Early this morning, preparing to submerge myself into the cave of swimmers I took stock of my neighbors: two guys rather bulked up on steroids to my right, and to my left, my dad (his head from afar resembling a bobbing soccer ball) and a cane-toting elderly woman dolled up in a fluffy-skirted suit, topped with a 1950s-style latex bathing cap. Quel elegance!
Dutifully, the two tattooed hulks and I shlepped ropes from one end of the pool to the other. Ahhhh, the prerogative of early birds: we appropriate our own roughly-marked stretch of blue with the unspoken expectation that we’ll pitch in when the lifeguard drops a strand of oversized baubles into the deep end of our respective lanes. Pretty decent stuff, as far as pool-norms go.
Then I dunked myself in, kneaded the familiar painful knots out of my left foot and slipped into a Forrest-Gump type o’ flow.
I might have been in the middle of my 20th lap, when I recalled that someone recently asked me what style of swimming I prefer. Notwithstanding the strict marching orders handed down by my therapists to eschew the crawl (to say nothing of the butterfly or side stroke), my preferred mode of swimming has always been the breaststroke.
It struck me like a bolt of lightning: I like doing the breaststroke. Whoa, the what-a-stroke?! True, some call it the frog kick, but officially and universally, it is best known as the breaststroke. Apparently because it involves the chest. So why not call it the cheststroke? Or does that word conjure up all-too-frightening images of a cardiac patient, stricken by ischemic attack, lying motionless on a gurney? Oh him? Sadly, he had a cheststroke.
Following that logic, one would presume that the correct definition of breaststroke would be an acute attack of (to?) the breast. But no, folks, because the chosen word, nay phrase, for that offence is reserved for the ubiquitous breast cancer. So there.
As I covered more (water-) ground, doing my favored breaststroke, I paid closer attention to the insweep, outsweep and recovery (yes, recovery is the final stage of the stroke). I noticed that my arms were stretching up and out, then around and back in circular shapes. Coming up for air mid-stroke, my arms far behind me, I felt like I was pushing the circles away from my body, creating a long chain of interlocking loops.
Thus I dedicated myself, for the rest of my swim, to underwater imagery – and prayer: Focusing on the circling motion of my arms, my torso straight, my legs spurring me on, frog-kicking me away from her illness and my injury. Picturing my arms thrusting the unhealthy parts of my, our, her breasts; down, out and away from me. Drowning them in the waves that were being created behind me, as I completed the recovery part of each stroke.
Whooooooosh! Swoooooooooosh! Away, away, you unhealthy cells all go!!
Aquatic-induced catharsis at its best.