This is Lane Searle.
At least that's what they call me at the Y. My handwriting is horrid. I take after my dad.
I haven't joined a gym in a really long time because that's one of the perks from working at one; you get to work out at one too!
When I left my favorite gym of all time, Easton in Hollywood, I left my membership. I was left to my own devices to work out.
Clever, I am, but I like the structure and motivation that a gym offers.
I wanted to join the Y in Santa Monica but even the Y was expensive. It had a pool and I longed for stretches of lanes, weightless movement, strong and steady.
Alas, I couldn't afford it.
My favorite neighbor, Jet, introduced me to 'how to get things as inexpensively as possible in Santa Monica". She knows everything. Might be because she used to work at the Huntley Hotel right here on Second Street and information jets around quick. Pun intended. I'm so glad she did because I was able to apply for low-income membership to the beautiful Y on 6th Street in Santa Monica. The place is incredible, beautiful, and clean and has everything a yogi, work out a holic could ever want.
Mostly, it has a pool.
And the people are ridiculously nice.
Today was my first day and I really only set out to get the drift of the place, know where everything is etc.
They processed my application via my horrid handwriting. Lane Searle.
I like that, very much. I think I might actually change my name to that. Laurie Searle. Say it. Sounds like you swallowed some marbles.
I had to correct the woman as she was entering me in the computer because there is no one, not even a forensic expert that could decipher my writing.
I should be a doctor with that handwriting. But blood makes me queasy. So does school.
After my orientation and payment, I set out for the equipment room that over looks the pool. I went to the locker room and an elderly, overweight woman stopped me after I weighed myself. I thought she was going to tell me I needed to shed a few lbs. but alas, she said she had spent too much time in the steam room and her blood sugar was low and could I go to the vending machine and get her a juice. Of course, I told her. I also told her I had a little think thin bar in my locker. Eat that to tide you over and I'll be back.
After ten minutes at the vending machine, the dang thing wouldn't take her dollar. I don't carry much cash on me; otherwise I would have bought her a juice. I went back to the locker room. Orientation, payment, weigh in, sigh, buying juice, already cutting into my time here.
The woman said she felt fine after eating my protein bar and thank you for the effort. I returned her change and locked up my locker.
You are not swimming? She asked. Well, I don't know. It's my first time here and I just want to suss out the place first.
I only come here for swimming she said. It makes me feel beautiful and free. I do it everyday.
I loved that.
She thanked me, sweetheart and I hit the elliptical.
I watched below from the machine room as row after row of swimmers went back and forth. I listened to heart pumping music in my ears but looked below at the lanes clearing out.
Lane. I'm Lane!
What the fuck. I have all the time in the world today. I got off the machine, showered, strapped on my bathing cap and suit, none of which I have worn in the last five years. I walked down to the pool. Water is cold. I jumped in. A woman sliding towards the wall surfaced from the water.
I asked, how do you know what lane you are supposed to be in, slow, medium?
She said, just go to an empty lane, if someone comes, you split the lane. If a third person comes, you circle the whole lane.
Thanks for the tips, I exclaimed, and I was on my way.
I spit into my goggles, a little trick I learned from swim team. Yes, I was on swim team, for like a day. Mostly because my dad was on swim team and I loved the water and swimming so much that I had to join and be daddy’s girl when I could among three girls vying for that position in the family.
I didn't realize back then how much I hated competition with others, it was me that was the fiercest competition out there and I'm tough.
I was off. I counted three back and forth laps in no time flat before I needed a little rest...breast stroke to my freestyle. Good lord, this is harder than I thought. This from someone who runs 6 miles in the time it takes to get a manicure.
Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming...I thought, from Finding Nemo.
So I did. For a half an hour, I just kept going back and forth adding a breaststroke when I needed a rest. I swam a measly 30 laps. I don't know. Maybe that's not measly. I felt strong in muscles I forgot about.
I don't know why I was so nervous to come to the pool. It's been a long time since I was the fat kid and I might be carrying a few extra pounds right now, but there is no need for me to not feel as free or beautiful.
I moved the water but I allowed the water to move me. I felt the strength and power but also felt the effortlessness the lack of gravity affords in water.
I backstroked once to look up at the flags. The last set of flags mean the end is near, the wall.
