"A nasty divorce kept me from coming for two years," she said, pulling on a pair of flippers and adjusting her bathing cap.
"I am so sorry," I said to the stranger sitting on the edge of the pool asking to share a lane with me.
The fifty-meter outdoor pool at my favorite Indianapolis YMCA opened Memorial Day weekend. This pool was my destination today when I awakened from sleeping most of the morning, still exhausted from a recent trip to Oregon.
Most indoor pools are 25 meters, except in a few high schools or the Indiana University Natatorium downtown. To have a fifty-meter pool so close gives me a thrill each time I think about it. I make every excuse to travel to the far north side of Indy where the pool is located.
Common courtesy among swimmers is to ask before sharing a lane, so when I saw a pair of feet dangling from the edge of the pool, I knew my ability to stretch fully into the lane was over. I greeted the woman, who told me in a sentence the challenges she faced the last two years, which limited her time and energy for exercise.
I told her the water was a little cool, but warmed quickly with increased laps. She said she liked chilly water so I thought she will fare better than I when I first started. I told her I would swim against the wall giving her the half near the lane divider. We agreed the arrangement would work well. I pushed away from the edge, after completing the necessary courtesies, thinking how much I knew about the woman in less than a minute of conversation.
Swimming in fresh air is so refreshing. I like seeing the blue sky watching me, covering me with each lap. Occasionally a stray leaf will land in the water, adding further companionship along with clouds and breeze. My body moved effortlessly in the water and I easily completed sixty-eight laps, four short of a mile. I haven't had the energy to swim a mile for months.
I remember how I felt last summer when my swim season at the outdoor pool began. I was filled with so much anger I practically exhaled it into the water with a stream of bubbles. Every time I came to swim, I beat the water, arms and legs brimming with anger, almost escaping from the pores of my skin. When I finished my last swim of the season on Labor Day, 2015, I took a long look at the pool, thanking the water for holding everything I deposited, mostly anger, mixed with a small amount of gratitude when I could clear a space.
I was delighted to return to a place of great healing over the years. I prayed when I got out of the water that the woman who shared my lane would also find peace with each lap.
Prayer: God, thank you for providing was to express emotions that are healthy. Sharing communion with you in the water brings healing from circumstances that are painful. Holiness is found everywhere, even in a swimming pool. Amen.