It was May when I wrote about my dreams of swimming, how they seemed to be brief escapes from life, the beauty and the self-soothing nature of them. But in looking back, that piece was also about confidence, the notion of being free and confident in that freedom.
I am not a swimmer, so it is odd that I found comfort in that. But at the same time, I am one who loves water and is equally mystified and terrified by it. Water is healing, and it forces me to swallow. And swimming, though I could and can do it, becomes a task I need to undertake and face. Still, I’m okay with not owning it fully.
This summer, as a week of swimming in a friend’s pool presented itself, I ordered a life vest for O and a back buoyancy belt for R. It seemed like the only option to give the kids and me the confidence we needed. My purchase also worked as a surprising force to heed my therapist’s words.. Her message that week was clear: I need to be confident in swimming too, not avoid it, because I know the basics all together.
Where the hell does swimming and politics align? Last night as I watched the Democratic National Convention, I thought a lot about avoidance and lack of listening, and maybe even, some talking. I thought about the way I refuse to normalize our current president in our home, by all but ignoring him–though I still acknowledge the pain he inflicts. My lack of confidence in this particular government leaves no room for facing it. It feels like the ocean a bit, its waters too rough and inconsistent, like they could swallow me whole. Its bottom way too deep, a place I know my feet would never land. Unlike the water, the government provides me no healing and no freedom in the midst of my fear, just a mass of everything wrong and diabolical.
Last night, when numbers of people and deaths were materialized, including some of those who believed in the current president and who perished because of their belief in him, I stood face-to-face against that infinite ocean. The things I knew to be true and spent four years trying to fight, while also avoiding, were now staring me eye-to-eye.
As a progressive, Bernie Sanders’ speech provided salve: “We have a president who is leading us down the path of authoritarianism. This election is the most important in the modern history of this country. My friends, thank you for the support, and the love, you’ve shown Jane, me and our family. Together, we have moved this country in a bold new direction. Showing that all of us yearn for a nation based on the principles of justice, love and compassion….at it’s most basic, this election is about preserving our democracy.” And Michelle Obama provided the power, as quoted by Hilton Als, “Mrs. Obama became the relative–mother, aunt, wise cousin or hard-working sister—who stands by your bureau when you can’t go on, can’t get out of bed, can’t get the assignment done and says, you can because you have to. Among other things her speech was wonderfully visual. Packing that brown paper lunch. Yes. Gathering your kids with no money. Yes. She saw us because she’s been us…”
Politics isn’t like swimming, but today, when reeling from last night’s words, and faintly remembering the salty tears on my lip, I thought about how what I personally needed to do was much the same. . Why yes, a life jacket and buoyancy belt for the kids will surely help them stay alive. But not going in, not packing that lunch, not standing in that line, and not believing that this is so damn important to everyone, like Bernie also beautifully pointed out, doesn’t build anything in the long run. Surely, not confidence.. So I’m going in. Head first. I want to make sure you are too. Everyone depends on it.
Another thing about swimming, which I sometimes forget, is that there are so many of us who have needed to learn the same strokes. . It can feel like it’s just you, when you’re on the edge considering qualifiers. But this morning, as the kids and I descended into the park, we were met with Michelle Obama’s speech on loop, blaring through a bull-horn by some quiet person in the corner. Soon after, Stevie Wonder started to bellow out,
Love’s in need
Of love today
Just give the world love.
And so we love, we give, and we swim.
(Photo by Gordon Parks)