1. I often dread the water before starting a swim, but I always feel better afterward. It is starting that is essential when we face a difficult task. If we can simply turn off that resistance button, we will find that the second and third step (or stroke) are far easier than that first one.
2. The water feels cold and debilitating at first, but no matter the initial chill, I warm up quickly with movement. Inertia is perhaps the most dangerous and uncomfortable choice, though it may seem the easiest often. Moving forward is rarely as painful as staying in one place and feeling our will or resolve turn to ice.
3. Water coats the outside of us but somehow doesn't penetrate to our core. God made our skin in a way that protects us from the full absorption of the water. While we don't think about protection very often, other layers of protection are around us in equally as unnoticed ways. How lovely to think that God has other ways He protects us, barriers we may never realize are there but are as substantial as our skin in the water.
4. While doing the back stroke, my ears are completely in the water, so I hear only a muffled bubbly swish. I can choose to keep hearing that or shift so that my head rises above the water. However, if I choose to keep swimming, I am blocked from the screams and screeches and echoes and blasting music in the pool area. I can choose to surround myself with a single-minded focus in my life too, if I want. That can be prayer or staying away from negative influences or seeking serenity. I only need to decide what I want to hear the most.
5. I was thinking of the dolphins I swam with in 1998 when I did my dolphin assisted therapy study and writing. Above the water, we hear nothing from them unless they too are above the water. Below the water, though, they are gifted with the ability to communicate with each other nonstop. Their clicks and squeaks are constant under water, though we don't hear it above the water. God's directing in our lives is constant too, even when we don't hear it or feel it. He speaks to us in ways we don't immediately recognize. Maybe those moments of going below the water in 1998 and hearing the constant chatter of the dolphins are like those moments of perfect communion we occasionally have with God. I myself wish those moments were more plentiful and lasting, but perhaps as we strive for that, it is enough to know that He is always there, and we must cherish the times when we can hear Him clearly.
6. I swim quite crookedly as I count strokes that ideally keep me from hitting the end of the pool with my head or wrist. However, the crooked swimming leads to plenty of encounters with the side wall or the lane rope. I feel embarrassed and frustrated for these interruptions, but perhaps they are necessary for me to appreciate the times when I somehow swim straight and acquire no new bruises. Those good times wouldn't be half as good without the bad times to contrast them. If I can look for the purpose and meaning of both the swift coasting along as well as the crashing, I can remember the balance of both and know that my particular swimming and living journey will contain both. Therefore, I should cherish the smooth and also know that the rough times are not permanent.
7. I stop before the end of the pool and take a step or two to the very end before I resume swimming, to keep from hitting the end. I used to feel guilty about those few seconds of a break. Do they invalidate my huge cardio burn from this draining exercise? No. They are what I need in order to complete the task, just as retreats and long walks with Elias and saying no to excessive commitments are needed for me to be okay. It is all part of the journey.
8. When a wave washes over me, I will not drown. Right after a wave is a non-wave, a gulp of air that I can breathe. I should not panic when that unexpected wave comes. I need to trust my strokes and my purpose. All is well.
9. I go even more crooked when I tense up if someone wants to share the lane with me, even though I fairly warn them of my blindness and my crooked swimming. I cling to one edge of the lane and always am more erratic than other times, even though their sighted perspective leaves all of the responsibility of preventing a crash on their shoulders. Instead of shrinking into a fluttering, flapping mess of a swimmer who feels like I don't have a right to be there, I should stroke strong and true, keeping my mind on my destination and knowing I am worthy to be there. I am not worse or lesser or in the way because of my disability. I am who I was created to be, and I shall keep moving ahead. I am the child of God, and I will claim that privilege.
10. When I come out of the water after fifty lengths, I feel sleek and strong and renewed. Yes, my limbs are like jelly, but somehow, the exercise and water make me feel something like an aquatic goddess when I step back onto the dry land! For that moment when I transition between worlds, I forget all of my physical and emotional and mental and social faults. I, who am my own worst critic, feel for that moment how God must see me: beautiful. No other moment in my week is like that one, and even if fleeting, it is a sparkling moment.
11. My muscles often cramp either near the end of the swim or right after I get out of the water. I do not flinch from the pain, though, for it is a sign of a job well done. Those cramps are my battle scars. They are evidence that I did something mighty. They remind me I'm alive.
12. At the end of a long swim, I go to the whirlpool and steam room for heat. The whirlpool feels so warm at first, but my body adjusts to it eventually so I don't feel the warmth as the minutes pass. That is the signal to move onward. The steam room is so suffocatingly hot that I think for a moment that I can't take it anymore and must leave, but then the steamy furnace stops and I breathe deeply of the wet heat that fills my lungs and causes me to sweat. The hot water of the whirlpool and the sweat from my own body are different waters than in the swimming pool, but they are part of my journey. They are respectively like God's caress and God's cleansing for me. They are as much a part of my swim time as the lengthier time in the pool. They are part of the cycle called life, and that cycle blessedly goes on and on, like the water in the fountain right outside the window where I type right now, pulled up and thrown into the air to land again in the pond and eventually be pulled up again. If that fountain sound goes on forever, I won't complain. If these watery musings go on forever, I can't lose.