A pause in my customary geo-political rant today, just long enough to keep a promise made to friends and family when I set out to make drastic changes in my physical behaviour after retirement.
As of August 1, 2011, I can report that I am in the water every day now and have a full body tan for the first time since 1984 in San Diego. And Aldous Huxley wasn't even there.
This progress report can be summed up by saying that I took five months to learn how to crawl (freestyle) properly, something other enthusiasts likely accomplish in mere weeks. I should add that this leisurely pace was wholely deliberate and utterly delicious. I've gone at it obsessed only with relishing every little nuance, not wanting to skip anything. After five months, I've only just this week begun to add continuous breathing.
It is so tempting, and fatal to success to skip Terry Laughlin's admonition to let your belly-button learn and lead the way to air, not your fool head or neck.
So as fate would have it, this past weekend, in my euphoria at discovering that freestyle breathing can indeed be as effortless as dead-man's-float when done properly, that I decided to risk a whole new chapter in my life.
The dreaded backstroke.
Could I possibly roll faceup, with mouth and nose in the air occasionally, watching the clouds slip by like a good terrestrial mammal should?
Aha! So this is the payoff for all those months of patient 'relaxing into gravity'! Stunning. On my very first attempt I felt the water slipping past my skin like silk. Absolutely effortless. I suspect I bettered my own record for both speed and fewest stokes when freestyling for 25 yards, on my very first attempt. "This can't be" says I to myself, until I realized I was talking out loud while still swimming!
Enough! Back to making my belly-button lead the way to air in the crawl... and discovering how hard it is to manage sneaky breaths with a compulsive grin on your face.
So this particular personal narrative ends with both an intent and an assumption.
Friends should assume that my progress will continue ever so gently and steadily until, perhaps by mid-to-late 2012 I'll dare ask Terry to consider me for Mentor accreditation. Not as a business venture. That's why I retired. Just enough to acknowlege the myriad questions from seniors and kids at the lake who, on seeing me wearing goggles during endless hours of two to five-stroke drills, respectively ask either, "what the heck are you doing?" or "what are you looking for?"
Some elders are so wobbly on their feet they don't even get in the water anymore. Some get in, but feel too unsure to do more than just stand and cool off. Others get in and actually float comfortably, but only until they attempt what they think is swimming, which causes them to sink like stone.
There is nothing sweeter in this mentoring experience than the look of bemused astonishment in someone's eyes when, after superman gliding for fifteen minutes with nary a thought in their head but to relax their neck, they suddenly begin skating just as effortlessly, even competing with themselves to see how far they can coast on a single breath.
The rest is nearly self-perpetuating because the whole sensation of immersion swimming at an advanced age is that it's supposed to seem effortless compared to the way we were taught as kids. Each swimmer ambles along at their own pace with relaxed efficient comfort as the only measurement to be trusted.
Take a sunny, warm, quiet weekday with few people around. Ask for help and take an hour just getting into the water if you have to. Stand still and enjoy the weightless feeling. Watch the ducks's doing their hilarious bum-upside-down antics for a while. Gawk at the trees swaying in the breeze.
Then realize there is not a single stage along the gradual path to this new way of swimming that requires you to abandon one iota of that feeling. I can still ride a bicycle a few minutes at a time. I can even walk a hundred yeards or so.
Not quite a Triathlon. But I'm beginning to relish my daily little Try-poke-along.
Mum is 22 years older than I. She has great trouble standing.
Yesterday she resumed swimming.