Thursday, January 25, 2007

Next: Nude Volleyball

I had a particularly bad dream last night. It’s probably the 10,000th variation on the same bad-dream theme I’ve been dreaming since college – the bad dream that always has to do with lots of water.

I probably have a version of this same dream two or three times a week where I’m in some sort of peril – from mild to extreme - and have to deal with scary water in one way, shape or form. Maybe it’s that I have to cross a raging river that is sure to sweep me away, or I’m on a ship that is sinking, or I’m driving across a dam that breaks, or I’m walking across a rickety bridge over a waterfall, or the mountain lake is freezing and I have to get off the ice before it cracks and I fall through. I could go on and on and on because I dream this stuff ALL OF THE TIME. I’m sure a psychoanalyst would have a field day since it’s so apparent that the water is symbolizing fear, or chaos, or the unknown, or… DA DA DUUUUM...death.

As I lay awake trying to shake off last night’s episode where I was on a raft rushing through a series of locks on a canal that was flooding behind me, I was thinking about why water always plays a part of my nightmares. I’m not afraid of water. I love playing in water. Granted, I’m not a great swimmer by any means, but I’m not paralyzed with fear, or anything. I’m a Pisces for goodness sake – we love water!

But in my sleepy state, I laughed out loud when I remembered that one time I did almost die in open water. Okay, maybe “die” is a bit of an exaggeration, but not much.

I almost died nine years ago at Hippie Hollow, topless in the lake, buoys up, if you get my drift. That’s right. Topless. In the lake. At Hippie Hollow, Austin’s nude beach. I shudder to think what would have happened if I hadn’t been saved and my poor parents would have received that phone call, “Mr. and Mrs. Holliday, your daughter died today at the lake. At Hippie Hollow. Topless.”

Oh, the shame…

And it’s all absolutely, 100%, positively, without a doubt, Beth’s fault.

I didn’t want to go to Hippie Hollow! I’m not a Hippie Hollow person! I would rather be dipped in honey and left on an ant hill than actually be naked in front of anyone! At no point in my life has skinny dipping ever sounded like fun.

I mean, HELLO, when I went to Saint Tropez in the South of France, probably one of the most famous nude beaches in the world, I was wearing a turtleneck! I kid you not, a turtleneck. I’ve got to get those pictures out of storage and find that one because it makes me laugh just thinking about it. There I am on the stunningly beautiful white sandy beaches of St. Tropez wearing walking shorts down to my knees and a cotton turtle neck, surrounded by really white, really blobby, really naked European tourists. (MUST find those pictures!)

But during that year and a half when I was roommates with Beth, she was on a mission to wrench me from the crazy self-inflicted confinement of my neurosis. She didn’t think I needed to be insecure, always playing it safe, afraid of adventure and spontaneity, forever worried about what others thought. She actually had the audacity to think that I should learn to be comfortable in my own skin just being me! I must admit that, in part, thanks to Beth’s efforts I now live a much more confident, freer life than I might otherwise have done. I don’t live so much in the “Lori Holliday Box”, as we used to call it.

But it took her making me do things that made me extremely uncomfortable to get over some of my issues. Things like going to a nude beach.

This is how our conversation went every single Saturday morning for about ten weeks straight that summer:

B: “Hey, let’s go swimming today at Hippie Hollow.”
L: “Absolutely not.”

It wasn’t until I lost a bet and had to pay with Hippie Hollow that I went. I was mortified, but more than anything I just wanted to get it over with.

Of course, once we got there I realized I had it built up in my mind completely different than it actually was. It was a beautiful, isolated cove that boaters couldn’t access so there were no gawkers and hardly anyone on the beach. It was easy to find a secluded place to ourselves.

I had my top off and was in the water in 3 seconds flat. (We certainly kept our shorts on – even Beth wasn’t that brave!) We swam out into the middle of the cove and laughed and laughed thinking that we were really funny. I was actually having fun! I felt pretty daring being half naked in the warm lake on that beautiful, hot day.

Until it hit.

With no warning, my lungs seized up and I was stricken with a bad bronchial spasm. No air in, no air out.

I had been plagued with this problem for awhile (I’ve since been mostly cured) and it had happened before when I was with Beth, so she recognized what was going on pretty quickly and sprang into action like a half-naked Baywatch lifeguard. She turned me on my back, put her left arm around my shoulders and neck and swam with her right arm pulling my big, mostly-naked, no breathing self to shore. All I could think of as I was looking at the sun with my girls facing skyward was that horrible phone call someone was going to have to make to my parents. Dear God, NO!

Beth dragged me onto the sand and neither of us cared much at that point that we were topless. I was trying to focus inward and will my lungs to move while she was pounding on my back yelling “BREATH, BREATH!”. A small group of people started to gather around us. Totally naked people. It was a sight to behold. One particularly tan man said, “Should I call an ambulance?” At that exact moment my lungs finally loosened up and I wheezed out “NOOOOOOOO”.

I’m not sure I could have lived another day if EMT would have arrived on the scene.

I just sat on the sand and focused on breathing. Everyone around me let out a collective sigh and the really nice naked people patted me on my naked back and went back to playing in the water. Beth and I sat right there for a good 30 minutes, in silence, just breathing. I was in full view and could have cared less.

When I was finally back to breathing normally, the absolute absurdity of the situation hit us and we started to laugh. And we laughed and laughed and laughed. For thirty minutes we laughed. Who else but me would have their worst fear realized – to be seen naked at Hippie Hollow – in such dramatic fashion?

By now, my twins were completely sunburned so we finally stood up and walked waaaaaay to the other side of the beach to get our t-shirts. No one cared that we were half naked. No one even looked. But I was pretty happy to cover up the old birthday suit and go back home.

Needless to say, Beth and I can get ourselves laughing until we cry when we reminisce about this one. Maybe it’s why I have nightmares about open water, but if that’s the case, it was worth it.

And if ever I return to St. Tropez, I might actually wear a tank top this time. Progress.


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