Swimming has been good to me, too, though the only metal I've ever acquired are the fillings in my teeth.
I took up swimming as a boy because I had asthma, the kind that required me to sleep next to a steam machine every night. My pediatrician suggested I take up swimming. He believed swimming for exercise would help make my respiratory system stronger, among other benefits.
|L to R: Julia, Mimi, me.|
As discouraging as my swimming competitions were, something miraculous began to happen. Though I still hear a wheeze now and then, my asthma soon become a relic of my childhood.
Surprisingly, I didn't continue to swim as a teenager, young adult, or even a middle-aged adult. Maybe swimming was a painful reminder of my childhood. Certainly it wasn't as convenient for exercise as going for a run/powerwalk in my neighborhood. In San Francisco, there aren't any lap-swim pools near us.
Fast forward to nine years ago. One of my closest friends, Mark Kelly, had just died from a long battle with cancer. I'd grown discouraged with a novel I'd been writing for four years and had decided to abandon it. And my hands and arms were constantly aching from all the computer typing I did for work. The situation had grown so bad, I wondered how else I might make a living? Writing as a profession and for a creative outlet was all I knew or wanted to know; without it, a part of me would have died.
I started seeing an amazing massage therapist, Scott Schwartz, who now runs Psoas Massage + Bodywork in San Francisco. Through multiple visits a week for months, Scott saved my hands. Once I was over the hump, he suggested I take up swimming to rebuild my strength and help prevent me from having future hand problems.
Back into the pool I dove. I'm still swimming regularly today, and I can't imagine giving it up again. There's no external stimulation to distract me when I'm swimming laps in a pool. It's just me, the water, and during the summer, the sun. My mind is free to drift, scheme, dream, and problem-solve. I once came up with a poem while swimming, and I never write poetry.
As we get deeper into the London 2012 Olympics, I'm reminded that there's a big difference between an award, like an Olympic medal, and a reward. I may not have won a single swimming competition award higher than the "Nice Try" citation, but oh, how I have been rewarded.