in Letters, swimming diaries

Weird Day at the Pool

Dear Jessie,

Getting into the water was weird today. I was going to tweet this morning, When not swimming for four days makes your hair worse—I woke up feeling my hair was icky. I never thought I would get used to swimming every day to the extent that I actually look forward to practice every day. But that’s me, right? Won’t do it if it doesn’t give me pleasure, even on a perverse level.

But getting into the water today was weird. For no reason at all, throughout the warm-up and half of the main set, I felt like I would burst into tears any second, like my face just wanted to grimace and my body just wanted to cry. It was a new sensation, one that was completely devoid of meaning when it hit. So I said screw it. So what, if I don’t try today?

After the first couple hundred yards, the sensation crystalized: it was the feeling of not being able to feel my body. I couldn’t tell if I was swimming faster or slower than usual. My muscles didn’t hurt. My body just moved. There was something completely detached from the mechanism.

(The misleading, Cartesian question would be, does feeling belong to the body or the mind?)

It is really hard to tell whether you are swimming fast enough when you can’t feel the pain. Pain is a gauge. Pain either increases or disappears. Pain tells you about what you have done, what you are doing, and what needs to be done differently. Pain is the way you learn about your body and the way you learn to manipulate your body. Not being able to feel anything put me at loss: the way I would rather an aggressive lover than an indifferent one.

But then the paradox and the cruel thing about swimming is that the clock ticks the way it ticks regardless of pain. Feeling like your muscles are burning from a giant paper cut doesn’t mean that you are going fast (though more often than not, you probably are); the feeling of gliding through water doesn’t mean that you are swimming the equivalent of flying; the sluggishness after a longer-than-usual warm-up before a meet doesn’t mean that you will end up with a slow time in the race.

During dinner, my brother and I talked on the phone and I vented about my frustration during today’s practice. It turned out he also felt the same weirdness.

Jaime

P.S. The hats came today! I wish I had enough cash on me that day and got you a hat! I feel like a dwarf can live in it.