I have always loved water. The sound of it — from the lapping of waves at the beach, to the pitter-patter of rain making different noises landing on different surfaces. Staying at my grandparents’ rustic house when I was little, I could spend hours lying in bed just listening to the tinkling chime of raindrops against the tin rooftop.
Until recently, I made a habit of swimming regularly. I had forgotten how much I particularly love to be in water.
Some people get to think out the thoughts they have been meaning to sort out while on land. Some problems get solved under the water.
Neither of those happens for me. Being in the water is akin to a liquid vacuum of impenetrable, absolute silence. So I have not gone, in a sudden bout of bohemia, and discovered the meaning of life while swimming. But I did bring up from the water some less grand, smaller analogies, and emerged on steadier feet.
- Testing the waters prior to trying anything is not always a good idea
I learned almost immediately not to hover uncertainly at the pool edge, swirling one foot about in the water. Of course the water will feel cold to your toes. Getting in the water will be unpleasant. To minimize discomfort, you can’t always make sure you are first comfortable. Sometimes, you just have to jump in.
- Having a wall from which to launch yourself from is not enough
During swimming lessons as a child, much to the exasperation of my instructor, I used to kick against the pool wall to propel myself forward and therefore save myself from swimming a significant number of strokes. He chided, scolded, and finally threatened to double the number of laps I had to do if he caught me “cheating.”I took the “if” further than it was meant to go — I simply switched from trying not to kick off from the wall, to trying not to get caught kicking off the wall. The thing is, using the wall as a solid launching base, simply by virtue of its availability, is almost reflexive. It takes a conscious effort to ignore the fact that it’s there. And here’s the other thing — it is not enough. Initially, the wall provides the illusion of temporary strength and effortlessness. But you cannot survive on inertia alone. When inertia runs its course, you need to fight to keep moving, to not stall or sink in place.
- You can’t always see where you’re going. And that’s OK
My goggles (when I remember to bring them at all) unfailingly become fogged during each swim. Not wanting to give up the momentum in between consecutive laps, I rarely stop to clear the fog by rinsing my lenses in the water. As such, most of the time I see people only in the form of vague, moving shapes. I have, however, never had an underwater collision. Sometimes, we only have blurry vision to go on. But some uncertainty is okay.
- Some mind games can be good for you
I always set my goal at 20 laps just so I can congratulate myself on completing 30. I probably already have in my subconscious the goal of 30, but it helps to allow myself, in consciousness, the cheap thrill of apparently doing better than planned.
- Nothing can, will, or should always stay the same
For two reasons I was surprised to find I had tan lines after a couple of weeks of swimming. First, I swim only in the mornings when the sun is relatively mild. Second, I see myself too often to notice gradual changes.
The surprise was a pleasant one. I did not feel overcome by the urge to buy whitening products marketed everywhere by beauty companies. The very fact that my body is working, responding, adapting — it’s pretty amazing; it is beauty to me. The cells in my body are producing melanin as a natural defense against exposure to solar radiation. The melanocytes in my body are seeking to repair and protect my skin by creating and releasing more melanin into my skin cells. I like this constant change. It has to mean I am alive.
Swimming photo available from Shutterstock