Water sign

We humans are the kings of overcomplication, and I am your fearless leader. 

I can think about something, a nice, shiny, harmless idea, and then think about it, and think about it some more. I'll think about all the ways it could turn out, all the possible outcomes - celebratory and calamitous - and, by the time I'm done, be too worn out to try said idea.

I've been considering how badly I need to get some exercise. I've considered it as any shred of metabolism I had left in my body packed its shit and left sometime around my 40th birthday. I've considered it as a most unwelcome and uninvited thickness settled itself around what was never a thin middle but what was a pretty discernible waist. 

I've considered it as I've made ill-fated efforts to become a mild sort of a runner, the kind, as my friend Lauren once said, whose goal is to make passers-by understand you're NOT running to get help. But I'm me, Natural Grace Incarnate, and just as soon as I get up to being able to circumnavigate the two-mile loop at the park across the street, I don't stretch well enough one day and hurt my hamstring, or my knees start making alarming cracking noises morning, noon and night.

So I've despaired, and bemoaned, and bitched. All the while, every day, driving by the swimming pool in our neighborhood.

True, it's not the most attractively attired pool, sort of a cement slab just far enough from any nearby lantana and palm trees to escape any shade they might offer. And yes, it can be filled with yelping children and ringed by sunbathers whose thighs are thinner than mine. 

But it is, nevertheless, a pool, in chlorined spirit the same as the one I grew up with down the dirt road behind my house, across from the barn and nestled between blackberry bushes and pine trees in the pasture. The cows were kept separate by barbed-wire fences, but all number of creatures required daily fishing out - lady bugs, grasshoppers, wasps, spiders (including a memorable one with approximately three hundred babies attached to her back) - and at dusk, the best time to still be immersed in the water, a bat or two would swoop down for a quick drink.

I loved to swim. I would swim until my fingers wrinkled and my then-blond hair acquired that faintly green tint and my mother would holler, her voice climbing the irritated scale, for me to come up to the house.

I haven't forgotten that, exactly. I've been to this pool a few times, with my child and her friends and when my mother visited. I go swimming with my family, including the three nieces I don't see enough and the brother to whom the water provides a remaining connective thread, when I go to visit my parents (who live these days in a nice subdivision with a sparkly blue community pool, complete with picnic tables and free of bats).

But I hadn't re-formed a relationship with water, until my husband guilted me into it.

Not like that. He's been getting up every morning for a week at 4:45 a.m. to go to the gym. He's already developing muscle tone again and looking so damn energetic.

I am very, very unlikely to get up at four anything a.m. So yesterday, I put on a bathing suit, quickly covered it with a summer dress, and went to the pool. There were some kids, and a 50-ish couple making out in the shallow end, but I got in the water, and I swam. Fifteen laps, up and back. 

Paltry, I know. But it was something. I probably could have done more, but I was afraid of plowing into the PDAers.

Tonight, after work and before starting dinner, I went back. It was just me. I swam 30 laps.

I love to swim. I daresay I'm good at it. I'm pretty fast, and I can go half the length of the (far from Olympic-sized) pool on one breath, and I even managed a halfway decent (if not totally straight) backstroke, for a girl who hadn't attempted a backstroke in at least 20 years.

I am far from being in the best shape of my life. I'm also not in the worst (that came a few years out of college when I lived and worked in a place where you could stay out drinking until 4 a.m., then come home and order a double cheeseburger, delivered to your door.) I don't feel great about myself. My thighs rub a bit too frequently, and this midsection bulge has made me seriously contemplate, for the first time in my life, how one goes about purchasing a pair of Spanx.

In the water, my body is strong - if a bit easily winded. I tell my shoulders to rotate, and they do. I tell my legs to kick, and they do. My hands slice the water in front of me and reach for the wall. I feel almost athletic.

When I'm done, I float on my back for a minute, blinking at the clouds. I think: Praise You, thank You, ask You. Praise You, thank You, ask You. 

I vow not to share calories burned on Facebook (I don't have a device to count them, anyway). But I text my mother my nightly lap totals and walk back to the house in my dripping bathing suit, momentarily unconcerned about my thighs.