I was enrolled in an online learning group a while back in which people would type that they were “going rouge” when they deviated from the suggested plan. It was used so commonly that I began to think it was part of the group’s lexicon rather than a typo. Either way, it’s become part of my own personal glossary of terms.
Whenever I decide to buck a trend and do something my own way, I yell “I’m going rouge!” with gusto. It’s a silly little thing that gives me joy.
One day a few weeks ago while David and I were enjoying an end of day quarantini in the hot tub, I said “I’m not painting a fish. I’m going rouge,” forgetting that he can’t (always) read my mind.
And I told him this story, a memory triggered when my painting instructor suggested we paint prehistoric fish for that evening’s online class:
When I was five my parents enrolled me in a learn-to-swim class at the local YMCA during March break.
I hated most everything about it, which is odd considering how much I love the water. My mom always said that she couldn’t drag me out of the lake even if my lips and fingernails were turning blue.
That being said, the shallow “baby” pool at the YMCA is no Lake Superior. There’s really no comparison.
I hated the locker rooms; I hated the showers; I hated the echoey noise of the place and the smell of chlorine; I hated having to wear a life jacket. I hated standing in the cold water listening to the instructor, a crabby old lady (who was probably in actual fact a teenager earning a part time wage who probably would rather be anywhere else besides trying to teach this sullen shivering kid in a life jacket how to float).
The idea was for me to hold her hands and lay face down in the water, arms and legs extended, while she pulled me around the pool.
I was having none of it. I put my face in the water, extended my arms, and extended one leg back while keeping the other one firmly on the bottom of the pool, hopping on one leg while she pulled me around.
When I raised my head from the water, rather pleased with pulling it off, I met the scowl of my captor.
“Do you think I can’t see you hopping around on one foot?” she asked. “Do you think I’m stupid?”
As you can well imagine, it wasn’t a very productive week for either of us and, speaking for myself, I was happy to see the end of it. On the final day we were presented with certificates of achievement, mine a lovely drawing of a seahorse, with whom I was well pleased.
I noticed, however, that I was the only student with a seahorse. Every other junior swimmer in my class got a fish. I was curious as to why I was singled out for such an honour and asked the instructor why I got a seahorse when everyone else got a fish. I braced myself in anticipation of her warm praise. (I may have been sullen and non-cooperative as a five year old swimming student, but c’mon – I was pretty cute and I had a fairly healthy measure of self-esteem all things considered)
She explained, with some smugness I must say, that fish know how to swim and as I didn’t even know how to float yet, a seahorse was what I got. It turns out my lovely seahorse was in fact a certificate of underachievement.
Unperturbed, I shrugged that off. Seahorses after all are infinitely more beautiful and interesting than plain old fish. Did you know that in seahorse families it is the male that gets pregnant and gives birth? See?
Besides, suggesting that fish can swim and seahorses can’t is a false analogy. So there.
When I got home I hung my seahorse on my bedroom wall in a place of honour. The following summer my dad taught me how to float and swim in the waves on the north shore of Lake Superior and I eventually returned to the YMCA to complete all the swimming star levels up to the lifesaving certificate.
And so tonight I planned to go rouge and paint a seahorse.
I had begun to believe I didn’t have an inner child when one day during a group reiki class, mine popped out from the tree she was hiding behind and ran straight into my lap for a cuddle. We’ve been getting to know each other ever since. She’s the one who reminded me that fish are okay, but seahorses are where the magic really is. She’s been streaming stories to me that I had long forgotten. I’m thinking of letting her be a guest blogger here from time to time.