Walking round the waterfront I smile at the smooth sea tinted faintly pink by the sunset. Two shags are swimming in their separate rings of ripples. Each one dives, barely disturbing the water, and surfaces a long way away from the starting point, moving dive by dive towards the beach on the incoming tide. At the rocky edge a blue heron is pecking among the debris.
As I come up to the yacht club I eye the distance between the ramp and the buoy. Am I any closer to being able to swim it? Hard to tell.
What do I want from my swimming? Yes, the peace and focus of moving in the moment. But I also want to meet physical challenge 'one time before I die'. I want to defy the part of me that thinks 'I can't' before old age takes my strength and skill and shows me that I really can't.
I want to feel my body working strongly: muscle, rhythm and power.
I'm putting into swimming my longing for life, excitement, love, to be effective, to have meaning and purpose.
My coach says, 'You try too hard at everything.' That shocks me because it sounds as though he's saying 'give up'. The opposite of 'try hard' could be 'let go'. Paradoxically, meeting the challenge and feeling my strength must come through letting go. Not trying too hard could also mean not making so many things my responsibility. That sounds very freeing. Maybe I could let go.
Freud said all fear is the fear of death. As I grow older, I'm sharply aware of my own mortality, the importance of not wasting whatever time I have, a strong feeling of: 'What am I to do? What am I good for?'.
A client says, 'When I get to this point I have another child.' This of course is not always an option but it points to a solution.
"Perhaps the best cure for the fear of death is to reflect that life has a beginning as well as an end. There was a time when you were not: that gives us no concern. Why then should it trouble us that a time will come when we shall cease to be? To die is only to be as we were before we were born." -William Hazlitt, essayist (1778-1830)