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  • Writer's pictureeschaden


I loved to swim as a kid.  Like you couldn’t keep me out of the water.  I didn’t care if it was a bath, a puddle, an ocean, stream, lake, or pond.  If there was water, I was in it.  I learned to swim early in life and became proficient at it. Not like crafted swimming, I loathed swim team.  I was more of a jump in and swim about as I pleased kind of person.

And swimming has become a good metaphor for my life...I am still a jumper inner.  I do not typically spend a great deal of time looking before I leap.  I just jump in and then I am in it.  I do it with pretty much, men, dating, hiking, living.  I am still the little girl who is so excited for life and all it offers that I would rather leap into the drink (no pun intended) and ask questions later.  

And by some people’s standards...I have caused myself a great deal of heartbreak and anguish.  For me, not so much, every consequence I have had, I saw coming to some degree.  I mean I didn’t see getting sober, but that was only because I was too fucked up to see much of anything coming.  Had I been sober enough to notice, I would have seen the signs...there were many as it turns out.

At middle life, I can say without reservation, I have had a good one.   A life filled with love, excitement, enough danger to make me feel like I am braver than I actually am, fun, challenge, and plenty of escapades.  I regret almost nothing.  And the only things I really regret is hurting others and not valuing myself more so that I did not hurt myself repeatedly.  But I know that there was no way I would arrive at this place where I am right now had it not been for all the stupid shit I did to get here.

In general, I love my life.  I love who I am most of the time.  I see the things I have to work on, I see the work I am willing to do, and the work that I would prefer to be someone else’s.  I am a risk taker, independent and am well known for throwing caution to the wind and proceeding without caution, even when caution is completely and totally warranted.  And I have come to see that I like this about myself.  I am still willing to see what fuels this recklessness but I am going to embrace it until I can see and feel it differently.

And so upon review, I believe that I have spent time well.  I have definitely put myself in harm’s way, repeatedly.  And I have been lucky enough to survive my own stupidity, also repeatedly.  And I can see that I have moved through this life, imperfectly, badly at times but I have learned.  Man, fuck, how I have learned.  

Now I am sure there are people who think I should have learned better, earlier and more quickly.  But I am telling you right now, I couldn’t. This life right here that I have is the result of all my best efforts.  Sincerely, truly and absolutely.

One of the best things about middle age is that I feel freed from your expectations of me.  I do not have to do it your way anymore, I don’t even have to try.  I have lived enough life that I can own my success and my failure in equal measure.  And relish in all each have taught me.

What does this all have to do with swimming?

I have never forgotten how much I loved to swim.  Not once.  I have always been willing to jump in again even though the depth uncertain and the peril unknown.  I have moved through years treading water so much that my legs felt like rubber and standing was hard.  I have gone under water with no real plan to surface innumerable times.

But here I am.  Still here, still doing this deal and I have never, ever forgotten how much I loved to swim.  I have spent some time worrying about how I might look in a swimsuit, or getting my hair wet because I have somewhere else to be later.  I have missed out on opportunities to swim because of my concern with other things, mostly things that were not important in the long run.

And I have learned, that life is always about the long run, even when the short run is the only thing that seems important at the time.

So today, when I wake up without a hangover, knowing where my car is, don’t have someone that I barely know in bed next to me, clear headed and content, ready to have a lovely day, I am thankful.  29 years ago I did not wake up like this on this day. 

As I recall, I woke up in a motel room with like seven Army Rangers, one of whom was my boyfriend, another one was my ex-boyfriend and we were all absolutely annihilated from the night before.  And I remember everything being stained green from all the green beer we were drinking the night before.  My hands were green, I had green shit all over my clothes.  And I remember waking up, stumbling across the motel room floor, attempting not step on the bodies that lay where they fell on my way to the bathroom, and I remember seeing myself, really, truly seeing myself in that shitty motel mirror with the very bad lighting.

I had forgotten how to swim.  I had been treading water for so long that I had completely totally and absolutely forgotten that I loved to swim.   I was drowning and swimming was no longer fun.  It was survival every single day and it had ceased being fun many years earlier.  I had just lost sight of shore so treading water and going under were my only reality at that time.

I didn’t know that I would be getting sober in a few days.  I didn’t know that I would go under for the last time, then pull myself out of the perilous water and attempt to dry myself out.  I didn’t know.  And I suppose, I am grateful I didn’t know then what I know now.  I think had I known I would have just jumped back in and allowed the water to drown me good.  

But all I knew that fateful morning in that dingy motel bathroom was that I wanted more from my life, I wanted to swim without the constant threat of drowning.  I wanted a life that felt so far beyond my reach in that moment.  And some part of me, some distant, alcohol soaked part of me, knew that I loved to swim and that I would find calmer, more peaceful waters instead of the choppy, perilous seas of my current horizon.  And I did.   A mere five days later.  I would begin a path that reminded me every single day how very much I loved to swim...and give me a life vest that ensured my safety in those times where the water blackens and threatens.

I am grateful today for that horrible awakening on this day 29 years ago.  The pounding head, the Sahara mouth, the violent wretching from acute alcohol poisoning.  The hazy recollection of the night before, the day before and my inability to sort it all through.  In that dim and filthy motel room, I remember how much I loved to swim and began, even though I didn’t know it, to swim toward salvation’s shore.

29 years is a long fucking time to be swimming, but I still fucking love it.  And am grateful that I get to be here, swimming, treading and keeping my head above water, one mother fucking day at a time...again. 


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