I’ve been having a lot of problems with my knees at the moment. Walking is painful and cycling is not much better. So I thought I’d go swimming. It’s not something I usually do. It was an interesting experience. Firstly Io caught sight of myself in a mirror and thought “That’s not how I look. Please that’s not how I look!” In my head my body is still in the shape I had in my 20’s and 30s. (I’m not sure when the gap between my mind’s view of me and my body’s view of itself grew so wide.) Then there was the fun of trying to squeeze my clothes etc into a space that a family of mice would find cramped. But with determination, I achieved this. Then I had to find a pound coin to close the locker. All this before I hobbled to the pool. I had planned to lower myself in slowly but somebody was waiting to climb out so I dropped in over the side. (I thought a heated pool meant a warm pool. Not only slightly less that the outside air temperature.) Having got in without drowning I began my majestic front crawl up and down the lanes. 10 lengths; 20; 30; 40; 50. There was no stopping me. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it! Unless you saw me and can testify under oath that I’m lying!)
What I did discover was how long a length is. How long it takes to swim it. And how amazing solid water can be. What I also found was a tendency to panic. I usually swim front crawl alternating it with breast stroke. When crawling my face was looking down at the floor. I had no reference points. One bit of floor is very much like any other bit. It wasn’t that I was scared of drowning. That would make sense. The memory that kept coming back was of crashing on my bike a couple of years ago. I was out with Aylesbury cycling club and was helped out of the road by my friends who called an ambulance for me. My memory of that event was that I had fallen off but managed to crawl to safety. The club tell me that I was sprawled unconscious on the road and they pulled me to safety. I crashed coming into a blind bend .Any car rounding the corner would have run over me as if I was a rabbit. (My other memory is having gas and air in the ambulance and refusing it after about five minutes because it left me feeling too out of control .I found “honest” pain easier to deal with than the floating experience of gas and air.)
I’ve been trying to make sense of this experience. In the pool changing to breast stroke helped because I could locate myself. I could see other swimmers. I could judge where I was in relation to the end of the pool. I felt less helpless and disoriented.(Rather akin to my experience of gas and air in the ambulance.)
There has been a discussion on one of the Linked In groups about suffering. Is there a meaning to suffering? Does it serve any useful purpose? The same question came up in my local Quaker meeting on Sunday. One member stood up and said “I’ve suffered. I didn’t enjoy it. But it changed me. I wish there had been a different way to learn.” As a counsellor and a nurse it is the question that is unavoidable. (Actually as a sentient human being it’s an unavoidable question.)
My “suffering” in the swimming pool was relieved when I could locate myself and orient myself in relation to other people. I could see the end. And knew that I could get to safety.
The link is to a song by Creedence Clearwater Revival. “As long as I can see the Light”