Wednesday, May 25, 2011

My Therapy, Or Why I Like To Swim

I can't be upstairs with my grandparents right now because they're watching Minute to Win It. I don't have anything against that show, but it makes me so nervous to watch people do ridiculous things like bounce pencils into cups or balance a slinky on their head. I just can't handle it. Don't ask me why, usually game shows don't have this adverse of an effect on me, but that's just how this is. (I'd much rather be watching Hour to Deflower, right Davo?) So here I am, in the basement, Sparlke, Sparkling it up for you all.

I've been swimming a lot lately and I've been thinking about why it is that I like this form of exercise so much. One, I hate to run, and this feels a little like the kinder, gentler cousin of running that doesn't make me want to scream in agony. Two, I like being in the water. I always have. As long as it's not frigid, I'm happy being in a pool or lake or ocean. It just feels nice, don't ask me why. And three, swimming is the best form of self-therapy I've ever discovered. Think about it. You can't really listen to an iPod in the pool (unless you get super fancy and buy a bunch of water-proof gear, but that's kind of ridiculous in my opinion). So there's a ton of time to think. Sometimes it's trivial thinking, but recently I've seen a lot of correlation between the act of moving through the water and just life in general. Bear with me here. Swimming can be broken down into three simple parts.

Pull. This would be the arms part, for those of you unfamiliar with the sport. This is where I do the most work, mostly because my legs get lazy, but I can be much more efficient when I really reach forward on each stroke. That's basically how life works, right? I don't think I need to tell you that if you put a little effort into whatever it is you're doing, it's easier to achieve those goals. I've been mood-swingy about my current job and life situation these days - feeling like I'm not really good at what I'm being asked to do at work, and not always enjoying it either. Maybe I'm not reaching far enough. Recently, Devin told me she doesn't want to see me settle simply because it's the easy thing to do. What a wise best friend I have. It's hard to pull yourself forward, but you kind of just have to do it to keep moving.

Kick. Obvious what this is about. Like I mentioned before, this is where I get lazy. It's really easy to let my arms do all the work and sort of drag along in the back. But that's exhausting, because then I have to deal with all of this dead weight that naturally wants to sink to the bottom of the pool. Hellooooo life metaphor! What happens when we don't actively work to slough off the negativity in our life? Yeah, it just tries to drown us. Whether it's tricky emotions, bad habits, or being tied down to the past, we have to kick these things if we want any chance of staying afloat. Get them off and away, and make sure they don't sneak back and grab hold again.

Breathe. This part is so rhythmic, you would think I'd forget it was happening. But this is the part that hurts the most. Not a consistent hurt, but when I'm tired, every breath is like fire in my lungs. And you can't just breathe however you want to, unless you want a nose full of water (which I don' will make me sneeze). Swimming forces me to breathe on a beat, a pulse, a 1-2-3-Breathe, 1-2-3-Breathe. Sometimes I don't think I'm going to make it past the 1-2, but I always do. I've never (yet) had to stop in the middle of the pool because I simply can't catch my breath. Even though it hurts and aches, I've realized I can go a lot further than I think. And such is life, no? Maintaining a sense of rhythm in life is good. It means we have something to push us along when we feel we're losing our grip. Just stick with your beat, whatever it is, and you'll probably be able to keep going even when it's rough.

So that's why I like to swim. Because I can find ways to cope with life and the curveballs it throws at me. Because it gives me some time to myself where I can reflect on the day or create my mental to-do list or whatever. And because when I'm finished, I come out totally clean. And that's a sparkly life-thought, too.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

One Year Out.

Well, today is graduation day for a lot of folks in the great town of Valparaiso, Indiana. It's a little hard to believe that I'm no longer among the most recent grads of Valpo. I definitely don't feel like too much more of an adult than I did after I walked across the stage. And yet, when I reflect upon the last year and everything I've done and experienced and felt... then it starts to seem impossible that it could have all happened in only 365 days. Just for kicks, let me take you through a couple of the highlights (and lowlights) of the first year of "real life." This will be fun, I promise.

-I got a job. And not a lifeguarding summer job, not a 2 hours a week job in the Christ College office (although that was a sweet gig, who knew stuffing envelopes could be so fun?) But a real, legitimate, I have to sign a contract to accept this job, job. Granted, I don't think it's what I'll be doing for the rest of my life, but that's neither here nor there. I get paid on a regular basis, woo!

-I started living with my grandparents. This is where I sort of feel like I regressed a little in the process of becoming an adult, but I didn't think I was going to be in Nebraska for more than 3 months...then I didn't think I was going to be in Nebraska past this see where this is going, no? But bottom line is that I'm fortunate to have family that will take me in from the rain and snow (a lot of it here, as much as Valpo? Hard to say.) and even make me dinner most days.

-I figured out how difficult it really is to get five girls together in the same town on the same days. Frankly, I'm amazed I got to meet up with my girlfriends from Valpo even twice this year. And though it's a little daunting to look forward to a whole year of logisitical planning to see people once in a blue moon, it's worth it when we finally reunite and the world spins properly on its axis once more.

-I went through the entire spectrum of possible emotions: joyous, sad, amused, bitter, excited, disappointed, surprised, tickled pink, numbed. You name it, I did it. Thankfully, I feel like I've reached a content, happy place (for the most part) and no longer am I tempted to climb to the top of my house and throw myself from it. Moral victory? I think so.

-Although not as thrilling as some of the more major events, I've learned a whole slew of completely specific art-related tasks that will most likely bear no practical importance to me in the future. But they're still fun to do, like making stained glass windows, or screenprinting or glazing ceramic tiles. I suppose you could call this "building my life resume?" Maybe. Still working on the language for all that.

OK, maybe that wasn't really that fun. But it's been an interesting year, and those are just the things that popped into my head during this brief look back. I can only imagine that the next year of my life will be just as surprising as the last, so I'm trying not to make as many unalterable plans as I did before. If anything, this year I've learned to go with the flow, because frankly, it's exhausting and quite pointless to swim against it. Things will happen or not happen, people will be there or not be there, you will move or not move. There's no way to know. But that's what makes it exciting, right? Or at least, that's what my dad is always telling me. So yeah, the first year as a real person is over.

Last thought, here. My friend Stephanie is an amazing singer and in one of her songs, she says, "Another year passes, I try to keep up. I wonder how it will all be beautiful." I think this everyday. I do wonder how my life will be beautiful, but I've learned that it could happen in a million different ways. I'll give you the update in another year, and we'll see where we're at. For now, congrats to all of you who are graduating. Keep your chins up if you can't see the future clearly, and keep your eyes open so you don't miss anything. Theoretically, it all comes together at some point. :)