The hardest thing about swimming laps is —
1.) Leaving the house. Walking out into the real world is cold.
2.) Getting in the water. If leaving the house is cold, getting into the water is doubly so. Changing in the locker room. Taking a shower. Walking, dripping wet, out onto the deck. Cold. Really cold. Finally sitting on the edge and sliding into the water.
3.) Counting the laps. I’ll come back to this one.
4.) Leaky goggles. It’s annoying to have one side fill with water so that you swim like Popeye the Sailor — with one eye closed.
I asked Laurel what was the hardest thing about swimming laps. She said, “when you can’t see where the wall is because you’re crying because it hurts so bad knowing you’re not gonna make the interval even though you’re trying so hard and your legs hurt and you can’t move your arms any faster :)” She’s a teenage girl, a little overly dramatic, but speaks from her heart. Swim team workouts are rough.
Back to counting laps, though.
Swimming can be monotonous. It’s also very zen. A lap swimmer — and here I’m talking about the adult lap swimmer who isn’t trying to make the interval and crying and can’t see the wall — can get lost of the rhythm of the thing.
I wrote the vast majority of my college papers in the pool. I organized my thoughts, sifted through ideas, tried out sentences, rearranged the words. All the while I was splash-splash-splash-breathing.
Sometimes people would ask me how many yards I did and I would have no idea. I was more worried about words than yards.
When I no longer had papers to write, I tried to count my laps the old fashioned way — with numbers. It was a struggle. I finally settled on my own system: the alphabet plus the Ten Commandments.
You may laugh, but it worked. 36 laps in a 25 yard pool comes out to just over a mile.
Each letter of the alphabet got a whole lap. I would think of words or people that began with that letter. I would pray or think on things that began with that letter. Then I would move on to the next.
I did that for years.
Until, about 15 years ago, life got in the way of my lap-swimming.
Recently, I started lap-swimming again. I was so out of shape that I didn’t try to count laps at first.
The third morning I realized I needed to focus on something other than simply reaching the wall. My mind was overactive, my body tired.
I decided to work on memorizing scripture — Isaiah 61. Each length got a word.
Lap 1: The Lord
Lap 2: has anointed
Lap 3: me to
Me to. Me to. The words rattled around with familiarity because of #metoo.
The #metoo movement had stirred up memories, memories of experiences that gave me common ground with many women.
But #meto — that involves purpose.
The Lord has anointed me to… Isaiah 61 lists seven things. I found myself pondering instead, what does the Lord want ME to do?
My life is changed. To care for my father had been my purpose — and it was so fulfilling. I confess to being a little lost now.
Blessed is Too — the common ground we share with others through experience.
Blessed also is To — as in an infinitive verb suggesting purpose.
Like a college paper, I’ll use the pool to sort through my thoughts and figure things out.
First I have to leave the house, though — and sometimes that’s the hardest part of swimming laps.