I am also in the water. Without my glasses, I could not see, but I know enough to be in my way without disturbing the old man next to me, in his way. We split it up, so that means we swimmers – can we share a aisle please? When we cross the opposite path, I crawl in the middle, I am about to breathe.
He is running in the water, or running as fast as he can with so much resistance. She just walks with difficulty but is determined, calm and steady in her approach, working her legs and arms. I think for myself 30 years from now, I hope I have the opportunity to remain courageous on this water; I hope my traveling companion gives me the grace to move as much as I can.
It is early in the morning at the outdoor pool in Santa Monica, California. My bag is on the desk with a towel, phone, my purse and keys. All the discovery for me: I am gone.
I’ve been swimming for 15 years now, in every type of indoor and outdoor pool you can think of: from LA to Brooklyn, from Montreal to Munich. It’s awkward and uncomfortable, it’s not like a Peloton bike or the latest HIIT gym or even the high stairs around your arm. If you swim in a crowded pool, as I do, in the bathtub, slow baths, the smell of chlorine alone can deter even the most aspiring athletes.
Unlike the beach, where people show off their bikini bodies and beachwear, in the pool, we daily, daily swimmers look silly in our Speedos with rubber hats and glasses: like insects, anonymous . It’s kind of a funny democracy.
Then there is the frustration. Yes, you can change your stroke, your skills. But where will that lead you? At the other end of the pool faster? Just a turn and go back to where you came from? There is, unfortunately, nothing to do but relax in the repetition of the work; you have nothing but water, yourself and your body and your breath.
But there is real happiness: I am alone. This is the only place, the only time in my life, when I become inaccessible, happily. Under water, there is no deep calm. Away with phone ringing, from a recent warning, from a noisy world that permeates forever in our private life. We have no choice but to go deep, deep into the mysteries that only sound so quiet.
Recently, I have been trying to figure out how to put this idea into practice for the rest of my life, especially during these dark winter months. Most of my days are spent in busy activities. Can I text a friend and review? New York Times The first page is listening to Adele and helping my daughter with new math and throwing clothes in the dryer, always sautéing onions for dinner? Yes! Yes, I can!
Well, no, not really.
Where too we can find only one care: Reading a book on the sofa. Bathing candles. Snowy walks. Lunch freely with a friend. Long phone calls with women when I do nothing but listen to their voices. Writing a letter. Bake a neighbor’s cake, putting together one measure at a time.
I promise to let the pool be my guide to calm down this season. I would like more that.
Abigail Rasminsky is a Los Angeles-based author, editor and educator. She teaches writing at the Keck School of Medicine at USC and writes a weekly newspaper, People + Bodies. She also wrote a Cup of Jo about marriage, children only and socializing with neighbors.
PS The deception of life, and the words of wisdom.
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