Mind Over Water

Treading water only lasts so long

At some point,
the pull of the boat or dock or shore
becomes too much

The edge of exhaustion creeps up
The doubt of how much longer the legs and arms can cycle,

When will the muscles or lungs give out?

The hand must be able to reach out –

To grasp the solid surface
To heave the dead weight up and out of the abyss.

Unless you decide to float

To rest your head in line with the water,
Arch your back toward the sky
Let your hands and feet sway like seaweed

Rest and freedom come with this release
But also require relinquish of control:

The moment your ears slip below the surface,
Deadening the sound of the world above,
Open only to the gentle sloshing below

The origin of your breath so close to submersion
Your lungs expanding above and below the water
Your bottom threatening to pull it all under.

Possible panic in action and inaction
All at the thin line where the water meets the air

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Breaking the Surface

If I had told my five-years-ago self that one day I’d be able to sit in a chair at the beach and watch my three children frolic in the water, that self would’ve told me to go jump in that lake.

Even yesterday as I watched just a scene unfold, I couldn’t quite believe it.

Such an occurrence has been hard-fought and won.

And it’s really nothing for which I can take credit.  Those little fish just grew of their own accord; tested their little fins and swam.

I somehow managed to keep all our heads above water in the meantime, but suddenly, I find myself with five minutes of peace on the beach.

It is an entirely foreign feeling.

A still, a calm, a quiet I never dreamt I’d get.

In the melee of raising three little ones, I never thought I’d have time to catch my breath, to rest a moment, to sit back and observe.

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Jennifer Butler Basile

It’s one of those moments where time suddenly seems to stop and a truth of life is filed.

There are certain things I’ve overcome; certain markers I’ve hit; bits of joy to digest.

They’re hard to recognize when being pulled along with the current, but there are blessed moments of buoyancy.

One day we’ll all be able to bob to the surface.

Fitness Fatale

So I joined a fitness group.

For some people this would be a non-issue. Simply an added tool in their box toward a fully healthy lifestyle. For others it might be a cause for congratulations. A turn in the tide of an unhealthy lifestyle. For me? It’s anathema to my usual way of life.

Don’t get me wrong. I try to maintain a healthy lifestyle. I make nutritious food choices. I try to stay active with my kids. I fit a yoga routine into my schedule when I can. But physically fit? No. Able to leap buildings in a single bound? No. Able to run farther than the end of my street without vomiting? No.

My husband’s cousin was always posting inspirational quotes on Facebook. Posts relating her physical endeavors to internal strength and fulfillment. As someone always searching for a higher state of being, I was naturally drawn to her posts. I wasn’t about to start doing PiYo, but I’d take a daily dose of encouragement and it was refreshing to see someone working so earnestly to improve her quality of life. Then I made the mistake of telling her so at a family cookout. When I joked that I was going to hire her as my life coach, she said, ‘oh, I’ll have to add you to the list for my online fitness group.’

Me and my big fat mouth.

Now, my husband’s cousin was very clear that she wasn’t out for world domination, but a renewed level of fitness after two children and a hectic lifestyle. However, her level of ‘out-of-shape’ as a former alternate on the Olympic ski team was probably equal to mine at its best.

Still, I signed on when I received her notification and read the group’s description:

“It doesn’t matter if walking is your thing or base jumping off of Mount Blanc.”

Quite a range! But walking? I could handle walking. I joined.

If nothing else, it’s made me more aware of my health. Her ‘Thirsty Thursday’ prompts made me more conscious of my water intake everyday. Seeing other women’s endeavors made me want to partake of and share my own. Admittedly, my first two days were my best, as ‘operation normal’ quickly seeped back in after that, but fitting in fitness is still at the forefront of my mind – if not my feet.

I tried to run through the soft sand as I escorted my youngest to the bathhouse at the beach. I pulled my knees to my chest as I floated in the water, trying to flex my abs. I pushed my legs through the water, tensing against the resistance.

Little steps.

And then there are the days exercise works itself into my day organically.

Yesterday, my girls and I met some friends at a local pond for a swim. The swimming area is strung off by the red and white floats of the summer camps of my youth, the ones that have ingrained in me a nervous sensation if I swim too close, as if that rope barrier keeps me safe from the depths on the other side. It was this marker that a little girl’s beach ball floated past on the wind that skimmed the waves. The little girl had been floating around our periphery, trying to engage my girls and friends in play. It was us she enlisted when as her ball swiftly moved away. Very swiftly, in fact. By the time she got our attention, it was well past the ropes. After a harried mental debate, I instructed my girls to stay put with their friends and their mom and swam toward the ropes. As I ducked under, my adrenaline surged. It wasn’t an emergency, but the way the girl was crying for her lost ball, you’d think it was. Plus, it could very well turn out to be an emergency with an unfit mother attempting a long distance swim. The evening news headlines ran through my head as I pulled strokes: Local mother drowns in area pond after suffering cardiac arrest. Witnesses report they heard her calling as slipped below the surface, ‘I thought I could do it. It didn’t look that far.’

Fortunately, that’s not how the story ended. Unfortunately, the wind carried the ball across the water faster than I could swim. I stopped halfway and looked back to the other mother I’d come with, who was waving me off, telling me to throw in the swimsuit. I took one last look at the ball as it skittered away and stretched my legs out under me, realizing I could touch bottom. I walked back the distance I’d just swam.

I went to the little girl who cried at her grandfather’s feet by the shoreline and apologized. Her grandfather thanked me and said, “We told her it’s not safe to chase balls.” Maybe he should have told me that. Still, I got in one lap at least and lived to tell the tale. It’s always a good day when fitness isn’t fatal.

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