Wild swimming in the fading light
Self-care when you're all at sea.
2021 has felt like holding for dear life onto the tail of a very pissed-off dragon. I’ve noticed that, accompanying this year’s upheavals and uncertainties, my OCD has flared up (symptoms include so much hand washing that I ought to be appointed a Mrs. Meyers brand ambassador… or at the very least get a bulk discount on their lemon verbena-scented soap).
Now — a silver lining of partly-cloudy mental health is that it can propel you out of your comfort zone and towards a vigorous shake-up — in my case, the momentum I needed to begin a regimen of ocean swims and yoga. Since mid-January, I’ve been doing both each three times a week. I’d long proudly exercised with nothing more advanced than a Swatch; now, I find myself donning a GPS watch that measures how far I swim — which (in the absence of a coach or fellow swimmers to crack the whip) has been remarkably motivating; cumulatively, I’m averaging over four miles a week.
I sometimes have to drag myself down to the water, but once I’m in, I never regret having taken the plunge. My favourite time of day out there is late afternoon, when the light is sloppy and golden, the ocean moody shades of indigo, and the barks of the sea lions particularly joyful.
I’m not going to be pretend that downward facing dog or swimming with harbour seals has been a panacea — however, both1 have nevertheless been extremely worthwhile, helping to recalibrate perspective and bringing an invigorating, calming spaciousness to my day (and mind). The last time I swam this much was probably when I was 11 and training for my Robben Island crossing. As an anxious kiddo, back then swimming was a salve too; returning to it has felt like a homecoming2.
Why do I mention all of this? Because I wanted to offer up a little reminder to be kind to yourself, and reach out for the help you need if/when you need it. There is so much that requires our care and compassion — our family, our friends, our planet (!!) — but we need to start off by taking care of ourselves first. “Self-care” — oft lampooned but all-important if we are to keep our heads above water — can take many forms, not least goat yoga, foot soaks, board games, the Real Housewives, rambling voice notes, airplane mode, micro-dosing, marathon running… Find whatever works for you — and don’t be shy about carving out the time and space to do it. You deserve nothing less.
I’ve spent the last few weeks down rabbit holes and on (virtual) forest floors probing the disturbing links between finance and tropical deforestation for the BBC; the resulting article should get published sometime in March. In the meantime, should you be extremely bored / feel like daydreaming about hot air-ballooning over the Busanga Plains, or pedalling your way through Berlin or Porto, check out my shiny new portfolio of published pieces.
My next visit back to my beloved Cape Town has been pushed out to early 2022 (at least). While I still pine after stocking up on cushion covers at Skinny LaMinx, strolling on the Pipe Track and feasting at Chefs Warehouse (the Beau Constantia one, obvs), I did find some consolation in rounding up, in a Google Doc, my favourite places in the city to eat, drink, shop and hike. Are there any favourites of yours missing from my list? Let me know!
And don’t forget about TONGUES — the publication I edit which showcases conversations with “questioners, mavericks and mavens”. I’m always inspired by the folk we feature but, of recent interviews, the ones with artist Chris Soal and photographer Silvia Rossi were particularly wonderful. (We’re always on the lookout for new interviewees — people who challenge convention, who go against the grain; if you have ideas — tell me, please.)
My dear sister sent us a copy of The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charles Mackesy. It’s so lovely — gentle, wise and gorgeously illustrated. I paired it with another slim but wisely fortifying read: The Pocket Stoic by the philosopher John Sellars (published as Lessons in Stoicism in the UK).
I adore Rosamund Pike. The trailer for Netflix’s I Care a Lot. — in which she stars — seemed promising. But by the 3/4 mark I was so bored by this dull (albeit vicious) yawn-fest. On the other hand, I’ve become absolutely enchanted by the decadent, preposterous, hilarious, beautiful Mexican soapie House of Flowers (thanks, Val!) — truly delicious escapist fare.
Also: Unlike certain other forms of self-medicating, I can attest that yoga and swimming are blissfully hangover-free.
Of course (even) swimming has its limits. And so, after searching in the haystack that is PsychologyToday.com, I’ve finally found a needle — a CBT therapist covered by my health insurance that I feel comfortable working with. It’s early days, but I’m cautiously hopeful our sessions will help bring down my monthly soap bill.