Learning to Swim Again

Learning to Swim Again

It’s been three years since I darkened the doors of this locker room, three years since I powdered my swim cap and snapped it over my ponytail and slipped into the tepid waters of my local community center’s pool. I used to swim here all the time as a scrawny kid on the swim team and later as an overcompensating adult training for one triathlon after another. But my membership and motivation ran out several swim seasons ago, when my baby boy was born and more pressing matters, like feeding him and homeschooling his sisters, took precedence.

Today I’m back in the water. And it’s the third time this week. But I’m not here to compete or compensate again. I’ve come to heal an injury. That sweet baby boy who lured me away a few years ago? Well, he left his mark on my body, and I haven’t been the same since. I’ve tried every remedy – medicine, massage, physical therapy – and it seems swimming is the only non-surgical solution I have left.

Three laps in to my workout today, and I’m wondering why I waited this long.

The head lifeguard is teaching me a new way to swim. She tells me to lower my head in the water and let it buoy my hips. Rather than plunge my hands down deep, she tells me to let my fingertips just skim the surface instead. This goes against everything I’ve ever learned, every lesson I’ve ever taken. What happened to making an S with my cupped hands? Letting the water hit my forehead at the rim of my swim cap? Propelling myself forward with strong shoulders and a monster kick? Are you serious, I have to breathe on BOTH sides?

At first I struggle to learn this new method, and honestly, part of me just wants to get in, get out, and get back home to the kids. But some things never change; I’m still a sucker for a challenge. So I listen to the advice she keeps feeding me in between laps.

We concentrate on my head at first. I might be proficient at multi-tasking at home, but in the water, I can only focus on one thing at a time. So I drop my head a few inches until I feel it align with my spine. Now all I see through my goggles when I swim down the lane is the black tiles on the bottom of the pool. I have no idea what’s ahead of me, and it’s a little unnerving. But I keep this up, or I should say down, for several laps until, surprisingly, I feel an improvement. There’s less strain on my neck, less energy required of my kick, and all around less drag.

We move on to the next drill. Rolling from side to side, I try to stay long and balanced in the water as I rotate my body. Nose up, nose down, she keeps chanting to me, and I take in more water than air, chlorine burning the back of my throat. But once I get the hang of it, I’m like a bullet through the water.

“Your stroke looks good,” she encourages and offers a few more pointers before leaving me to finish my laps in peace. And that’s when I remember why I like swimming so much. A girl can be alone with her thoughts underwater. It’s so QUIET here. The silence alone will keep me coming back, even if I have to be half naked in an ill-fitting Speedo to enjoy it.

The rest of my workout is a fluid synchronization of limbs, and the tranquility of each motion allows my mind to wander. So I think about the year ahead. January is usually a time of major reflection for me, a time for my type-A personality to make new goals and charts and lists. But 2014 is barely underway and already everything I’d hoped for is circling the drain.

My husband had another stroke just three days into the new year, and we have little, if any, answers on why this keeps happening. We thought we were in the clear by closing the hole they discovered in his heart this summer. But that’s not the case any more, and he was put on Coumadin indefinitely until we can figure this out.

And the sobering truth is we may never find out. Which is a bit unnerving.

But it’s like learning to swim again, I think as I stare down the black below. It’s hard to know what’s ahead, how it’s all going to work out. But what if I don’t need to? What if I only need to align my head and heart with the One who holds me up, the One who keeps me from drowning in worry and fear? What if I lean on His love to buoy me, rely on His strength to support me instead of my own? It might not be a more efficient way to swim but a better way to live, too.

The water in the pool today is clear, so clear that I covet its clarity. But outside the sun is breaking through. Sunlight pours into the natatorium, dancing on the surface of the deep blue, and all I can see beneath me is a thousand tiny diamonds daring me to believe.

“Let the one who walks in the dark who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on her God.” Isaiah 50:10


  1. Sharan K Cook says:

    Thanks once again for writing this. I needed these words to remind me once again that God’s ways are different than my ways. He helps us walk those new ways and holds our hands. Praying for all of you as you travel down this new road in 2014.

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