Just a few short weeks ago, I did something crazy.
Here’s a photo of me right before I did:
(I’m the dude in the green shirt and red shorts – like it’s Christmas – in the middle of the field)
For some reason, when looking for the last few items to put on my list for this year, I thought to myself …
“Y’know, Thomas, a Polar Bear Plunge would be fun. You should do one.”
Me, being delusional at the time, agreed with myself. (Well, maybe it’s more delusional that I was having a conversation with myself … but that is a matter for a whole different day.)
This thing, along with a few others (like climbing one of the tallest mountains in the US), are on a short list (within the list) of things that … well … I might just deem crazy.
How does one define crazy? Well, there are books upon books on this sort of thing, but let’s keep it simple. It’s a short list of criteria:
- Understanding that something is well outside your expertise, character, or normal state of affairs.
- Understanding that the something can, in fact, kill you.
- Knowing #1 and #2, you decide to try it anyways.
If I am honest with myself (and why not when one is blogging about one’s own life?), I didn’t really think this one through. As it was, I found myself learning a bit about “ice swimming” mere days before the event. (Also, as an aside, could I have picked a more mild winter for this venture? I had considered another location and take in January … but that day, it was 65 degrees … geez).
People die doing this.
And please, don’t lecture on how it’s more dangerous to drive a car, cross the street, drink from a Nalgene bottle(thanks BPA!), or that eating non-organic, hormone fed beef can kill you as well. That stuff normally takes much longer, and as for the beef, it’s a much tastier killer. Anyways ….
Do you know what happens to your body when you jump in near-freezing temperature water?
Let me tell you.
First, this nifty thing called “cold shock response” happens. In short, when you willingly place your body in such cold water temperature, your body thinks that it’s dying. Immediately, you hyperventilate, which is the cheif cause of drowing when someone falls through the ice.
Needless to say, I was beginning to think of creative ways to back out of this one. I’m focusing on more pressing tasks. (Yeah that’s a good one) I’m trying to exercise more to pound out these last few pounds. (Noble!) My favorite? I just couldn’t find one where it was going to be cold enough. (Perfect! That way, I don’t have to do it AND I come out looking like the tough guy!)
As noted by the photo above, none of those excuses worked. I mean, if I didn’t do it, I would miss out on my stellar T-shirt.
Which brings us to January 20th, 2012. 3:00 pm. Air temperature – about 54 degrees. Water temp – 44 degrees. Translation: Pretty stinking cold. The setting: I am surrounded by youngsters, most of which are affiliated with some combination of Greek lettering. To say I felt a little out of place was an understatement.
You can safely assume that as you are reading this, I did survive, and looked pretty stellar:
The experience? Hard to explain. I did feel like drowning. There is no real description for breathing normally one second, and a second later breathing like you’ve been trying to escape a rabid black bear freshly hungry from getting up late from hibernation. As for the cold, it wasn’t that bad until I got out. This was mostly due to most of the outer layers of skin (where most of the nerve endings are) pretty much instantly going numb … so very quickly I didn’t feel the “stinging” cold, but more of a dull freezing feeling. … until I got out of the water. Yikes.
So what does this have to do with anything? Was this really a big deal?
Well, no, it’s not a big deal when it comes to some of the wild and crazy things that people are recording these days (thanks YouTube!).
At the core, though, we all need a little crazy in our lives.
I remember several years ago, when my son was just learning to talk, I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He stated as emphatically as he could:
A fire truck.
Recent research indicates that self-esteem for most girls peaks at age 9. Yeah, I said peaks. The researchers state that this has to do with a more rapid sexualization for girls rather than boys, but I think it goes deeper than that.
While we are still young, we get told what we cannot do more than what we can do.
Much of this is good parenting: Don’t cross the street without looking. Stovetops are normally hot. You cannot wear two left shoes. You can’t date that boy until I meet his parents. You will be home by 10:00.
None of those boundaries are inherently bad. We have to, though, be cautious about what we teach our children (and ourselves as adults) about what we can or cannot, in fact, do.
How can we foster boundary pushing in our lives?
You see all the time in the news, or in your twitter, or on facebook, story after story of someone who accomplished something outlandish or seemingly impossible, or, dare I say it … crazy.
Each of those stories didn’t start where they ended. They started well before:
The olympic gymnast tried the scariest thing in the world at 3 – a cartwheel.
An overseas missionary began their ministry with the riskiest thing they could imagine … traveling overseas for a week (or even before that, giving money to another servant).
The overweight sit-up for the first time.
Real life change often starts with a little crazy – add a little to your life. Move your tentposts out. You may never know where it may lead.