I used to swim, but it’s been almost seven months since I visited the pool, and I’m struggling getting back in the water. When I get in bed Sunday nights, I review my schedule for the coming week, and I figure out what mornings I’ll have time to swim before I go to work, and commit to swimming at least three times this week. I have done this for the past six Sundays, and though I put my bathing suit on once, that’s as close as I’ve gotten to the pool.
Like most people engaged in procrastination I have good reasons for my absenteeism, or at least I did for a while. Now, six weeks into ‘I’m out of excuses’ I’m out of excuses. I’ve entered the phase of self-recrimination that I’m a bit too comfortable with. My determination cohabits easily with my rationalization. This is hardly a new pattern for me; at my age most patterns are well worn.
Life is replete with obstacles and unexpected detours. Things that get us off track, or cause such a break in our routine we can’t just pick up where we left off, we literally have to start over. I know that when I do get back to the pool I will have to rebuild my stamina, so hard won the last time I began swimming. Once again I’ll swim a lap or two then I’ll have to stop to catch my breath. It will take a while before I can swim effortlessly for thirty minutes.
The swimming pool isn’t the only one I’ve been avoiding. There are other pools I’ve been avoiding as well. It took me a long time to find my way back to the labor pool. I floundered for years after leaving the job I thought would be my last one. I made bad and regrettable choices. I forced myself back into that water with a desperation that sent me down a few wrong paths. It took me almost five years to the day to find a job that is worthy of me, that I am worthy of.
When I left my last relationship I started out feeling too hurt and damaged to consider another one. The thought of dating made me shudder. How could I trust my own judgement? All the choices I’d made in the past were disastrous. I seemed to have a particular talent for choosing badly, why would I make a better one this time? And besides, my companion, self-recrimination informed me I was an unsuitable partner for anyone. Another pool I’m reluctant to return to despite my stated intentions.
Dating isn’t swimming. Relationships are risky (and in my experience) always end badly. Swimming always has a happy ending. Getting hired doesn’t mean you won’t get rejected, and in dating it’s almost guaranteed. I am not a pessimist; this is based on years of empirical evidence.
I can’t say if it’s fear or laziness keeping me from returning to the gym. I know there is more than one ingredient in the recipe that keeps me from diving in anywhere. I worry about how I look in my bathing suit, my underwear, or, horrors, naked. Searching for a good fit feels daunting. I remind myself that swimming is a perfect fit for me, as is my new job. I don’t believe in the notion of one right person who waits somewhere for me, but I am too well acquainted with the wrong person, and those abound. I am scared of another wrong person.
When we were trying to sell my parents’ home the realtors advised us that although the house was lovely, it had many particular qualities that required a specific buyer. I am like that house; my loveliness not necessarily apparent at first glance. I can picture myself getting back in the water, feeling it’s smoothness against my skin as I move through it. I know at first all I will feel is the coldness of the water, but that within a few minutes I will adjust to the temperature and focus on my body, my stroke, and how good it feels to move. I have dated and been in relationships, and they’re nothing like swimming.
I’d like to commit, here on paper, to you and myself that by the next time I write here I’ll have accomplished my goals of getting back in the water, but I cannot. It all feels unreachable, and who knows what it will take for me to consider getting back in. If I am avoiding the silky water waiting at the gym, where I know exactly what to expect, and there are no risks, how will I brave those other pools filled with them?