To refresh your memory, I began taking swim lessons at the local University to learn how to swim freestyle. During the last swim lesson, my regular teacher wasn’t there so another college student was teaching. I was really struggling with my breathing. I had mastered the arms and legs, but could not figure out how to turn my head far enough to get a good, solid breath. I explained the problem to the teacher, she said to focus on turning my hips towards the ceiling, and my head would follow.
I gave her the Scooby-Doo, cocked head, “Huh?” sound. ALL of the previous lessons focused on breathing. I learned to blow bubbles. I learned how to turn my head sideways while holding a kickboard. How could focusing on turning my hips help me to breathe? The last I knew, the hipbone wasn’t connected to the nose bone.
The teacher encouraged me to “just try it”. She again said, “don’t think about breathing, focus on turning your hips towards the ceiling”. I stood in the lane, stared at the far end of the pool, said out loud “you’ve got this”, and off I went. I took four strokes and on the fifth, I rolled my right hip towards the ceiling. Then my face turned out of the water so I could get some air. It was so simple, that I did it again. And again. And again. I made it all the way to the other end of the pool.
Now if you are thinking that I did it with the grace of an Olympic swimmer, you are sadly mistaken. I swam at the speed of a manatee. Each stroke and turn of my hip was slow and deliberate. My breath was accompanied by the sound of me gasping for air. Yet with every movement, I realized that I was SWIMMING.
From the start of that magical lap, the soundtrack in my head went something like this: “That student is crazy. Turning my hips isn’t going to solve the problem, but I’ll humor her and try it. Oh, hey, I just turned my hips and I could breathe. Hmm, I’ll keep going. Let’s see if it works again. Hey, it did work. Wow, I am swimming. Holy crap, swimming this way is REALLY hard. I am tired. Oh the wall is so far away. Stop thinking weird thoughts and focus on your hips. Ahhhhhhhh, I made it to the darn wall.”
I stood up, looked to the teacher for her effusive praise, and she wasn’t even WATCHING. She was turned away from me talking to the lifeguard. She didn’t even SEE my FIRST 25 yard, freestyle swim.
I was ticked off. I yelled “HEY!” to the other end of the pool. She turned around and asked if everything was OK. I said, “No, it’s not. I just swam my first 25 yards ever and you weren’t paying attention. I may be old, but I need positive reinforcement and coaching just like a young swimmer.” She smiled at me and said “OK, do it again.”
From that point on, she was there at the edge of the pool…watching, coaching and helping me refine my style. Some people wouldn’t have said anything. They would have just let it go, but I was paying her to teach me, not talk to her friend. It was in that moment when I realized how badly I wanted to swim freestyle like the other swimmers do.
By the end of the lesson, I swam freestyle, 25 yards, four times in a row, without stopping. I was exhausted, but I did it. I am manatee-slow, but I AM a freestyle SWIMMER.
For my entire life I have said “I can’t swim.” In April 2017, I made the decision to learn how to swim freestyle or drown trying. And on the day of my last swim lesson, a college student suggested that I change my focus. My Tinkering With Success ah-ha moment came when I LISTENED and TRIED a NEW APPROACH. In one moment, I went from I can’t, to I CAN.
What is the CAN’T in your life that you’d like to turn into a CAN? It doesn’t have to be a big thing like learning how to swim. It could be something small like making piecrust, changing the oil in your car or reading Gone with the Wind. The journey is yours to take. It may not be smooth, but I can tell you that the feeling of success is amazing…at any age. Remember to ask for what you want or need from someone who is on your TEAM, as I did with the student instructor. For me, that extra bit of coaching helped build my confidence.
Let me know if you begin your own “From Can’t to Can” journey. I’m happy to cheer you on.
I set a swimming goal, worked hard, achieved it. And guess what? I don’t like to swim freestyle. I much prefer swimming the backstroke. It is calming to my brain and I can breathe whenever I want. Yet, I still swim freestyle once a week to keep my skills sharp. I AM a swimmer. I CAN swim freestyle.