In Water...

My body is used to being judged. By eyes, but especially by gravity. I often feel like this gargantuan mass roaming about society like a moving flesh island, my lumbering movements akin to continental drift. Walking and running and hiking remind me on a regular basis that though my muscles and bones are pretty well adapted from a long life of lugging around this wide load, I'm limited by my size. Or at least I feel limited.

I'm not as daring as I once was. I used to scamper and bounce more. I think part of what limits me now is fear of injury. I broke my leg falling down some stairs ten years ago, and my scampering days came swiftly to a halt. I can still feel that bone snapping. I never want to feel it again. But I'm reminded of it every time I go for a long walk or try to jog, and that plate in my tibia begins to sing. And I'm reminded that as easily as I can still move around for someone of my size, it's just not as easy as it used to be. And when I'm lagging several steps behind my husband as we go for a walk, because my natural pace is half again as slow as his, I can feel gravity telling me, yet again, that I'm no match for it. That if I don't get stronger, it will win.

Of course, as that Radiohead song says, gravity always wins. But I'm not giving into it yet.

The water doesn't judge. In it, I feel free. Reborn. It doesn't tell me I'm too fat to move swiftly and with grace, because I can do both. In water, I feel rejuvenated. Released from the inexorable pull this world has on me, I can float as if on a cloud, or propel myself like a fish. I can do flips and handstands. With my children, I can be the human jungle gym that their father always is on the floor.

If I tried to run even a quarter of the distance I can swim, I'd crumble into a gasping, wheezing, sweating puddle of lipids and misery, and I'd never want to move again. But I can swim nearly a mile (and hopefully, at some point, beyond that) and go about the rest of my day feeling happier, firmer, and fully aware of my body's miracle. I'm a thinking, breathing, moving, capable, powerful, worthy, fully actualized person. I feel the way I deserve to feel. That's what good exercise can do. And the water is my medium.

Every time I enter the welcoming embrace of the water, my whole body sighs. And it believes.

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