I went swimming today. And no, not because of Michael Phelps. I went swimming today because I've wanted to for months, years even. I think about it all the time, but today I made it in. And in a moment, I was reminded of all the other times swimming has been my grounding force. Visiting my Dad in LA. In the early days at Canyon Cinema in SF, depressed, in transition. The early days in NYC, again, depressed and in transition. I hadn't put together the pattern til an hour ago. It's the transitional moments. I'm certainly not depressed, but working again fulltime for an outside organization - something I haven't done for decades. So not depressed, but yes, in transition. And as I ponder taking my youngest child to start college next week, I remember too, that I spent my first pregnancy swimming. It was my transition from working fulltime to the unknown of parenting. Swimming was my salve. I'd forgotten. But smile too now remembering and realizing what a little fish my first born turned out to be. Water is her salve too.
The ritual is familiar. Gym swimming, not outdoors even though Barton Springs is the lifeblood of the town I now live in. I need anonymity and cover. I looked good in a bathing suit I think one day in my life @ when I was 13. It's going to the gym - in SF it was in the tenderloin. A crumby Y with a friendly front door staff. In NYC the first go-round it was the Apple gym on Thompson Street. I used to run into Pam Yates there keeping up her arm strength while briefly back in the U.S. between shooting documentaries in war zones. Pregnant with Georgia, I subwayed up to the 24hour gym on 58th, which unfortunately went bankrupt right after I gave birth, right after I renewed my year membership, saving money by paying it all in advance.
Now in Austin. At the popular 24 hour fitness center near my house, near my job. The same gym I've paid money to every month for years, waiting for this day. I hit the water and the feeling is the same. I love the water. I love swimming. I can't breathe. I panic immediately as I finish one lane of the crawl. I just can't exhale. So as I've done years and years before, I switch to back stroke up, breast stroke down. I used to feel like a wuss for that, but BFF Susan told me not to. "It's all good." Back stroke up. Breast stroke down. It's bliss. The rhythm kicks in. The breathing stabilizes. It's just what my 50+ year old hips need. Then it's the sauna. Quiet. Hot. Dark. The contractions lessen. Those deep contractions the massage guy was talking about the other day. That Wendy always talks about. The unconscious holding and gripping.
It's what I need now. What I've needed before. What I keep coming back to.