Finding My Happy Place in the Open Water

Hilary Topper in her happy place

There are days when I swim in the open water and I just feel a sense of freedom — freedom from COVID-19 threat, freedom from all the nasty politics, and freedom from life. There’s something meditative and special about the water that you can’t experience anywhere else. It’s truly my “happy place.”

It’s not always a happy place…

But, when the sky is gray and the water is almost the same color, there’s an experience that you get which is hard to describe. I feel it when I ski and there’s a whiteout with the white snow on the ground. You don’t know which way is up, which way is down and it’s almost like a “vertigo” type of feeling.

One day a few weeks ago, I was swimming with my training partner. He was way ahead of me. The sky was gray and the water was the same color. I started to think, “am I really here? Is this a nightmare that doesn’t end?” I started to spook myself out. I stopped swimming, shook my head, and refocused 1,2,3…

No two swims are the same

Every time I swim, it’s a different experience. On the next day that the sky was gray and overcast and the water was practically the same color, was just recently. Getting into the water in September was a little rough because it starts to get colder. With every inch of water, your body starts to shiver. Once the water is up to your waste, there’s no going back. If you leave the water, you will be freezing. If you stay in the water and warm up, it won’t be so bad.

On this day, I swam to the marina and then back to the far buoy. I couldn’t see the buoy, nor my training partner. I just kept swimming and as I was swimming, I started to feel lost. The sky and the water became one. I started to drift. “Where am I?” I asked myself.

A flash of thought entered my mind. Is this what it’s like to have Alzheimer’s Disease? Do you feel like you’re in a perpetual pool of water trying to get home and you can’t? The thought dissipated when I got to the far buoy and found my training partner. I realize that when I have thoughts like that, I need to take a break and regroup.

Back to my happy place

Whether or not I have a good or bad experience in the water, I will always see it as my happy place. If I go out at a nice and easy pace, I feel like I can swim forever. I don’t have to stop. I get into a rhythm and the water just takes my body and mind to a place where everything is simply perfect. I love finding that place.

Tell me an experience you had where you found your happy place.