Back in September 2018, almost 3 years ago, writing here on this Blog I wrote about how I was ‘Scared to Bare’ – trapped in a feeling of fear, that I shouldn’t feel what I feel, that I shouldn’t do what I wanted to do.
It took me until last week to fix that, and I am so happy that I did!
Thanks to a friend in the association who has been trying to convince me that this is in fact fine, I finally last week threw caution to the wind and went to a beach spot that had been discussed, that was quiet and peaceful and hard enough to navigate, that it eased my mind a lot that I might be seen. What if I knew someone?
My plan was to do a trial run on my own. A few days prior I walked to the spot, took everything off and went swimming. A passer-by with a dog stopped to chat, commenting on how I was brave to swim in the cold. He couldn’t see below my chest so was unaware of what lay, or what didn’t lay underneath. The swim felt good, I walked back up the beach without getting dressed and I could see myself doing it.
Roll on Wednesday, at Knocknagin Bay Beach north of Balbriggan at the border between Co. Dublin and Co. Louth, and I knew the time to go. I walked around the tricky rocks, to the oasis of calm and serenity that is that part of the beach and there in the distance, like long lost friends, were the faint traces of people. They stood, lay, chatted and none of them was dressed. I was home.
I approached, tentatively, towel in hand and asked the first person I saw, voice shaking, if I could join them.
“Right, clothes off, don’t think,” was the hopeful and hopeless internal dialogue. It is difficult to break the codes laid down by a lifetime of programming. I don’t know where to look, I suddenly feel unsure of what to do with my eyes, so I focus on myself. The names are passed around, but I barely catch one, because my mind is racing so much. The guy next to me introduces himself and he couldn’t be nicer. They all couldn’t be nicer. We quickly bond over shared experience or lack of – it is his first day, he hasn’t been before. The more seasoned members have confidence about them, a serenity. They walk proudly, easily. I am constantly checking where my shorts are, where my towel is. I don’t know what to do with myself, so I decide to swim. I walk what feels like the miles to the sea and wade in, wondering if I turn around will Gardai swarm the place, like a SWAT team.There is a mix of men and women, it is hard to know what to do when there is the opposite sex there. We are programmed to look away, not engage, as it’s rude, but this falls away quickly. It is so nice to be in the presence of someone, naked and realise they are just there before you. There is no transaction, no expectation. It is humanity at its purest.
I couldn’t stay long, I wanted to but couldn’t. Next time might be longer. But it is done. I feel free, I feel ok, I feel reborn. My evening was peaceful. I slept like a baby and I made new friends.
I am no longer scared. In fact, I feel home.