How are you?? I miss those of you who I haven’t gotten the chance to see, and for those of you I have seen, thank you for your patience with my crazy schedule.
It’s been a difficult year in many ways, and swimming can seem inconsequential when compared to the challenges and losses faced by so many around us.
Pools have been closed, others have severely limited hours, and the places many of us have used as a physical, mental, and emotional outlet have changed. (I’m looking at you Mill River Pool! Sigh!)
Many of us, myself included, have had to get used to new patterns, new routines, and for those who don’t super love change (Um, yes, that’s me), there’s been a lot of adjusting.
I’ll share one of the things that has changed for me this year.
I’ve been swimming with the same team for just shy of 20 years.
Every week, since the inaugural practice for my team, I’d drive to UMASS after work, and on Sunday morning. For an hour and a half, I was with my swim community, people I care for and who have become friends, close ones, over the years.
It was a routine that was a critical part of how I identified myself. Swimming with my team wasn’t just something I did. It was part of who I am.
Then, Covid happened and it was gone.
No swimming together and perhaps even more important, none of the community time I had come to rely upon after all of these years. I’m an extroverted introvert so swim practice is perfect for me because it means I can chat for a second or two, and then swim and have my beloved, quiet, alone time, then chat between sets, then alone time, and repeat.
Suddenly being without my people was weird, and none of us were quite sure when we would see one another again, or if this was the end of our team forever.
We all grieved a bit and weren’t sure what would happen.
Little by little, as the water grew warmer, we started messaging one another. We talked about open water in the area, and how people were shut out of pools, and it was clear that were all itching to swim together again.
People who had NEVER been willing to swim outside began to express an interest, and we began to gather at local lakes. Small swims at first, then longer and longer.
People bought wetsuits and swim buoys and we started a calendar so people could let one another know when they’d be swimming and where. We had night swims, with kayak support and a lot of silliness.
We found a way to keep swimming together.
Then, seasons changed and the water began to get colder. With UMASS still closed to us, we started seeking Covid-safe ways to swim inside. We found a pool.
A beautiful pool!
A lovely, glass enclosed pool, with great ventilation and excellent Covid protocols.
There was one big problem for me.
Anyone who knows me knows that I HATE mornings. Really despise them. And waking up early is a kind of physical and mental torture for my night owl body and mind. The Night Time is the Right Time!
But practice was changing. The way we could return to some kind of normal was by having practice at 6 AM IN THE MORNING! Um, WHAT?!?!
Yes, 6 am, with a practice that was an hour, rather than the hour and a half I loved, and did I mention that it meant me WAKING UP BEFORE 5 IN THE MORNING??
But for the love of my team, I did it. I got myself out of bed, and showed up.
And although it felt different, and I wanted things to be as they had always been, I realized that it was going to be okay. That i could do this – something I confess that I often DO NOT FEEL when the alarm goes off at 4:50 in the morning.
The yardage was shorter, but I started a new routine of finishing practice, coming home and doing another few thousand yards, which felt great. I also recognize that the new system is actually making me faster by challenging me in new and different ways.
And I started swimming with a new team on one of the days my “old” team isn’t practicing. (Again, all COVID safe and with requirements in place, and with no issues thus far.)
What began as a terrible loss transitioned into things that were exciting and new. I’m now looking forward to another summer of swimming outside with people I adore, and seeing others in the morning at the pool. (Okay, again, not so much looking forward to the MORNING part, but suffering through it!)
Is any of this the same as the major changes other people are facing? No. And I don’t mean to minimize the struggles of others by making this sound like any big deal.
Instead, it’s a reminder that we are all facing changes, small and large, and that we are still adjusting and learning and muddling our way through all of this. Life is different now and that’s hard and bad, but also good and okay, and a whole complicated set of things. For now, I’m trying to remember the good things that have come out of it all.
And YAY for science and vaccines!
Finally, for prospective clients, I thank you for your interest and your emails.
Parents, I understand how frustrating and nerve-wracking it is to be seeking lessons for your child right now. You want them to be water safe, and summer is coming, and yet, pools and lessons remain closed or limited, and you are hearing no over and over again.
I feel and hear you, and I understand. I wish that I had a better answer about when I can offer your kids the kind of lessons you desire.
I ask that you continue to be patient as I am only one person, and there is a limit to how many clients I can accommodate and sessions I can offer.
In addition, I want to tell you not to worry. It’s going to be okay, and your child will learn how to swim, whether now or in a little bit.
I have written about this before but I feel the increased sense of urgency with every email I receive. So much has been lost during this last year, and I know that many of you are worried about ways in which you feel your kids “falling behind.”
Let me join the chorus of people saying that this year has been exceptional, that the reality of our kids having made their way through it is enough. They are exhausted and stressed and need the downtime of summer without pressure.
So take them to a beach or a pond or a lake. Run around with them on the sand and build castles. Wade in the shallow water with them if they’re not able to swim independently, and teach them how to blow bubbles. Let them pick out whatever goggles they want, and a set of special diving toys they love, even if they don’t know how to go underwater yet.
(And of course, regardless of their abilities, NO CHILD should be left unsupervised in or near the water.)
As parents, we want so many things for our children, and I know how much you want your kids to learn how to swim. They will, whether taught by me, or you, or another capable and qualified person.
And it’s going to be okay.
Thank you to everyone for sticking with me this year.