Tuesday, March 16, 2010

And Chlorine Became My Perfume

They say the plunge into unknown depths is like love. It will bruise you if shallow or its depth will give you the most wonderful dive of your life.

After the initial screams of panic, muscle stiffness, being nearly blinded by the chlorine and awkwardness of being in a bathing suit died down (which nearly took a month), the swimming pool stopped being a thing of terror. I never thought myself to be hydrophobic until I was pushed into the a four feet deep pool and thought I was going to drown. I never knew how self-conscious I was of my body image until my first awkward walk out of the changing rooms for my swimming lesson. I never knew how my initial fear and pre-conceived notions held me back from trying out new things until I took my first dive after two weeks of climbing up and down the diving board.

My decision to take up swimming last year was one of the best lifestyle changes I ever made. During my childhood I swam in the pond (yes, a pond, not a fancy pool) at our home, especially during the summer holidays but it wasn’t too deep and it was more frolicking in the water than learning how to swim. Moreover, I was no longer pleasantly plump and bordered on being  obese. Swimming seemed the perfect solution to lose the extra flab and cross off one item from my 'things to do before I’m 30' list. I browsed through nearly a dozen shops in search of a modest swimsuit and also the swimming cap and the goggles (which never failed to fog up). And the next day I was at the pool.

I took it up for fitness. A heightened sense of self-awareness, a calm mind and losing my fear of tackling the unknown were added bonuses. I still haven’t lost the flab entirely and at times the prospect of sleeping late seems more inviting than a frighteningly early morning swimming lesson but this is one activity which I will try to pursue as often as I can.

It’s a pain waking up at five in the morning for exercise and I pack my bag and head out to the pool half-asleep. But the moment I’m in the water relishing the slight shiver, breathing in the crisp morning air and floating in the crystal clear water, I’m home.

After a few laps I feel my body become lighter, the breathing regular and enjoying the the silky touch of the water on my skin. I don’t compete and rarely keeping tabs on the time taken to make a lap. I swim at my own pace. And within minutes I am not aware of the movement of my limbs. Just like breathing, barely perceiving. The mechanical strokes become almost meditative and my mind is free to ponder on my thoughts, often gaining new perspectives. I take in the beauty of the early morning, soaking in the warm sunshine; feasting my eyes on the blue water; it’s a state of pleasing serenity.

Then there is the joy of people-watching too. The pool is the meeting ground of a variety of people. There is the paranoid young girl flapping her arms since for more than a month at the shallowest end of the pool. There is also the “I-feel-I-am-God’s-gift-to-womankind-because-I-have-a-super-toned-butt” guy who strides leisurely around the pool looking very pleased at the beauty he exudes. The young lady of seventy who competes with her grandchildren, the professional swimmers hard on their training, the rowdy kids occasionally kicking me in the head in their enthusiasm to race each other, a giggling gang of fat funny females and few disturbingly attractive women who shine with the confidence that cellulite and stretch marks will never be a part of their lives, and lastly the instructors who have their own personal quirks; all these people are a part of my swimming experience.

I’m longing to go back into those blue waters after a prolonged break during the winter.

Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/73303415@N00/2817664242/

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Unrest Cure

I needed an “Unrest Cure”.

Saki (H.H.Munro) had mentioned it in one of his many delightful short stories. Stressed and harried individual retires to a relaxing environment, enjoy the sunshine, take a few long walks, laze around with some music or a book, spends some quality time with family and goes back to their usual hectic lives well-rested and with renewed vigour. That’s the “Rest Cure”. The exact opposite is the cure for those people who feel annoyed if the disturbing monotony of their lives gets altered, even the minute details. They find comfort in the predictability of what the day holds for them; they become mere spectators of the outside world and all the excitement it involves. It is such people who need an “unrest cure” to jolt them out of their routine and often complacent existence.

The past couple of years, I found myself getting more inclined towards leading a life planned to the last detail; soaking in the comforts of home and the known. I sought solace in the fact that I have my life planned to what I’d be doing five months and three days later (the answer: what I’m doing today!). I googled for articles on “How to wake up refreshed in the morning”! I had a hard time fighting Monday blues, and Tuesday blues, and you get the idea! I heard about, watched, felt awed and delighted in the spontaneity and excitement in the lives of those around me. But I was reluctant to disrupt my quiet existence. And I was just 23. It’s sad. But sometimes one gets addicted to the sort of days when nothing happens, and living life in a leisurely pace (which is highly over-rated!). It’s not so that I was seeking constant excitement or thrills. I just needed a break from this mind-set of seeking comfort in the familiar and the known.

I’ve started making small changes in the career front. I know I’m taking huge risks in terms of money, job security, and time in veering away from the expected (read secure) options. I admit I am scared. Not “what-was-I-thinking” scared, but “this-is-new-but-I-am-so-going-to-do-this” scared. Travelling, taking up new hobbies, learning a new language and meeting new people are small steps towards my “unrest cure”.

Two things had been of huge help in adopting these changes. The first is a healthier lifestyle (less mental and physical lethargy, more zest). Secondly, there should be perseverance and belief in following your passions without being bothered by those who ridicule your non-conformity.

I love this restlessness.

Photo Courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/67603667@N00/945757852/