My friend bought me a pair of goggles. A belated birthday gift, my Thursday swim partner told me, handing over my first pair. She a long time swimmer, noticed I didn’t have goggles. Never really knew how to wear them. Never really needed them because I swim on the surface mostly. Pretty much a breast stroke girl and if I do the head under water version, I just close my eyes. The occasional back-stroker who can gaze up at the sky, or in this pool’s case, the ceiling. I am the chica who got over the fear of water for the most part, but still swims mostly with my face out of the water.
Wow! What a difference. There is a whole other world down there. This goggle vision is also a bit scary. Being able to see the pool drop off like that, from three feet, to four feet, to a couple more steps in between, then all of a sudden you see below how much it has dropped off and you are swimming in the twelve foot end of the pool. Crazy! A bit unnerving seeing the color of the pool down there. Are those stains on the pool floor? What kind of stains? I lift my head back up. A few more breast strokes with my head above surface. I remember to breathe. Slow, deep breaths. Then back below surface. No wonder my kids swim like dolphins under water for hours.
I catch the movement of the gal sharing my lane, headed in my direction, just beside me. She too is a breast stroke swimmer. I don’t find many of us on these swim Thursdays. She has joined me in the “easy” lane and could really qualify for the more experienced lanes. But looking under water her movements slow down and I see how the stroke can be done without working so hard and asserting great force. Slow and easy. A tadpole, gliding through the lily pads. Women moving through water. Elegant. Gentle.
Above the surface you just see these emotionless faces, focused on getting to the other end of the pool. Below the surface, graceful motion, a whole new way of looking at things. I apply what I have seen from my lane partner to my stroke. With practice, my strokes become effortless. I will never tell her she has helped me develop my technique. I will never know her name, just blue flowered swim suit with white swim cap and purple goggles chica.
A group of us grade school moms have been meeting one Wednesday a month to share stories, reflect on questions that go below the surface. Instead of just the light chatter that comes at school drop off and pick up, we talk about what rattles us, makes our hearts sing. We share the deeper stuff that can bring up tears and make us laugh from our bellies. The first few meetings, getting to know each other and learning to be comfortable with sharing deeper sides of ourselves we left the goggles off. Needing to feel out this whole going deeper thing. But now after meeting since September we know how to dive deep and share from the heart. We tell each other how the listening has helped us, how the sharing has inspired us, how going deeper has brought us to another place that was scary at first, but now we are feeling the smile down deep. Not just wearing it on the surface.
As I continue with my laps…I realize…it is worth going below the surface and not just glimpsing, but taking a moment to gaze at the legs, the kicks of color, splashes of form. Seeing how it all comes together.
For on the surface we are just faces moving forward to the other side of the pool. But with goggles, a second glimpse proves there is so much more to see.
by J.G. McGlothern