Observing the afternoon lap swimmers, one would think they were a part of an orchestrated effort by a coach sitting at a computer screen somewhere in the locker room. He gives each lane an assignment. Lane one, two hundred meters with the kick board, lane two, 400 hundred free style, lane three, 200 doing the back stroke, and so it goes down the line. When finished, the swimmer exits the pool, replaced by another. Our swimmers appear to be from the same mold.
Let's take a closer look . . . Bill lost his job a few months back and swimming is his way of maintaining a positive state of mind. During the day he worries a lot, fighting off discouragement and depression. He knows that things will change eventually, they have to change, his savings are dwindling. Back and forth he swims. Slowly . . . slowly his thoughts begin to shift from recounting the frustrations of the day to how strong he feels as he pulls his way through the water.
Kathy walks self consciously along the side of the pool, looking for an empty lane. A large towel is strategically draped over her. She's embarrassed about what's happened to her body. She's put on weight after giving birth and decided that it's time to take it off. A lane opens up and soon she blends in with the others. An observer walks by noticing only that her flip turn is poetry to the eye.
In the pool, we're stripped of job titles and histories. We each enter the water coming from days that are as different as the human experience can imagine. We are bosses, employees, fathers, mothers, husbands, retirees, and so on. The shower begins the transition from these job titles and responsibilities to who we are. From three-piece suits, doctor's greens and police uniforms to a piece of cloth no bigger then a t-shirt. We could be swimming next to a Nobel prize winner and it wouldn't matter. In the pool, we're all just people. People with ideas and dreams and goals. People who love swimming.
If we look for meaning . . .
Whatever the day held for us, we know that by the end of the day's swim, if we plan it right, we'll leave with a sense of peace and calm. It's during those moments, perhaps during the swim, or directly afterwards, that things seem to come into perspective. We get closer to relevance and meaning. The trees are greener, the sky is bluer and everything looks a little better after swimming. Those problems that seemed significant before entering the pool no longer occupy one's thoughts after swimming. They're not gone, but they've lost some of their impact.
If we design it right, we can get what we want from our swimming, from camaraderie to time alone. From a renewed enthusiasm for life to a renewed reverence for the beauty around us.
And so we swim, each with our own purpose and our own goals. Each knowing, but not revealing, that swimming brings us closer to meaning.
Copyright 1995 by Robert Ross, All Rights Reserved
Robert Ross can be reached by E-mail at: SanDiegoRoss@Yahoo.com
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