A recent “Rhymes With Orange” comic strip shows two women of a certain age sitting on a park bench watching a lithe young thing running past in her cute shorts and tank top. One says to the other, “It used to be about who’s hip. Now it’s about whose hip is being replaced.”
Last week I went back to swimming. Not because I like going out into the early morning chill (soon to be early morning dark and frigid cold) to schlep to a fitness center and risk athlete’s foot, dry, straw-like hair, and brittle nails. No, I am swimming because I have become a statistic: an aging adult who needs replacement parts. The only exercise that doesn’t hurt involves squeezing into a skimpy piece of clothing and getting wet.
Yes, I am on my way to becoming the Bionic Woman. Unlike Lindsey Wager, I will probably not be leaping over parked cars while keeping my coif in place. I am, however, very excited about the prospect of climbing a set of stairs without tears running down my face and unbecoming words spewing from my mouth.
Once the preliminaries are complete (undressing, dressing, mandatory shower), I and my cane hobble into the hot and humid pool area, careful not to slip on the wet tiles. I stick plugs into my ears, pull a bathing cap onto my head (why can’t somebody invent a cap that actually keeps one’s hair dry?), and adjust my goggles. Then, as Nike says, I just do it, plugging away for about 35 minutes.
Despite my not-very-positive attitude, there was a surprise in store for me.
The first week of my new enterprise had me obsessively counting laps. Why? Did I think there was a magic number at which I would be cured? Was I hoping to impress my daughter who swam competitively for years? Was I trying to convince myself that I could do this?
Then suddenly, I realized that I would be completing a certain number of laps no matter how much I counted. Besides, I kept getting distracted and losing count. So this week, I decided to stop tallying the laps, and found myself actually enjoying the swim. Back and forth, back and forth, with no computer, TV, or radio to distract me, I let my mind go where it would, in an almost-meditative trance. Limb and head movements were practiced and automatic, so my brain wandered off into unplanned, unscheduled directions. Ideas for my various projects come to me unbidden as I swam. I felt simultaneously energized and relaxed.
Maybe this swimming thing will be good for me. If only I didn’t have to get wet.