Saturday, 28 April 2018

I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice: wild swimming, coping, and finding your people

I tend to read more slowly now than when I was younger, usually taking a week or two to read a book. But every so often something comes along that changes that.

A few months ago, I spent a snowy weekend reading A Whole Life by Robert Seethaler. And more recently, I read I Found My Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice one afternoon on my balcony under the hot spring sun.

I Found My Tribe came to me at just the right time. I have been reading a lot of business and self-improvement books lately and was in need of something more refreshing and beautifully-written. I wanted a book that celebrates the big and little things. And that was what I found:

Some people understand that the small things make a difference. A nice pen to write with that slides perfectly on the page. Hot coffee in a particular cup. These things matter when your soul is on the edge.

I Found My Tribe

As well as its beautiful writing, what drew me to I Found My Tribe was some common ground with the author: wild swimming.

Ruth Fitzmaurice is a cold water swimmer, her home ground being on Ireland's east coast, in Greystones in County Wicklow. After her husband, writer and film director Simon Fitzmaurice, is diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, she’s drawn to the freezing Atlantic water to feel whole again. She isn't alone in this – she has what becomes the "Tragic Wives' Swimming Club” for company.

During her swims, diving into the Irish sea is a shock to the system that forces her to momentarily forget and click reset. And she soon ends up craving it.

This last winter, I swam every week in the Aare River that flows through Switzerland’s Berner Oberland. Swimming in the freezing cold was a challenge to focus on, as well as a way to feel stronger and to let go of stress. I loved every swim, especially how it made me feel afterwards: like I could get out the water and do anything. I Found My Tribe gave me so many wonderful echoes of this.

But the book is not just about swimming – it’s about love, friendship, parenting, sickness, caring and coping. It’s about putting down your roots where you have people to love and support you through anything.

You could say the book is like When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi. It will get you thinking about life but also make you want to throw yourself into nature, especially if you already have a bit of a hippie soul like I do. If so, you’ll probably want to go swimming naked under the full moon too.

Cold water hits you with a head-slam. Don’t fight the cold. Let go and let it seep in. But it’s so cold! Keep treading water. This too shall pass. Ten seconds later you don’t feel the sting. Ten seconds later is pure freedom.

My own swimming territory in Interlaken, Switzerland.


Other books about wild swimming:



What else I’ve been reading:




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