Swimming Toward a Goal

Throughout my life, the best motivations have always been seemingly unattainable goals. At the beginning of the summer, I was barely able to swim one crosswise lap without stopping. I decided early on that by the end of the summer, I would swim my old regular “easy” program: 4×100; 2×200; 1×400; 2×200; 4×100. …and this morning, ladies and gentlemen, it actually happened.

Did my leg hurt any less? No.

Did my leg shake any less? No.

Were the muscles in my lower leg working again? No.

Was I able to push off the wall? No.

Did I still scream and curse underwater? Yes.

…but the rest of my body is stronger. And my mind is stronger. And my will is stronger.

I didn’t sleep much last night because my stupid leg was playing painful tricks on me, and this morning I was incredibly dizzy from the meds, and the very last thing I wanted to do was to go to the pool.

However, I have to thank my former dance instructors for always being in my head, and continuing to coach me. I heard them all loud and clear today: “This is the work.” “This is the dedication.” “Fight for it, it’s yours.” “Be confident.” “Show up and do the work.” “Feel the movement.” “Keep the rhythm steady.” “Be like a dolphin.” “Lift your elbows” “Don’t rush.” “Don’t stop.” “Extend your movements.” “Do it.” “Break’s over.” “One more time.” “Believe in yourself.” “Don’t forget to breathe.” “Pretend like you like this.” “c’mon, JenniFERRR!”

It would be so easy to give in and quit this fight, but I guess that just isn’t my personality.

I am so incredibly grateful to have been well-trained in the art of dedicated perseverance, one of the most valuable lessons I learned from a lifetime of dancing.

(And dancing again is the ultimate seemingly unattainable goal.)

Just Keep Going

For the past 13.5 months, there has been a brutal game of tug-of-war between my right leg and my willful determination.

The rope: my inner voice.

Woven with fatigue, agony, medication, and doubt, the voice generally sides with the pain. But today, there was a change.

Swimming is still the only tolerable form of exercise, and yet it is still unrelentingly painful.

To combat the continual jolts of pain in my leg, each lap normally consists of a fierce focus on every stroke, counting kicks and pulls and breaths, mixed with cursing and grunting through entire length of the pool.

At the end of the pool, at the turn around, my pace invariably slows where it once accelerated. My mind curses about my missing flip-turn, about not being able to push off the wall, and there’s usually something about my “effing leg” thrown in for good measure.

In between sets, I diligently recount the laps and begrudgingly count the remaining sets. My darling, profane, angry little inner voice loves to pepper my methodical thoughts with lots of f-bombs and can’ts before I say a little prayer, close my eyes and wince as I start off again.

But today, something happened. I was on the downside of my 2000 yd swim practice with 2×100 left before 4×50 before my cool down. The second fifty of the final hundred started with the usual “AAANNNHHH… OH GOD…”

What came next was a complete shock.

A tiny, soft-spoken thought: “just keep going.”

I’d love to say that the tiny voice stopped the screaming in my head or helped me transcend the pain or became an encouraging coach for what remained of my session. It didn’t.

However, it was the first sign that my old determined self might still influence my inner voice. It gave me the smallest flicker of hope that my determination might actually prevail.