Swimming Alone


I hated The Awakening. Did you have to read that in high school? Depressed woman feels burdened by societal expectations, so takes a long, sad sink. I’m sure I’d appreciate it more now, but God, even to a teenager it just seemed a bit too much. (However, I’ve never experienced 1899 Louisiana where I would’ve been a man’s property, so there’s that.)

For some reason I found myself thinking of Awakening again as I took my first swim of the season in Lake Pennesseewassee. No worries, I’m not sinking any time soon. I did, however, think of the freedom of swimming and open water so vividly described in Chopin’s book.

It’s an odd feeling to swim alone. I think this is one of the first times I’ve ever done it.

Usually I’m surrounded by family, dogs, neighbors, boats and everyone hanging out on the docks. Today, it was just me. In our corner of the lake it’s rare to see anyone else, especially during a mid-day swim. As I paddled around I thought about how good it felt to move my body through the fresh water, feeling the temperature changes every few feet, catching the glint of a fish out of the corner of my eye.

Swimming in nature is one of the few things that can completely transform my mindset. The rush of the water in my ears, the effort of my muscles, the cleanliness and good-tired I feel after. Being without work this past month, deferring PhDs, the bombings, P’s search for new work – all of it and more has led to a pretty hectic mind. I’ve been functioning in a space that tries to bombard, to make anxious, to stress.

A former mentor of mine used to remind me that in the U.S. we are embedded with the idea of “false scarcity.” That no matter how much we have and how relatively safe we are, it is our default setting to fear. To fear that we are not enough, do not have enough, will never get enough.

Being in the water is helping me break that. Break the patterns I’ve been stuck in so long, and the continual constructed messages that tell me what I am doing is the opposite of successful. As a friend put it, I am scared. I do want a dazzling life story. But what I’m learning, stroke by stroke, is how to create it myself.


2 thoughts on “Swimming Alone

  1. I absolutely love this. I could feel the relief of the water as you describe it, and the chipping away of those thought patterns. The ‘false scarcity’ point totally rings true for me; it’s easy to feel this way when you are taking time off from a job, even if you have plenty of money/security to take care of you. Keep writing, this is lovely.

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