No lane lines

March 14, 2011

I’ve added a layer to my own title of “Momma in Motion” since the new year — and it involves a lot of driving.  Yes, we have entered the ever-exciting world of kids’ activities and I’m Chauffeur in Chief.  My two older children have hit age requirements that qualify them for some new activities — including dance, swimming, and music lessons.

My patient husband has been holding down the fort  — and the toddler — when I’m in driving/delivery mode.  I think it’s the best we’ve worked together to make positive things happen for the family.  I’m more organized than ever — bags of snacks and juice, extra clothes and diapers, and a few distractions for the down time in the minutes before the start of an activity.  The bags are queued up by the door every evening.  My husband checks in to determine where to be and when to be there.  It’s a well oiled machine, even if it is one that is fueled by pretzels and apple juice.

One of the top reasons I’ve been even more proud of my daughter than I usually am has been from watching her swim.  Honestly, I knew after Thanksgiving that I was signing her up for a program for which she was not quite ready.  For a few different reasons, the coaches were willing to take a chance on her, even knowing she was a little bit under the mark for getting started.  And from my perspective, knowing what I know about Natalie, I was confident she was going to see the other kids doing better than her and be inspired to push herself.  Every kid is different in situations like that, but I know Natalie, she was going to want to improve.  And, oh my — she has.

My determined little girl inspired me.  I’ve watched her swim twice a week, an hour practice at a time,  never taking a break or taking it easy.  I enjoyed a bit of peace and quiet, caught up on email or finished a few knitting projects, but I found I was spending more and more time listening to her coaches, watching them explain the drills, and seeing her visibly improve each week.

Then I noticed that while her practice was going on, down at the other end of the pool, the master’s group — which tends to be an age category more than an ability category (although most are former competitive swimmers) — was also having  practice.  And I began to wonder — what would it be like if I tried to swim at the same time as Natalie?

It took me over a month to get up the courage to ask if I might join.  Another couple of weeks to get over the hesitation hump I was stuck on.  And then, one day, I realized it was time.

It’s no secret that I’m a horrible swimmer.  Fear of drowning, inefficient stroke, strong dislike of being chilly and wet, feelings of panic when I can’t breathe when I want….  not exactly the kind of person that jumps at the chance to join a swim team.  And there I was, standing on the deck, and this time my daughter was telling me, “Have fun Mom, do your best!” instead of the other way around.

When I had inquired with the head coach about joining the group, I asked if it would be okay to stick close to the wall or lane line, just to ease into the rhythm and yet still be within arms reach of taking a break if I was feeling nervous or out of breath.  She assured me that this would be completely fine.

I approached the coach of the group I was joining, nervously introduced myself and warned him right away that I wasn’t very good and would be happy to take any advice he had to offer.  His voice said “Fine.  Great.” and his body language said “whatever, lady.”  Then he said, “looks like there is room over in lane 5.”  I followed his hand, counted the numbers across the wall on the edge of the pool and promptly started to hyperventilate.  Lane 5 is in the middle.  Of the deep end/diving well.  And there were no lanes lines anywhere in sight.  I was going to be out in the middle of the pool, in water that was at least 20 feet deep.  This is not cool.

I actually had to take a moment to turn my back to the group and get it together.  Crap, crap, crap!!!  I was looking at an hour practice slogging through something I am terrible at, and doing it in just about the worst possible location.

And you know what?  I did it.

For the record, I am not being falsely modest about my swimming ability.  The coach watched me for a few lengths of the pool, and after getting the rest of the team going on some killer workout, came to kneel by the side of the pool.  “Excuse me, I was just wondering.  Do you just want to do your own thing, or do you actually want me to help you?”  I told him I wanted any/all advice and coaching that would help me get better and help me feel even a little more comfortable.  He’s pushing me very hard to undo years of coping skills and bad habits.

And so it begins.  I’m the slowest one in the pool, I take breaks whenever I’m feeling panicky and out of breath, and the first thing I always do when I jump into the water is to scan the bottom of the deep end for any sharks lurking about.  (The point is that yes, I am a head case.)  And I’ve experienced several moments of wondering if I was going to make it across the pool again or if this time was it, I was truly going to drown.  I might swallow a bit of water and stop to tread water, coughing and sputtering, and then, mustering up my courage, continue to work my way across the pool again.

I’m learning a lot.  That is the point, after all.  The first thing on my mind is that my daughter is still doing this too.  As a just-turned-seven year old, we agreed to get her in the pool when she really couldn’t swim far enough to qualify, and she also endured one-hour practices during which she swims and kicks non-stop.  I’m gassed at the end of the hour, and I’m theoretically in decent cardiovascular shape.  I was proud of her at the time, but in retrospect, I’m truly amazed at what she is accomplishing!

I’m also learning that I can still try new things, that is is possible to learn something new even when it involves unlearning a mid-lifetime of muscle memory and mental habits.  I will likely not be some inspirational story later on of a the mom who started swimming after age 40 and incredibly got to the Olympics….  um, no, that won’t be me.  But I will be able to jump into the deep end without grimacing (outwardly) and get in a workout (and yes, everyone is right, swimming is a great workout), even if the water is deep and cool, and even when there are no lane lines in reach.

Just keep breathing.


One Response to “No lane lines”

  1. Janine Says:

    Life is short, and this article saved vlaubale time on this Earth.

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