You gotta swim
Swim in the dark
There’s no shame in drifting
Feel the tide shifting and wait for the spark
Yeah you’ve gotta swim
Don’t let yourself sink
Just find the horizon
I promise you it’s not as far as you think
The currents will drag us away from our love
Just keep your head above
–from Swim, by Jack’s Mannequin
Hey, I freely admit this song is melodramatic and saccharine. I also kind of hate it because an ex-boyfriend had some of the lyrics tattooed on his arm, shortly after we broke up.* Despite those two strikes against this song, I can’t really argue with the sentiment of the lyrics: keep on going. Find a focal point and head there, pull yourself through the distracting and painful shit. Don’t quit.
Today though, this song reminds me that I’m a swimmer. An actual swimmer. Stupid-ass, mean-spirited plantar fasciitis has forced me to switch my self-identification from “runner” to “non-running runner” (I suppose eventually I’ll be able to choke out “former-runner”) and “swimmer.”
This week I joined the Long Island City YMCA, which has a pool. Or shall I say: this week I joined the Long Island City YMCA because it has a pool. I went on Tuesday morning for a splash.
The water felt like silk. The pool wasn’t crowded, and I had my own lane.
Apart from that, it was not so enjoyable. I always warm up doing my chickenshit version of the breast stroke (I don’t put my head underwater). Then I move into doing the crawl for about 20 minutes or as long as I can stand it. I give myself 30 minutes in the pool. It’s not torture, no where close, but I definitely am pep talking myself through the whole thing. I get winded going from one end of the half-Olympic pool to the other, so there’s a lot of endurance I need to build.
Here’s the thing with the swimming. IT FREAKS ME OUT. Why can’t I breathe when I want to breathe?! It’s very annoying. This is what happens. I start out slow, my breathing’s OK. I get to the end of the pool and I take a rest. OK. But if I try and do a there-and-back without a rest? By the end of the lap I can’t breathe in enough, I can’t breathe out enough. I’m gasping and my face is tense and my brain is screaming at me WHY WOULD YOU WILLINGLY RELINQUISH YOUR FREE AND PERPETUAL ACCESS TO OXYGEN??!! (Note to self: do not make career change to be an astronaut.) Before you know it, I’m hyperventilating, coughing, and cowering against the side of the pool due to embarrassment.
To be clear: I am never in fear of drowning. It’s just, I cannot sort out how to pace my breathing so that it feels like I’m breathing hard but in synch with my strokes. You know: that sustainable hard breathing we do as runners, when we are running at “cruising” speed. That’s all I want to do as a swimmer, is be able to “cruise.” Oh and also, I’d really like to be able to outlast the 70-year-old Korean woman who is like the aquatic version of the Terminator. Her form sucks, she giggles when I say “Good morning,” but yet she outswims me every morning. I think these are modest goals, but they are really intimidating.
There’s no shame in drifting, but there is shame in spluttering and gasping.
*<opine> 1. I don’t find tattoos appealing. 2. If you must get a word tattoo, can’t you at least come up with your own words? You really want to tattoo someone else’s pop song lyrics on your body, forever? 3. Insert other opinions here that are too petty and harsh to say out loud. </opine>