorious.
The other day I was whining about going in the lake to my family. “I”m scared,” I said, “it’s soooo cold today.” My sixteen-year-old daughter said, “Mom, why do you do things you hate?” I had complained the night before about having to get up at 5:30 am for my meditation class and she’d obviously been listening.
“I do them because even though I might not like it in the moment, I know that I’ll feel good afterward.” And that was one hundred percent true. My daily meditation sets the tone for my day. Though I sometimes struggle out of bed, I am always so grateful an hour later.
And it’s the same with dunking every morning. I fret about the cold air, or the rain, or the snow on the ground, but once I’ve dunked into the frigid lake I feel amazing. I’m refreshed, invigorated and so proud.
A few days after my daughter ribbed me about doing things I hate, she and I were both in the kitchen. I was making coffee and she was cutting an apple for her breakfast. I reminded her to take her iron pill, a task she hates doing but needs to do because she’s iron deficient.
She took her pill and looked past me. Then, as if thinking out loud to herself she said, “I need to start doing more things that I hate. Not a lot of things. Maybe just one thing a day.”
I just smiled and said, “I think that’s a great idea.”