Stroke by Stroke, Cutting Through the Clear Water

Day 3 of swimming laps at dawn.

I arrive to the pool in a cooler morning, my compatriots as tired as I, muscles finally feeling sore, ready regardless to plow through the clear water back and forth and back again toward peace.

A peaceful way to start the day, swimming. Today, the water was warmer than usual, the air colder. And as our bodies warmed in the pool, steam rose from its surface in tiny evaporating clouds.

I’m sticking to the slow lane. It’s where I belong. One friend constantly offers advice on how to improve my strokes. Another figured out that we knew each other in college, dated roommates. Her smile is infectious, always happy, energizing to be around.

Her cousin swims with us, too, and we are starting to discuss parenting, common ground. There is a man in my lane who laughs nervously and today admitted mornings are not his best time.

I go down to the deep end, legs and arms in constant motion, sometimes venturing into freestyle, which is my weakest stroke, mostly preferring side stroke and breast stroke. I move at an even clip, breathing rhythmically, staring at the bottom of the pool.

You may laugh to hear this, but I am certain I drowned in a former life. It’s perplexing as I love the water in this life, and I am, for the most part, a strong swimmer. I am so drawn to water – lakes, oceans, pools, the act of swimming – that I begin to wonder if it is because of my past life experience.

The other day I tried goggles for the first time. Peering into the depths, my stomach knotted to see how far down it went. Not really that far in the scheme of things – 9 feet? – but to my eye, it plunged far and dangerously deep and I sucked in my breath.

This morning I had visions of having to rescue a child from the bottom of the water. I didn’t know if I would make it all the way down to reach her or if I’d need someone’s help, set into panic. All a vision, of course, nothing real.

And then I realized, perhaps the little girl at the bottom of the water was me.

You may not believe in past lives. Perhaps you’ll agree that we are all on a journey and the feelings that arise along the way are signals of what we must face.

I return to the pool every morning, despite being tired, despite wanting to stay in the comfortable embrace of my warm bed. I feel so good afterwards; it is so worth getting up and going out and sipping in the morning air and walking half a mile to get there, walking half a mile to get home, and finding nice people who plunge beneath the surface with me.

Yesterday, I received hundreds of birthday wishes on Facebook, in addition to special visits and calls and surprise presents from my dearest friends. The world is full of exceptional, ordinary people, and I am pleased to be among them.

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