I swam competitively as a a speed swimmer from kindergarten until second grade. Then, I found synchronized swimming, and I swam competitively in that from second grade until my junior year of college. When I say I swam competitively, I don't mean for giggle. I was full out hard core. I swam at least 3 hours a day, four days a week. I worked out on days I wasn't swimming. I swam division 1. I used to cheerfully joke that I could drown you and keep you company while I did it. I probably could have, too. I have several boxes packed with medal and ribbons, some of them being national titles, and titles from US Opens. I loved it. I breathed it. When I didn't love it, it was still my life substance. How do you live without air? How do you live without blood? You don't.
Then, one day, I walked away.
It's hard to say what did it. It's a thousand things, none of them individually accounting for it. Some are good real reasons--it was interfering with my school work, I wanted to become a lawyer, I needed lots of time to study for the LSAT, I changed my major and I needed all the spare time I could find to take seven or eight classes a semester. Some are terrible, terrible, reasons: a boy. A stupid, abusive boy at that, but let's not talk about THAT.
Some of the reasons are neither good nor bad: I just couldn't anymore. The thought of hurling myself into a pool at 5:15 am had become repellent. I dreaded every moment of practice and competition. I had spent the summer in Ireland, and I didn't once get in a pool, which was a first for me. It had been the longest I had been away from a pool since I was in kindergarten. It was the happiest I could remember being. So I left.
I should have done it better. I know that now. I left the team in a lurch, but god, I just couldn't bear to live with myself one more day as a synchronized swimmer. It's been years since I've been in a pool. Sure, I've waded into to play with babies and kids. But I have done a single synchronized swimming move, I haven't gone under water, I haven't put on a cap and goggles and swam.
I took Lis for her first swim lesson yesterday. You already see where this is going, right? I'm like an addict. We got in, we splashed around, we sang songs, stuck our faces in the water, gave the instructors high fives.
And there they were--the synchronized swimming class. They were over there in the other section of the pool, and it was like a fist to my gut. I had to drag my gaze back to my daughter, away from them. It wasn't panic--it was sheer jealousy. I was in the water, studiously keeping my hair above it, like a good suburban mom who likes to sunbathe more than swim, like one who has no idea of the clarity of sound beneath waves. They weren't too bad, and I could tell their coaches knew what they were doing--probably girls form the local team. It's a really good, and it had just broken onto the national scene when I was leaving high school.
Part of me was screaming. You could go over there. You could SHOW them HOW IT'S DONE. But hell, I haven't done that in years, YEARS now. Could I really show them how it's done? Would my body respond the way my brain commanded it to? Probably not. That's a painful thought.
Just playing in the water with Lis was wonderful. I didn't feel that sense of dread, the burnout that I had felt all those years ago. Instead, I was gliding around with her having fun, something I can barely remember doing.
Would it be fun now? Would it be fun to join the Y and put on a cap and goggle, go swim some laps? I can imagine gliding under water again, watching the sunlight stream in, though fractured and waving. I can taste the silence--it's wet and heavy. I can feel the chlorine--it's gritty and makes my skin taut. Could I get in the water without gravitating towards the class? If I did, would it be so bad?
...What if I did go over there? What if I just...signed up? For a synchronized swimming class? Like someone who is interested, but has never done it before? It's that me, wanting to brush up? To reconnect? It was the best exercise I've ever had--physically and mentally challenging. It would be a cool skill to keep. Or is it something more sly, like wanting an ego boost? Because even if I am rusty, it's likely I would blow everyone else away, and get my ego stroked for being awesome. God, just listen to me. Stop. I don't know.
But I'm thinking about it.