When I was a kid, I did summer swimming lessons at Green Acres outdoor pool. I liked being in the water, and one of my best pals had a pool, so it was a good exercise for me to know now to swim and feel comfortable in the water. I was OK in the water, but I had a … concern… that if I jumped into the deep end, I wouldn’t have enough time/air/something to resurface before I was in mortal danger. It wasn’t a fear that kept me from going into the pool, but when I got to Red Level lessons, it was problematic. My 8ish year old brain served up a solution, though. If I jumped in, then stuck out my hand to catch the edge of the pool, I could hit the check mark of jumping into the deep end, and also the internal chekmark of surviving the jump to swim another day. This was pretty smart, right up to the time when I jumped a little too close to the edge and caught the edge with my chin instead of my hand. Achievement unlocked: my first stitches and my last swim lessons.
I have spent time in pools and lakes and oceans in the meantime, but that was more about floating than actually dedicated swimming. Which was OK for my purposes.
Fast forward 40ish years. Saturday mornings in the Casa di Swears means a trip to the pool for aquafit at 8am. This is also the routine on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. Sometimes, if a teacher suddenly cancels, or there aren’t enough people to constitute a class, the class is cancelled. If I’m already there, and mentally prepared for time in the pool, I stay. I’m not a confident swimmer and I’m a big girl and I’m many many years away from good form. The trifecta of the self-conscious swimmer.
My sister swims. She has done an amazing job recovering from Cauda Aquina and the resulting (emergency) back surgery she had a few years ago. She re-learned to walk, and her therapy included swimming. She still swims, and she’s much fitter and healthier overall for her effort. She encouraged me to swim more, too. But being slow and big and unsure of swim lane etiquette and just feeling out of place amongst the goggled and swim-capped hardcore swimmers, I haven’t gone very often. My sister encouraged me to use the kick board, so I tried that. I can backstroke without aid, but any front stroke is more of a challenge. The thing is, when the swim lanes are busy, and the rest of the pool is just open swim, I just chose a corner of the deep end, and tread water for half an hour. I want to break into the swim lanes, but I keep finding (mental) reasons not to.
So, to today.
This morning, at aquafit, there was an elderly man who smiled broadly at everyone as he made his way from the locker room to the pool entry. He swung behind our aquafit leader to get a kickboard. And I perked up. He did laps for about half an hour in the lane between the aquafit class and our leader, so I watched him. He swam at a comfortable pace, holding the kickboard out in front of him. The good people of Livestrong suggested to rest your chest on the board so that you can stroke correctly. For my purposes, that isn’t helpful yet. But this fellow, with his wide grin and his comfortable pace, instantly became my unwitting coach. This fellow had no idea that he would become the conduit for my commitment. He went home to continue his Saturday To Do list, unaware that he caused a shift in my confidence.
As I showered and changed, I was far more comfortable with the idea of coming to the pool and trying laps. Doing laps. There is no try, right, Yoda?
This Lent, if I affect someone’s day, may it be in a positive way. This Lent, may I behave in ways that make it easy to provide that positive example.