Tonight I went swimming after work for the first time in about 4 months. I am feeling so much better, so much more like myself, and so in spite of a 7 am meeting and solid work til just before 5 pm, I showed up for swimming ready to go, excited to be back! I headed into the pool, right at the point when it empties of children finishing swimming lessons and adults aren't all quite there for length swims. It is a crowded pool - I think I have written before about the "swim or be swum over" mantra. So I try and get in a quickly as possible and get out before the crowds come.
Today I started and swam two lengths, with virtually no one else in the pool. As I finished this first set of lengths, a man sitting on the edge of my lane, motioned for me to come over. He proceeded to tell me that first, I wasn't swimming the circuit properly ("during the day we ____, but at night we do it this way"). So I thanked him, and then he proceeded to look at me and then at the lane beside me.
"Am I in the wrong lane?" I asked. "If you plan to swim at that speed you are!" he said...apparently I was too slow for his lane also!! So, very sheepishly, I moved over to the other lane, where another gentleman looked on, and he also seemed quite embarrassed for me. I asked if I could just follow him so I got the routine right, he nodded and I did.
The most interesting part of this story to me, is what happened next. I spent the next two lengths ranting in my mind about "That guy" in the other lane - he was wearing flippers - of course he would go faster, didn't he realize I was a cancer survivor, out swimming after a full day of work - wasn't that good enough?!? On and on my mind raced. After two more lengths, I paused. Was this really how I wanted to spend the next half hour? What did I need to do to move forward and enjoy both the gift of my good health and this time for swimming...
And so I chose...happier, more grateful thoughts. Flipper guy was still swimming when I got out of the pool, and I had almost forgotten he was there!
This experience reminded me of one of my favourite quotes by Viktor Frankl:
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
The fact that he is writing about the power to choose our response is astounding when you consider that he wrote that from a Nazi concentration camp - where he was a Jewish psychiatrist and neurologist who survived the Holocaust. He is the author of an interesting book called, Man's Search for Meaning.
While I am in no way trying to compare switching lanes in a swimming pool with anything he experienced, I do think he makes a really important point: everyday I have choices about my responses. Knowing that there is space and that in that space we have the power to choose, is something I need to remember and practice.
As we get closer to the countdown on our return to Ontario, there are so many pieces daily that unfold in ways I can't control or can't imagine... I can get frustrated or anxious (which I do) ...or I can notice the small space between the stimulus and my response and make a choice. That space and that choice speaks to me of possibility, of hopefulness and of great swims in the weeks to come!