Happy: A Quest for Life After Death

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Walden Pond


My friend Kristen invited me to swim across Walden Pond with a group of women the other day, so although the idea scared me a little, I went.

I was sure the water would be punishingly cold, and although I know how to swim, I have never particularly liked to swim, especially for exercise. I can run, I can ride a bike, I can row a boat, so why would I swim? But still, how hard could it be to swim a mile, from the beach to the other side of the pond and back?

Really, really hard.

I thought I knew how to swim, but it turns out I don't. Not really. Instead, I flopped around in the water, trying to synchronize my breathing with my strokes, getting water in my mouth, either trying to hold my breath for too long or taking breaths too often, causing me to start to hyperventilate and creating mini panic attacks. I tired easily and had to take breaks often, and ultimately, I didn't make it all the way across Walden Pond. I went the short way, taking the half mile version of the swim rather than the mile that most of the rest of the group did.

It was hard, but it was also wonderful. It was a warm fall day, the sky was beautiful, the water was clear and refreshing, and my friend swam next to me to encourage me and be on hand to save me from drowning if necessary. Occasionally I got my timing exactly right and felt like a real swimmer.

Like many things, my swim felt like a metaphor for my life. Although I am struggling and may not be able to go as far as I would like, the sky is beautiful, the water is not as cold as I thought it would be, and my friends are staying near me to encourage me and make sure I don't drown.