Swimming Lessons

My childhood home has a pond in the backyard. It’s a little unkempt nowadays, but it was quite clean and usable twenty years ago.

My parents, being responsible humans who wanted their kids to safely enjoy playing in and around the pond, signed us up for swimming lessons, which were taught at the local lake by lifeguards who were probably high school students, though they looked like full adults to my kindergarten-age self. Looking back, my parents also probably had an interest in getting us out of their hair for a few hours a week during the summer.

I hated swimming lessons with a fiery passion. The lake was dark and cold, and I couldn’t see the bottom, and there were fish that nibbled on unwary toes. And like most tall people, I was an uncoordinated mess until my late teens. And for some reason, the instructors thought a front crawl- one of the more mechanically complex strokes- was the right starting point. The backstroke, which I actually liked, was verboten. It went about as well as you’d expect, which is to say, very badly.

Eventually my parents gave up, and let me stop taking lessons. I’d learned enough that I probably wouldn’t drown if I fell out of a boat, and that had to be good enough. I spent the next twenty or so years avoiding any body of water larger than a bathtub.

Until I got a gym membership recently. The facility has a pool. My husband, aka, my workout partner, used to swim a lot, and he suggested we try it out.

We did, and it worked. I discovered I’m a halfway decent swimmer, when I get to choose what I’m doing. I’m also horribly out of shape, but that’s fixable.

Realizing that I’m not actually a terrible swimmer, and that I like doing it, was a major revelation for me. Turns out, most of my hatred of swimming was actually hating the cold, other people telling me what to do, my uncoordinated self, the possibility of being eaten by the shark I was sure lurked in the tiny lake of my childhood- none of which had anything to do with the exercise itself.

I’m not sure there’s a specifically writing related lesson in this little screed, but maybe there’s something related to life in general.

If you find yourself detesting an activity, look around and make sure you’re not actually hating that awful light that gives you a headache whenever you sit at your desk. If you hate exercising, try a different pair of shoes; maybe your feet are hurting and you don’t realize it. Or maybe you’re cold; put on a sweater. Or your desk is one room over from the fridge that makes weird groaning noises whenever you sit down to pay the bills.

… Okay, maybe that’s just my fridge. I think it’s haunted. Anybody know a good exorcist?

I don’t actually mind the ghost in the fridge, but it is a random factor getting mixed up with a necessary task.

How many things does the average person hate and think we’re bad at, because we learned them under stressful conditions, or we’re currently doing that task in a crappy environment?

Further contemplation is required. Who knows?- maybe I’ll relearn to ride a bicycle next.

6 thoughts on “Swimming Lessons

  1. Cause and effect, when emotions are involved, can be very tricky to analyze. Do you hate something because it makes your head hurt, or does your hurting head make you hate things (that don’t necessarily cause the problem)?

    There’s a very helpful technical term for this reaction: cranky.

    I am certainly (I think) wiser about myself and others than I used to be, but I’m also crankier, and I don’t have a justifiable reason for it — it’s really about not getting enough sleep, or letting myself be distracted by trivia, or not getting instant (if unnecessary) gratification. It takes more effort than it used to, to slow down my automatic responses to interruptions, etc., etc. The problem, however, isn’t fixing my philosophy, or justifying my overreaction — it’s all a psychological issue. I need to take the provocation and stuff it somewhere tiny by attributing it to physical reactions rather than real-world insults.

    That’s a long-winded way of observing that one gets crankier as one ages for good reasons (memory issues, sensory degradation, inattention, insomnia), and we have to learn how to deal with that, just like every other “blessing” of extended lifespans, and not project it onto external causes so that we can blame something random that isn’t us.

  2. Turns out I didn’t hate math; I just hated Mrs. Collins, my 4th grade teacher who assigned math problems if you were a Bad Little Boy. Talking, you know; that evil behavior!
    A grillion years later, taking psychology courses with a heavy emphasis in behavior modification, I discovered that Mrs. Collins had found a highly effective technique to make Bad Little Boys hate math.

  3. I used to hate reading anything considered to be ‘literature’ thanks to the way we were taught to go about it in high school. Heck, they made teenage boys hate Treasure Island, of all books. Pirates, murder, swordfights, buried treasure, mutiny, Long John Silver, and they made us despise it. It takes skill to do that.

    I also used to loathe SF with a passion. Well, I loathed “Real and Meaningful” SF, as every such book I was shown at our school library seemed to be the exact same thing, namely ‘Oppressed black/Latino/woman gets superpowers and kills all the straight white guys’. Why was I supposed to enjoy reading books that told me I deserved to die for things that happened before I was born?

    To the despair of my betters however I did like the school’s books by Poul Anderson, Andre Norton, and Manly Wade Wellman. I was informed they weren’t ‘real’ SF authors. For years I kept wondering why the local bookstores always had their books in with the real SF books.

  4. If you have a lot of pain or stiffness, and it does not seem to be your joints or muscles exactly… Look up yoga or massage videos on “peeling fascia”. Imi’s Bigan Yoga has really good ones that work, even though she is the most hyper yoga person ever. And searching her channel is a nightmare. But she caters to persons of portliness, which I appreciate.

    Basically you smack and knead yourself into better blood flow and stretchiness the night before, and then you wake up feeling a zillion times better. Crankiness also tends to go away.

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