Every Fall, like clockwork, I think “it’s time to get in the water again.” Back to school must be etched in to my mitochondria as synonymous with back to pool after living and breathing that rhythm throughout my young life.
So, I sign up for a master’s swim team and dive in. By lap two, on day one, I’m racing whoever is in the lane next to me. By lap four, I’m furious that I can’t swim like I could in my college days. By lap six, I’m livid. At the water. At the other swimmers. At the sport. At myself.
And then I’m done for another year.
Why? Because the water is never going to be what is was for me. I swam to win. I didn’t swim for pleasure, and most certainly not for fun. Although I was very fit as a result and I loved the camaraderie of my teammates. The sole reason I swam (for up to four hours a day in my prime) was to beat time. To rise up against a challenge –whether clock or competitor — and triumph.
Identity not exercise. I can’t get that from the water now. Every attempt to “swim” is doomed to failure — the exact opposite of what I used to get from two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen.
Making the untenable even more so, is the fact that my thyroid is broken. And according to some scientific literature, chlorine and bromide are the thyroid’s archrivals. The very chemical to which my identity once clung is now my nemesis. H2NO.
One of the very last things my father said to me was, “It’s funny how things turn out.” He was sick with Alzheimer’s disease, almost non-vocal, but the words came in a fleeting moment of absolute clarity. He built a career as a neurologist on fighting AD in his patients, and then wound up battling the malady in his own brain.
Funny that the element in which I
once thrived has turned into my Kryptonite. I’m a swimmer who can’t swim. The pool is winless proposition any way I look at it.
Words are my water now. I approach a blank page the way I once looked down a lane line. A thing to be conquered. Nouns and verbs are my rivals. They must be put in their rightful place.
When all is said and done, I stand on a podium in my mind and say, “I arranged for this to happen.”
And that’s who I am.