I get up at 3:00 am on Mondays to make it to Masters. I get in the pool and start the workout and I’m always a 1/2 an inch from tears before the first ten minutes lapses – I just feel so insufficient by comparison to everybody else. They are so fast. So darn fast. And I am not.
When I leave, I usually play the theme song from the Karate Kid tournament scene on repeat until I feel like I AM the best around. I dread the next time we meet, always have to fight the excuses and justify the extra $20 I have to pay for the class. I always go, though. I always get in. Always.
At this point, when I talk about this, people have often admired my dedication and my motivation. It always catches me offguard. After all, it’s an easy enough thing to do, a Master’s swim class. I mean, I have to drive an hour and a half and pay extra and watch the angry clock tell me I fail; but it’s not hard. Not really. The thing I hate about it, is the way I feel about it. I don’t know how to not be so close to tears and to not feel insufficient and to not be miserable. I keep hoping that every time I go, I will learn some new way to not feel quite so bad.
That’s just Masters. Swim meets are worse.
So when this swim meet came along, I already knew I was in for feelings and upsets and failures. I didn’t know how it would go. I didn’t know how I would do. But I knew, somehow, in my head… it wouldn’t be good enough. (I actively hope that there is a remedy for this.)
Anyway, in the real world where there are real troubles and fights and things to overcome, a dear friend of mine was back in the hospital. As I prayed for him and considered his life, I felt Holy Spirit telling me to dedicate the swim meet to him. Of course, I thought that was weird. A swim meet? It’s not really glorious or exciting or anything… really… Dedicate a swim meet?
But I took the words to heart and purposed that I would.
Tuesday, I did my run through of the things I was going to do for the meet. I was REALLY tired and grumpy and I didn’t want to do it and I didn’t want to swim and my pool was closed and I had to go to a different pool… but all I kept thinking, as the reasons piled up against it, was that I couldn’t let him down. This wasn’t my swim meet anymore. It was his. And I had to do my best for him.
When I was swimming and getting tired, I would hear, “He doesn’t get tired.” And I would push myself through the tired, because it was true. He was fighting something he had such little control over and with such strength and endurance and character. It was astounding. I determined that I would do as he did.
When my stroke was suffering and losing its integrity, I would hear, “He doesn’t lose his integrity.” And I would pay better attention to my technique, because it was true. No matter what he does, this young man never tires of being excellent.
When I was in the long stretch and starting to feel sick from exertion and I was sweating, I would hear, “He doesn’t let anything stop him.” And I kicked harder and I made my arms turn over faster and I determined not to let anything, anything stop me. Because it was true. Nothing, nothing had ever stopped him from being just exactly who he was meant to be.
When Saturday came, I was all set up for failure. My goggles broke. My bodywash had spilled and saturated my swimsuit with a very strong perfume. I had butterflies in my stomach the size of herons. And I had expected some people to come cheer for me who were unable to come. I found myself looking up at the bleachers from time to time, hoping for a familiar face. When these things began to crumble my fragile emotional state; I began to think, again, that I hate swim meets.
Sharply, in the back of my mind, I heard, “This is not yours to hate.”
And immediately I remembered that young man in the hospital and how if anybody should hate anything, it could be him there. But he didn’t let anything stop him and never lost integrity and never, ever gets tired…
So I did what he would do. And I kept him in my heart throughout all of my events. I did my personal best in all of them, something I knew he would be proud of. I talked to and encouraged other swimmers, something I knew that he would do if this were his swim meet.
And when I swam, I told myself what I always tell myself, “I can do this.” And I spoke it to him, too. Whatever fight he was fighting, whatever journey he was on… he can do this. He can.
When I hit the “wall” at one point and my arms and legs were just exhausted, I took mental stock. Arms couldn’t keep turning as fast. Legs couldn’t keep kicking as fast. Needed more air. Ugh. I searched myself frantically, still only halfway through the swim, “What do I have left?”
“You have him.”
And he was all the energy I needed to keep swimming as fast and as far and as long as I needed to to beat all of my times for everything. A marvellous, exquisite, beautiful job well done.
That young man, in that hospital bed so far from that pool; his life meant so much to me that day. He was inspirational. His battle was real. His endurance was life to me in an otherwise irritating situation. What a great thing, that we never have to be alone in anything we do, knowing that our lives speak to others and give them the strength to carry on. His life made a way for me and I hope that this story makes a way for you.
I probably got more out of his dedication than he did…