Over on the original blog, I’ve just written a recipe for the first time in too long and I’ve written down some words for the day. It’s an easy day to write fueled by coffee, the cake I blogged about and the Prince retrospective rolling on without interruption on Australian state radio, Double J. All the words about Prince are over there, but the feelings will be over here too. Plus there will be dancing. There won’t be video, I’ll spare my children that, but just know there’s dancing and there’s serious reminiscing. Prince was just 4 years older than me, so our history is long. One sorority sister and I bonded over music, with our tastes running a little rebellious for the Delta Gammas. She was on the concert board, I subscribed to Rolling Stone. And here’s where this is all going to come together. Today I’m writing about the true blue me. The whole moving across the planet with almost limitless opportunities for “me time” helps redefine exactly who you are now. Bizzy (the aforementioned sister) always saw the true me. I couldn’t get away with much around her and well, truly, no one could. Whip smart. No BS. She would have been a good Aussie: direct, sharp-witted and hilarious. And I can’t hear Purple Rain without her tugging on my heart a little bit still. She died in a car accident at 21. That was the week before she was to wear a bright pink long dress (very not her style) and stand at the altar with me when I married Greg. Man, she would have been a good human to have in the grown-up world. What a fantastic mom she would have been. Hers is not my story to tell. But on this rainy late afternoon in a place so far from our sorority days, I’m thinking of you Biz. We didn’t call people authentic back in the 80’s, but you were always you. I’m more me now and you’d be pretty happy about that. I am.
I’m apparently a swimmer. Is it the Pisces in me? I’m not someone who assigns much weight to astrologic signs but I’m under the sign of the two fish, so my love of the water could just be from the stars. It could be that I was lucky my parents chose a house in a neighborhood with a spring-fed lake where we could wade in, push off and learn to swim with our little metal membership tags safety-pinned to our little tank suits and speedos. Eventually we could swim between the two docks over the muck bottom and between the lane lines a little green from the algae. Vivid memories of swim team practices on chilly Northeast Ohio summer mornings, diving off the docks painted white and red with sand mixed in, snacking on instant jello powder for energy and collecting ribbons with the little paper result tags sewn in the back during neighborhood swim meets. Never good enough to swim year-round on an AAU team. Good enough to pass my lifesaving and water safety instructor tests and spend summers lifeguarding and coaching until a couple of weeks before I got married. Both girls learned to swim pushing off the pool bottom in the shallow end swimming to me and we spent just about every summer day at the pool. But I only occasionally swam a few laps, never really loving freestyle enough to do it for fitness. I’m a backstroker by nature, no weird hip or knee movements and most importantly, you can always breathe.
Hold on, dance break. Take Me with You. Be right back. Ooh, that was a good stretch. Raspberry Beret too.
And then we took the International Assignment to Sydney and made the very wise choice to live on the northern beaches. Every morning I would hear the calming sound of hundreds of swimmers pulling their strokes through the water and kicking along the rocks between the two beaches. Well, they do all gather off the point and one very strong-voiced gentleman calls out “Let’s go!” and that’s a little jarring if you happen to be asleep at 7:05 am, but generally the swimmers dutifully pass by our house one way and then the other every day (within reason and some days seemingly without). I’d be walking to yoga or tennis along the beach (which is awesome, simply walking to things and having the commute along the beach) and they’d be gathered up on the picnic benches with their coffees and I’d say to myself, “Look at all those friends. I could be their friend. I can swim.” And we’ve been over this, but as a refresher, that swim is 700-800 meters one way without you know, walls for turning and resting. And there are creatures below. And there are waves and currents and well, I had some learning to do. So I hired a coach and after some fits, starts, ear infections, ice-cold water and a whole lot of fear I became an ocean swimmer. And I have those friends. And they know the real me (and they’re still my friends which says something about the Australians).
It’s all been said before by ocean swimmers the world over. An original way to describe the freedom and joy of swimming without lanes and walls isn’t going to happen even on a day when the writing is easy. But I can tell you that at some point in almost every swim, I take notice of just how happy it makes me. Some days that’s because it’s stunningly beautiful in my little part of the big Pacific Ocean (more specifically, the Tasman Sea) being that our route is an Aquatic Marine Reserve. When the warm water is in with the pretty little tropical fish, it’s ridiculously distracting to swim in what is basically a giant aquarium. Some days it’s because the choppy seas and relentless waves make you feel like a little boat tossing this way and that, but you lift your head and look around and see your little squad and you’re doing it and the fun’s in the challenge. Some days it’s because we stop and chat and tread water for who knows how long before someone decides we’d better swim. And always I think, learning to do this has been just the best thing for me. I’m happy like a kid out there. I’m proud that I can do it. I’m grateful that I’m strong enough (and buoyant). And I love the friends it’s brought my way. The most welcoming people.
It amazes me, but here the swimmers are my community in a way I’ll never find with yoga in this lovely beach town. They are an eclectic bunch, but they are the very core of the community. Yoga at my chosen studio is a wee bit competitive (which is not yoga and that’s a boring and different story). Tennis, well it’s called comps, so quite literally, it’s competitive. There are some lovely girls there, friends even. And now I play in a highly entertaining mixed doubles group some Monday nights, but I’m still trying to get everyone’s names straight and return those male serves. The neighbors call me the sporty one. Which is really funny to me, because listen, I’m not particularly good at any of this. I’m not the best at tennis (nor am I the worst), I’m not the fastest at swimming (nor am I the slowest) and well, you are not supposed to evaluate your yoga beyond being present (hmmmm) and breathing (which I do amazingly well). But I guess at 53 simply doing all this physical activity qualifies as sporty. Success is irrelevant.
So there I was swimming in the deep blue earlier today, a day that was meant to be rainy top to bottom but instead was gorgeous for a good long while before it was not. We swam back not along the rocks but across the proper ocean. The deep blue. And I was only the tiniest bit wary. Let’s just call it a healthy level of caution (which I understand is very American of me). When I breathed to the right, there was a cap of a friend. When I breathed to the left (look at me, I can do both now) there was another friend matching my stroke. And that’s how I’ve become more me. I took the risk of learning to ocean swim , facing considerable fear, and I continue to be encouraged and embraced by all the other crazy people who think swimming a mile in open water with little sharks below you is awesome. It’s a heck of a way to start a day. I am grateful every day we get to live this big adventure with the ocean out our back door. And I’m grateful for all the days. And for the ” beautiful ones” that share and have shared them with me.
Now for one last chorus of Purple Rain. Hands in the air. Singing along, loudly, as I do. Being me. I am good at that.
*writer’s note: this took a day to hit “post”. I struggle a bit with the worthiness of the words, particularly this very “me me me” theme. Thanks for reading my therapy.