Life is a Weight-Bearing Exercise

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Ever since I returned to Atlanta on July 5, 2022, from a 14-month caretaking journey that depleted me on every level, the only exercise I have wanted to do is swim. I tried getting back to my daily walking routine but couldn’t sustain it. I tried getting back to my weight training and hula hooping and my former enjoyment of sweating like a beast, but I couldn’t sustain that, either.

However, from Day One, I never had any resistance to putting on my bathing suit and walking out the door.

Every morning, I drive around the corner to the Y and swim a mile. That’s 72 lengths, back and forth. That’s five thousand, two hundred and eighty feet. I usually add a couple more lengths at the end for good measure, which lands me at 74.

As soon as I dive into the pool, my numerical mantra begins. 1.1.1.1.1.1 until I reach the end of the pool. 2.2.2.2.2.2.  The number of the length I’m swimming pulses through my head, ultimately acting as the backdrop against which my mind sets itself free.

If I lose count of the number, which does happen if I allow my mind to drift off into inane nonsense, I go back to the last number I remember and corral my brain.

Once my mind is settled, which happens rather quickly, all sorts of random and wonderful things have permission to enter which, otherwise, might not.

Ideas for stories, long-forgotten memories, a turn of a phrase, a transformational insight, something hilarious.

Other times,  I might focus all my attention on how the water feels, sounds, and moves differently over and around my body, depending on whether I’m doing the front crawl, the back stroke, the sidestroke, or the breaststroke. Other times, I might focus exclusively on how differently my breathing moves and resonates within and without, again, in accordance with each stroke.

Over the years, I’ve drifted in and out of sitting meditation practices, until I realized that sitting meditation is only one form of stilling the mind. Walking or sitting silently near a body of water; walking in nature; gazing at the wall of trees in my backyard does the trick as well.  My morning ritual of preparing my French press coffee and setting up my lemon water. Writing, composing, editing (the sculpture of writing) all work for me. There are as many ways to still the mind as there are ways of living life.

For now, my morning swims are in pole position. The water is a primordial soup that’s effortless to navigate. Each time the number 74 comes around and it’s time to exit the pool, I experience reticence and longing dripping off me back into the water as I pull myself up the ladder onto the deck, and into the rest of my day.

It would probably serve me well to return to my daily walks and weight training to strengthen the bones, lubricate the joints, fresh air, sunshine, and all that jazz.

But Life itself is a weight-bearing exercise, so I know I’m going to be just fine.

Penultimate

Earlier today, after sharing a lengthy conversation with a man and his wife at Alon’s,  swapping stories of caregiving, death,

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