Party in the Deep EndSaturday, January 16, 2016
So my first swim was a week ago, at my usual local joint, the JJP Community Centre here in Toronto. I was guided to the pool by a trail of discarded Christmas trees and blinking lights and wondered what the weather was like in Malibu, as my feet crunched the ice crusted sidewalks below.
2016 has not been the renewal of spirit that I’ve grown accustomed to when a New Year begins, in fact, it has felt quite heavy for many reasons, personal and professional. So as I trudged off to this first swim, everything felt so cumbersome… and the fact that I was listening to Alice Boman’s haunting song, Waiting was also probably not helping.
Now, it should be mentioned I am a lover of big feelings. I love a good old ’emo’ run, where you open your arms wide, and charge the horizon with tears streaming down your face. I mean yes, crying makes it hard to breath, and yes, you probably look crazy to all on lookers, but who cares you are usually running away from them. But swimming has always been a pastime that has quieted my emotions, or maybe clarified them. Under water everything is silent and muffled, you are weightless and you can’t breath. It’s a very different experience from the gravity pounding, air infused experience of running, or really any activity done out of water. So here I was walking towards my silent place, with a head and heart full of really loud big feelings, and I was not sure the pool was the right place for them.
Since starting this blog with my fellow swimmers, my relationship to swimming has become much more mindful. It’s fascinating what is revealed when you stop and ask yourself to really examine something you love. I’ve reflected on my stroke, on why I swim or why I love pools more than all other bodies of water (well maybe not more than the ocean… the ocean always wins). I’ve also reflected on what the differences are with how I swim now vs. how I swam as a child. And one of the biggest changes I’ve discovered is the routine vs. the freedom, or the ritual vs. the random. Don’t get me wrong, I love my swim rituals. I do. But when I was a child jumping in the pool was an unwritten journey, handstands in the shallow end would flow without reason into mermaid kicks towards the deep end, along with challenges to see how long you could hold your breath under water, or back floats that seemed to stretch out for days. And always, always, there would be a party on the deep end of the pool floor, you know, where you sink down, hold hands with your friends and fake a tea party, or try and decipher what each other is saying, or just get lost in that deep deep abyss.
I’ve realized I miss that. I miss the freedom, the fun and the figure eights of bodies through uncharted waters.
So now to dive back into the first swim of 2016, where all these thoughts were rattling around my brain as I headed into the pool area, with goggles and cap on, and coming to the realization that I had to shake up this swim. It was time... no, it was overtime for a Party In the Deep End.
Lucky for me, the JJP pool is sort of shaped like a boot, and there is this deep toe section in the south west corner of the pool, where you can flutter off to and tread water or take a breather. I’ve never really used that area because I’m usually so into my length routine. But this Sunday afternoon, I decide to break out of my pattern and go a little ‘emo’ in the pool!
I found my courage around 30 minutes into my swim, which is ridiculous I know, but there is something about a length swim that makes you feel like you have to follow all those out-and-back rules. Anyways, I finally cut off to the side and I had the whole “toe” section to myself. I caught my breath, and then I just went for it.
I dove down, I flipped, I got water up my nose, I touched the bottom, I dolphined, and then I let go of all my air and sank to the bottom, and just stayed there—skin against tile, eyes tucked under plastic armor—starring out at the blue ceiling, and thinking why did it take me so long to do this!
I don’t care if I looked ridiculous. It was amazing. It was what I needed, a good old fashioned Deep End Party. I encourage everyone to try it. Let go, sink down and then come back to the surface, letting your secrets stay safe and soggy, floating at the bottom somewhere on the west side of the pool.
And that was my first swim and this is my first post of 2016.