I remembered when I was young and you couldn't get me out of the water.
Especially my mother, who couldn't swim. My dad would have to come into the pool or ocean to get me out. I guess I get that from him. I love the smell of chlorine and the dryness I feel on my skin. I like the mark the goggles and swim cap makes on my face, especially now that I'm older, those marks last longer than just the trip to the locker room. They last my trip home and to Whole Foods, where the check out guy looks at me funny but that's ok.
I just remember being young.
After my swim, I felt that same familiar feeling after swim practice at the butt crack of Buddha every morning when I was in high school. It was a feeling of peace. Something about the deep breath in, hold and let it out. Something about the water.
Something in the water?
I went back to the equipment room to finish my work out up there.
I have to get rid of these mystery pounds that have accrued somewhere between a glass of wine and a cookie betwixt my ridiculous diet of smoothies, salads and lean protein.
They closed off three of the lanes for the kids swim lessons.
I watched from above as a dozen kids from 8-10 years of age, lined up to dive off the platform and swim the stroke of choice.
Some of them looked like they were ready to go on a roller coaster ride. Some of them looked just like me when I was ten, fat and terrified that just those 10 inches above the edge of the pool would make all the difference in the world between comfort and fear.
I was on the swim team and could swim pretty fast for a fatty, but could never dive off the little platform. It's not very high. It's not a diving board. I remember my dad taking me to the local YMCA and teaching me how to dive off the platform into the stroke.
I remember being at the Y for hours, probably only minutes, but for a kid, it felt like hours, being on the platform and staring at the water. Once I was in, all was well, look out! But the letting myself go into it, that was the terror.
I stared and stared and stared. My dad cheered me on from the bleachers. Maybe he was frustrated. I would be. But he never let me see it. Once I did it, he was proud and I felt like it was nothing. What's next, I thought.
I did my first meet at Columbia University in NYC and that was it. I took a place in my least favorite stroke, the butterfly and I was done. I told my dad that I loved to swim but that I didn't want to do it for competition. There was no questioning. It was ok.
Not much has changed since that time. I often joy in the fear of the first time and that's enough for me. I also have problems letting go into freedom. Challenge is my comfort zone. Letting myself go to the challenge, that's another thing.
If you can be in union with your experience, the challenge of it and the letting go, you are doing yoga.
You are doing yoga if you can dive off the platform into a perfect stroke.
Getting caught up in the fear will only leave you stagnant.
Getting caught up in the action will only leave you stagnant.
It's the merging of the two that is the blissful art of yoga.
I watched the kids below, one after the other dive off the platform, stroke there way to the end then start again. It was a flow that made me smile as I burned calories on the elliptical. The one little girl who was unsure, was cheered on by her little mates and at the end of the rotation, she did it. She dove off the platform and, I didn't time it, but I think she swam faster than any of the littler, skinnier things.
I was up there on my elliptical watching it all and when she dove in, I leapt a little and cheered a little. I don't know if anyone noticed. I don't really care.
Last Tuesday I was at Disneyland, remembering my life as a child.
This Tuesday, I'm at the Y doing the same thing.
I never want to lose that. I never want to leave that. I had it tough as an awkward kid, but I wouldn't trade it for anything.
As an adult, I can see kids now and understand that it doesn't matter what age you are; you can feel awkward and unsure.
I'm in my thirties and still felt nervous to go into the pool. It never goes away.
But I wouldn't have it any other way.
If I lose my 'inner child' I lose it all. My inner child didn't have long flaxen hair and lithe limbs. She was a little chub with a lot of energy. I'm not a little chub but I love that little chub and nurture all of her little insecurities when they come up as an adult.
I also appreciate that there are always people rooting you on to do well. Always. My dad was one of them. Is one of them. I wanted to call him after I left the Y and tell him that I swam, that I wrote like him on my application and that we are more alike than I thought.
He's lost a little in Cancerland, so conversations are sparse.
But it's ok.
That little girl down on the platform didn't know that I was there either, but I was rooting her on like I had money on her success.
You don't need someone right there with you to feel the existence of their encouragement.
If we are lucky, we have it with us with whatever we do.
Today my yoga was the Y.
Today was my Disneyland was the Y.
Today, I was a kid again.
But today, I wasn't afraid.