Come on in, the water’s fine!

They say — and just who the hell ARE they? — that we learn something new every day if we keep our eyes and ears open.  This week I learned that it’s possible to sweat underwater.

I’ve fallen in love with the pool.  Not the great pee-filled paradise of my youth, but a glittering expanse of cuddly clear blue water, marked off in lanes.  I am distinctly not an exercise lover but the pool has captured my heart.  I love the muted sounds and the clean saltwater smell; the silky feel of the water as I slip in for laps; the sunlight shining through the ceiling panels making fog hang in the air; the way I feel wrapped in cotton, alone in my head, nothing in front of me except the lane and the goal — to stay afloat.  And when class starts, I love the adorable instructors who crank the music and urge us to jump and kick and stretch and wriggle our cellulite, which they do not possess.

I love the women I meet there.  Many are likely older than I am, although who knows.  Some are far younger — new moms.  It’s a delightful bunch because they’re honest and irreverent and hilarious.  There’s a crankypants or two in class but I have to assume they’ve cultivated that for a while and aren’t likely to switch attitudes, so I leave them to their grumbling and their mad-faces and hang out with Jo and Barb and Andrea and Roxy and Pat and Sandy and assorted others who are just there to have a good time and keep moving.  All of us by now have sustained losses that have shaped us.  We don’t talk about it, we just know.  And of course we don’t discuss body shape, because we all have parts that are surrendering to gravity, legs that are melting into our ankles, wear and tear that dictates what we can and cannot do.

We’re a motley crew — we roll out of bed and show up at the gym, grab a shower, suit up and start swimming.  A lot of these gals have not only never invested in a Brazilian, they haven’t shaved their underarms since the Cold War — a very genuine and healthy practice, in my humble opinion.  We wear our baby-bellies like a freakin’ badge of honor, although to be honest mine’s become a too-many-carbs belly, which is what brought me to the pool.  We give it our best shot to keep up with the zero-body-fat instructor who’s winning a dance contest poolside or in the water with us every morning, and we grin and laugh and hoot when we finally find our rhythm.

In the water … nothing hurts much.  There’s no temperamental low back, no rickety shoulder, and the 7 Purple Minions of Fibromyalgia are in time out.  There are enough sore muscles later to let me know I used them, but that’s a good hurt and I welcome it.  It’s highly motivating that women in their 70s and 80s show up for personal torture day after day, and do it with a smile.  Surely I can manage at least that.  I do hope it will be a longterm relationship, the pool and I.  And I really hope carbs melt in saltwater.

The view from here …

Watching this year’s Winter Olympics has been a unique experience for me. It fully dawned this time that rather than a contest among nations, it’s hundreds of contests between worthy opponents who have spent most of their lives preparing for the moments in which we see them. Geographically speaking, the point is not which country won which medals, but which athletes earned the title of Best. I find that I see so much more if my eyes aren’t trained solely on the American athlete in the race. It’s very moving to see how each entrant has trained his or her body — every muscle, joint, and cell — to do the chosen feat. It’s poetry. And when the color and design of a flag take a back seat to individual effort, the games emerge as what they are: an incredible sampling of humanity, a dazzling parade of young faces, bodies, and spirits — people who will never again be quite this young and beautiful and perfect, but are just wise and reckless enough to squeeze the life out of Life as they streak past. God bless the world.

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