21 The Ten-Round Swimmer
After I’ve taken a shower, I put on my swimming cap that tightens around my scalp. I adjust my swimming glasses, and already I know that after I’m finished, they will leave marks around my eyes. I’ll look like an urban panda bear for the rest of the day.
When I have my glasses and my swimming cap on, I become anonymous. I become as anonymous as everyone else in the swimming pool. It calms me, makes it easier to focus on why I have come here today. I walk to the pool, take the steps down to the water. First, it feels almost too cool.
Then I start swimming.
I love how the chlorinated water caresses my body. How my ears fill with the steady rhythm of inhaling and exhaling, listening to the sounds both under and above the surface.
I feel my heart beating heavily, trying to distribute blood and oxygen to every cell and organ in my body, to keep me moving.
Sometimes I watch others, how they swim. Especially underwater.
I love seeing how their bodies move with ease, feet pushing the water, taking the body a little bit closer to the end of the pool.
But mostly I just count. The swimming pool is 50 meters. Swimming from beginning to end and back makes 100 meters. My goal today, and every other day, is to swim 1,000 meters, which means I swim ten times the pool from one end to the other and back. This takes me about 30 minutes but I never count time. Instead, I count the rounds.
So, I swim, and with every stroke I chant in my mind: one, one, one, one… It calms me. It also helps me focus, keeps my thoughts off certain things. For every round, I manage to ignore the negative, frustrating feelings and let them go as I focus on the rounds: three, three, three.
At the same time, as my body moves in a movement called breaststroke and my mind keeps on chanting (five, five, five), a process of some kind takes place. It’s the kind of process you are not aware of but when you step out of the pool you’ve somehow found a solution to a problem or decided on something you did not know the answer to before stepping in.
But first, I have to finish my rounds.
Eight, eight, eight.
The last rounds I do not think about anything else except the rounds. I am close to reaching my goal and as I reach it (ten!), I take hold of the edge of the pool and pull myself up. It always feels great. The feeling makes me think of female breaststroke swimmers who are so energetic and happy when they win the Olympics.
In the shower, I take off my cap and my glasses and with my fingers I trace the panda bear shape around my eyes.
From being anonymous for the last thirty minutes, I become an individual again.
This is me.