I started this post with different intentions. I had intentions to talk about a slew of topics whirling through my mind but for some reason everything I typed all came back to swimming. Every piece of writing navigated toward the water, as much of my life tends to. Sometimes you don’t know what your heart wants to talk about until you let your fingers fly. So we’re rollin’ with it.
It’s no secret that I’ve been in a really tough place the past six months. 2019 and I haven’t really been “one with each other”, let’s say. I was in turmoil coming to terms with the absence of love I had for my job (my dream job), I felt like an amoeba trying to function while working nights, and in addition I was suffering from chronic, severe, and debilitating pain. I was sleeping next to none between the anxiety of work and fear of my own body. I spent every day off seeing one doctor after another. I was prescribed Hydrocodone and Gabapentin and told to “just take max doses of Tylenol and Ibuprofen every four hours – that will help manage”, as well as being hit with the crippling news that my only hope for relief was $6,000 injections that were sure to put pain on the back burner considering that the toxic side effects are far worse. Don’t worry girl, there’s meds for that, too.
No, I can’t make this stuff up.
I felt utterly helpless – both because the career I wanted to love was no longer what I wanted to love and the body I also wanted to love did not love me back.
I’m happy to say I’m in a much better place. I told providers to throw the ‘scripts away while I practiced alternative relief , and I left my once dream job that was causing me so much anguish and accepted a position where I can be challenged in a new light and release my passions in a setting that serves me positively. And the best addition to my life thus far – I both rise and fall with the sun, daily. It’s incredible.
I feel SO GOOD, you guys. I really, really do.
But truth be told, I don’t know that I would have made it through the past 6 months if it weren’t for swimming. I know what you’re thinking, that makes no sense she doesn’t even swim anymore. But whether I wake to water or not anymore doesn’t really matter. Because while swimming may not be apart of my external daily routine anymore, it will always be the biggest and best part of me and I owe a long, beautiful, raw ode to it.
Everyone deserves a friend like mine.
Here’s what swimming taught me, and continues to teach me even after years out of the water.
Swimming never cared. Swimming didn’t care if I was sick, if I was tired or sore, if I had a bad day or the best day of my life, if I had to tell my mom later that I got a speeding ticket (common occurrence), or if medals, scholarships, and “heat winners” were on the line. You never deserved anything. Just because you showed up to practice didn’t mean you “earned” anything. You had to show up when it mattered, you had to work at the same level of intensity day in and day out, and when it came time to race – you had to race like you were deserving even though swimming said “meh, not convinced”. You had to prove yourself each and every practice, each and every race, each and every set, each and every stroke. If you wanted to give up, you could. If you wanted to blow everyones socks off, you could. Swimming didn’t care, so you had to.
Submersion is coping. I’m team submersion. The “stare at a black line for endless hours and figure it out” kind of submersion. There’s something magical in the act of submersion. It’s unexplainable the way the water extracts fear, anger, despair, and stress out of your very pores. You are weightless under the water. The type of weightless that makes you feel whole again. Submersion always managed to remind me that in this life it is you and only you. Your body, your mind, your thoughts. You hear your breath, and feel the canvas of your diaphragm supporting that breath. You feel your muscles, your ligaments, your bones, every inch of your being all working together to create movement as one. Your thoughts direct this movement, your movement directs those thoughts. Friends matter. Family matters. Your cheering section matters. Never take them for granted but truthfully only you can manipulate your thoughts, your actions, and your movement. It is you and only you – so certainly support others and let others support you, but only while simultaneously learning to support yourself.
One day might feel good, the next day might not. Swimming said, “that’s life, homie”. Swimming is ruthless. You are given the water, you are given a practice, and you are given two+ hours. But what you do with any of that is entirely up to you. What you do with the time and circumstances you’re given is a sole product of your mindset. If you walk into a practice or a race defeated, you will without a shadow of a doubt leave it defeated. When you walk into them with unfriendly circumstances but decide to give it your best shot anyways – well, that’s when you grow. That’s the day you got better. That’s the day you got stronger. The day where nothing felt good and nothing aligned – THAT, that was your shot, that was your day.
At some point the weight of the world felt too heavy to carry. I started feeling really deserving in life, when I wasn’t. I felt unsupported, when I wasn’t. I felt defeated on days that didn’t align or didn’t feel good and forgot that THOSE, those were my days. These lessons and values embedded into my very being washed away with high tide until one day I walked past the Mizuno’s and grabbed my suit instead. I hit the water and not a minute too late swimming whispered, “you’re kidding me, right?”.
We all need a little tough love and goggle fog once in a while.
When I was little I thought swimming was about brutal kick sets and nauseating 400 IM sets, your dad buying you nachos after warm-up, your mom quizzing you on your heat and lane only to write it on your hand because you’re playing cards instead of listening, eating three pounds of ribeye in a single sitting after distance practice, an ego-centrical “Eat My Bubbles” written between your back straps, and really, really (I mean REALLY) early morning practices.
It turns out swimming was all of those things PLUS Ghandi. Swimming is so wise, and both extremely sneaky and purposeful in it’s appearance in life.
I hope wherever you submerge yourself it offers you the most beautiful combination of purity, authenticity, and mercilessness that the water floods me with in its wake.
I hope when you feel drowned and deafened by life’s nooks and cranny’s, something will offer you the equally brutal and blissful advice swimming does me.
Everyone deserves a friend like mine.
Light & love.