My word of the moment is joy. I live within walking distance to the city pool, and it is open for the summer. They are offering a free adult swim a couple of nights a week. This is the first time I’ve been able to swim laps since the lockdown. I usually go to the local middle school in the mornings before work, but it’s been closed since March 2020. I’ve been distance swimming since I was in college as PT for an injury. Since then, I’ve moved a couple of times, and the first thing I do when I arrive is look for a pool. Schools and YMCAs are my best sources for friends and laps.
The city pool is Olympic-sized, which is more than twice the standard length. The first night of swimming, I felt like jelly as I pulled myself through the heavy water. When you swim laps, you look down at the floor of the pool more than you look up, so my muscle memory knew when I was supposed to hit the wall and turn around, but since it’s 50 meters, the wall was much farther away. I stopped after almost every lap to shake out my arms and legs. Usually, I don’t stop over my 2-2.5-mile swim. To be fair, I don’t think I could make that distance if I were taking frequent breaks.
The following swims have continued to get a little better. It’s been raining almost every day for weeks, but I’m still getting in as long as there’s no thunder and lighting. Swimming in the rain feels kind of dreamy. Alongside the lap swimmers, they’re offering water aerobics, which is incredible. The people participating look like they were having a blast. After we get out, some of the folks have told me how well I’m doing. In my mind, all I can think is how the water feels like wet sand and how harder it is for me than before the forced dry dock. These sweet strangers remind me to get over myself and remember the joy I feel in the water and that I’ll get back to my old swim shape soon enough.
Along with swimming, I’m getting to see friends’ beautiful faces in person (plus hugs!) My morning swim buddies have been showing up at the outdoor pool. We always joke that we can find each other more easily undressed at the pool than we can fully clothed at the grocery store. The first night of swim, a lovely woman named Barbra was there. We’ve been swimming together since I moved to this area. Years ago, we both volunteered at a holiday event and spoke for an hour before we realized we’d known each other through the pool for four years. We didn’t recognize one another with dry hair and pants.
The woman organizing the free evening swim informed us that there would be a vote on reopening the pool when school started in the fall. I sent messages asking for people to send emails to the Superintendent and the School Board. In my email to the Board, I talked about the pool being part of our community and that we’re a family. Plus, the nearest alternatives are 30 – 45 minutes away. Most of us can’t make that work with our jobs and commitments, especially in the winter. Swimming doesn’t have a good alternative, especially in the Northeast in winter. We heard back that they’re “doing repairs” and will reopen when they’re done. They’ve been talking about these repairs for eight years. The pool’s been closed a year and a half. Why didn’t they do them then? Basically, I’m not holding my breath (swim pun intended).
For now, I’ll keep going to the city pool (when it’s open since we’ve been having a ton of thunderstorms) and hope for the sake of myself and my fellow merpeople that the pool at the middle school opens again soon.