I did try to like the class, really I did, knowing that an hour's worth of underwater bouncing, kicking, arm-waving and skipping to over-sexed 'eighties tunes would leave me refreshed. About a quarter of the way through the third class, however (you knew this was coming, didn't you?), I looked over my shoulder and saw that the lap lane behind me was free. Free.
I glanced quickly left and right, then ducked under the spiral lane marker and began to stroke my way to freedom. It felt so good to stretch and pull at my own speed, arm over arm, legs in harmony, body aligned just right. I hadn't swum in a long time except for occasional dips in the ocean and tropical pools, but having been born on the beach, swimming is second nature, and here I was, on my second, third, tenth and finally 16th lap. Over the weeks since, alternating crawl, backstroke, breast stroke and something upside-down-turtle-like which I call my rest stroke, I slowly made my way toward this morning's 28th.
I'm not a fast swimmer, nor do I care about speed. After the first day, I didn't bother noticing how I measured up to the others racing in their lanes, men and women, younger and older, all willing to get up before dawn to fill the pool before work or home life distracted their energies. One morning, all lanes occupied, a young woman politely asked if she could share mine. Equally politely, I agreed, but warned her that it might be hard to follow as slow and irregular a swimmer as I. "That's ok!" she chirped, but after two laps, I noticed she'd moved two lanes over, with someone clearly more predictable. That was ok, too. I just swim to my own rhythm.
This morning, on my way to the showers, someone drying her hair greeted me by wondering how I was. "Well, thanks." I told her. "Only well?" she laughed, "after that nice long swim?" But well was how I felt, inside and out. Hip not buckling, shoulder easier, tangles untangled: well-being.
Part of the swim I take is mental, rolling my mind back and forth as I do my muscles, imagining the day, sorting out (idealistically, more often than not) the issues coming at me in much higher waves than a pool full of swimmers will produce. It's been an complicated winter...indeed, the whole last year seemed one affaire after another. My cousin said to me the other day, "I thought this new year would bring better days, or at least slower ones, but it's just more of the same, isn't it?" I know what she means by wishing for days slow enough to breathe through, one inspiration at a time. At the pool, slow is possible. Sometimes, stroking backwards, I simply stare at the undulated ceiling, the red, white and blue flags fore and aft, the windows looking out into the wooded yard, and think of nothing at all. And soon the sun is up and it's time to climb out.
Whatever the day brings, I'm glad for having begun it in my own way. I smile the whole five minutes home. Indulgence, indeed.