Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Swimming Laps


If twelve hours in the car with 3 small children and their grandma, way too many snack food products and driving through the night fueled by coffee doesn't leave you in need of a dip in the pool, I don't know what will.

I slipped into the cool water intending just to swim a few laps. For the first few strokes my triceps and biceps moaned loudly about how old I'm getting, I decided this was a terrible idea, I thought I might as well stop there in the middle and start doing old-lady water aerobics. It took the next few strokes to silence the chatter of voices in my head - all of the 'should dos' and 'why didn't I's' slunk quietly away.


stroke stroke stroke breathe..... stroke stroke stroke breathe...... stroke stroke stroke breathe.

the habit, the rhythm, the cadence of the stroke took over, and my muscles repeated the movement over and over, up and down. I wasn't counting laps, or speed, or time. Just swam up and down the pool, over and over.

stroke stroke stroke breathe..... stroke stroke stroke breathe...... stroke stroke stroke breathe.

I watched the sun refract at the bottom of the pool into a million watery squares, like so many scales of a rainbow fish.

stroke stroke stroke breathe..... stroke stroke stroke breathe...... stroke stroke stroke breathe.

I registered with a shock this was the first time I'd swum more than ten uninterrupted laps in close to ten years. I thought about how much time I've spent in the water in my life, how many hours, and then thought about how few hours I've spent by myself in the water recently.

stroke stroke stroke breathe..... stroke stroke stroke breathe...... stroke stroke stroke breathe.

Treading water - that's what I've been doing. I've spent my recent years treading water - working my arms and legs as hard as they'd go, keeping my head above water, keeping my focus on what needs to happen next. Treading water isn't the same as floating - treading water is work. It's a holding pattern, with a distinct subtext of survival in there.

stroke stroke stroke breathe..... stroke stroke stroke breathe...... stroke stroke stroke breathe.

But in recent months I've been.... surfacing. Not working so hard to stay in one place. I've been getting ready to swim: to strike out in new directions with long strong strokes. Turns out the strokes are second nature to me - I haven't forgotten how to do it.

stroke stroke stroke breathe..... stroke stroke stroke breathe...... stroke stroke stroke breathe.

The long brown arm that crooks high above my head and then slices back into the water stops being part of my body and instead beckons as it hovers above me for a second, then propels as it pulls underneath me.  'C'mon - this way!' it says. 'Keep moving' it says 'you'll get there.'

stroke stroke stroke breathe..... stroke stroke stroke breathe...... stroke stroke stroke breathe.

Fifty minutes later I flipped over on my back and floated in the baking August sun. Closed my eyes, pointed my face to the sky, and smiled as I floated. I'm not treading water: these days, I'm swimming.

9 comments:

hezro said...

LOVE it!! I feel it too sistah! I'm coming up for air and it feels GREAT!! Yay us! We get to be people again, not just mommies. Hurray!

Stephanie said...

Beautifully written. I so wish I was a swimmer... on all those different levels.

erica said...

Seriously? Got chills reading this post. You are such a beautiful writer...

Michelle said...

What a great post! Love it.

Varda said...

Missing you here at BlogHer something fierce. Reading another lovely post from you is the next best thing, but still.....

Aging Mommy said...

A clever way to describe how you are feeling. I am a terrible swimmer but in terms of my life feel I am right there with you, probably best described in my case as out there hiking and scaling that mountainside again, one step at a time.

Jingle said...

cool image!

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Keda said...

What a beautiful post! I don't know quite what to say... the imagery, the thoughts, the feelings... everything just seems to speak to me and I want to say 'Yes! This is how I feel!' and 'All I have needed all along is to go swimming!.

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