Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Crawl: Swimming as Salvation

Back in 1992, I was in a crazy car accident. 

A North American Van Lines tractor trailer side-swiped my tinny Toyota Tercel on Rt. 4 in New Jersey, spinning my car around three times in what seemed like a slow-motion roundup ride, my screams going from loud to soft as the car careened and ended up backward on the median.  Although my Tercel was totaled, I walked away virtually unharmed, albeit in a stake of shock and picking the shards of glass out of my hair. 

It wasn’t until weeks later that my lower back started hurting and thus started my trip through the land of chiropractors. Each chiropractor seemed to practice his own special method.  One left me in a dark room positioned with various blocks under my back and legs while music played.  Another tied me into all sorts of pretzels and then prescribed me with the powder form of vitamin C and a charcoal supplement that made my poop black.  I guess his theory was that the digestive system was tied to spine health?  Anyway, nothing worked.

Fortunately, I was laid off from that highly stressful advertising job that had me on the road driving our creative (for this fateful trip, the new packaging for J&B scotch – and no, liquor was not involved in the accident!) to some very uninspired clients.  

And, just like that, I had plenty of time on my hands to recover. 

My friend Trish recommended that I try swimming.  Although I spent my summers in camp where every day involved a dreaded hour of swim instruction, I never made it past advanced beginner.  But, I did love the water and my gym had an olympic size pool.  So, I decided to give swimming a go…

1 lap.  Exhausted.
2 laps. Doubly exhausted.
10 laps.  Help!

But after a few weeks, I found my rhythm AND my back started feeling better!  A miracle! 

Now, years later, with ills that seem to be adding up daily including a torn Achilles and continued lower back pain, I am hoping that swimming will again be my cure-all.  Even more, I somehow believe it could be my physical and mental salvation.

It seems I am not alone.  According to Lynn Sherr, author of Swim: Why We Love the Water, “Swimming stretches my body beyond earthly limits, helping to soothe every ache and caress every muscle. But it is also an inward journey, a time of quiet contemplation, when, encased in an element at once hostile and familiar, I find myself at peace, able — and eager — to flex my mind, imagine new possibilities, to work things out without the startling interruptions of human voice or modern life. The silence is stunning.”

For me, swimming feels like the best stretch ever. Like that of an infant waking up from a deep sleep.  Swimming makes me feel young and thin – the water sculpting my body with each stroke.  And like Lynn Sherr, swimming allows me to think creatively and deeply, with no interruption, my body reaching for Zen with every stroke.

Actually, I never gave up on swimming…I saw it as my summer sport, believing that the only way to do it was outdoors, under a blue sky (which is preferable). But this year my New Years resolution is to swim year round.  And, I am proud to say that even though on Saturday morning it was a frigid 5 degrees, I pulled on my bathing suit and ice-cold bathing cap and swam 32 invigorating, lovely laps.  My shampoo and conditioner were both frozen, but no matter.  My passion for swimming will not be undone. 

That is, unless this new pain in my shoulder keeps me out of the pool…ARGGHH…SPLASH!!!