For those of you who haven’t followed me from the beginning of this blog, a couple of years ago I learned how to swim the backstroke. Last summer, I joined a local gym and began swimming laps. I’m happy to say that the pool provides great exercise, as well as a bit of humor and a lot of life lessons.
Recently, the University where I work sent an email offering swim lessons taught by collegiate swimmers, so I signed up. My goal was to finally learn how to swim freestyle (on my stomach, face in the water). I tried to learn how to swim that way when I was five years old. My Mom would faithfully take me for summer swim lessons and I would sink. I could not float at all. And putting my face in the water was NEVER gonna happen. I remember the day when the guy teaching the lessons said to my Mom, “I can keep taking your money, but she isn’t going to learn how to swim”. Yep, that was the end of my summer swim lessons.
Fast forward many years and I am at the University pool at 8:00 am on a Saturday morning. At my first lesson, I was a serious student and tried hard to learn the breathing strategies. The instructor had me and the other students blowing bubbles while holding on to the pool wall. After 15 minutes, we transitioned to holding a kickboard and practicing our breathing while swimming to the other end of the pool. It wasn’t pretty, but I did it.
The following Monday, while swimming my usual morning laps, I decided to cut my workout short to practice my breathing and floating face-down in the water. To do that, I moved out of the lap pool and over to the much smaller therapy pool. I thought it might be easier to practice swimming and breathing if the opposite wall was closer.
I stood in the water, giving myself a pep talk. “You can do this. The water is only 4 feet deep. There are other people close by. You won’t drown. Now just put your damn face in the water.” So, I took a deep breath, laid my face down gently in the water, and began to blow out bubbles just like they taught me in class.
There I am, floating confidently, blowing bubbles in the water, thinking “I’ve got this”. I was feeling quite brave and confident. Now I like to think of myself as a planner, but on this day, I forgot to plan. I did not give ANY thought as to how I would stand up when I ran out of AIR.
Freaked out, I quickly tried to get my feet down on the pool bottom. I flapped my arms, tried to roll over on my back, put my face up and gasped for air, only to sink to the bottom of the pool. I did this maneuver several times until my feet finally touched the bottom. When I stood up, I looked over into the lap pool and saw the horrified looks on the faces of the two male pool-walkers. I must have really scared them. I just gave a half smile and said, “I’m trying to learn how to swim freestyle”. They nodded and I slipped down into the water, a bit embarrassed, but mostly I found it humorous. Although the looks on their faces made ME chuckle, I’m certain that it was NOT funny to them.
I returned to practicing my breathing while hanging on to the pool wall. I figured that was safer until I could ask someone about how to stand up from the dead man’s float position. Once the two guys left the lap pool, I got out of the water and slipped quietly into the women’s locker room to get ready for work.
It’s true, I do have a strange sense of humor, so the flailing pool episode kept me smiling. When I had time to reflect, I realized that my desire to swim was strong, but I needed a plan in place so that my actions did not affect the other swimmers. My Tinkering With Success moment came when I decided it was important to inform the morning pool crew that I was learning how to swim freestyle. That way I wouldn’t scare them and, if I was truly drowning, they would know to come to my assistance.
There are many times when we decide to make a life change, but forget to tell those who might be affected by our decision. I’m not saying you and I should ask permission. However, we could inform those who may be affected so, if we do find ourselves flailing as I did, they won’t be scared and may be able to offer aid if needed.