I wake up in the morning and I hurt. I’m groggy and tired. I ache. I don’t want to get up because I don’t want to move at all. But I know I’m awake for the day. Enough sleep or not. And I know I have had enough sleep. I just need to get moving. That’s what they say isn’t it? Just get moving and you’ll feel better. Greet the day with a smile, they say. It’s gonna be a glorious day, they say. So I get up and I get my coffee. I take my insulin shot, and I take my pills, and I sit quietly waiting for the pain pills to take effect. I know it will happen. I will feel better. I just won’t feel enough better to make a difference. I struggle to not let myself dig another hole and crawl in it, again today. At 8:30 I decide to suit up and show up. Literally. I crawl into my swimming suit and pack up my towels and barbells. I’m then out of the house and at the swimming pool. My attitude is bad. I’m tired and I don’t feel good. I pack up my clothes and go out to the pool.
I start down the steps into the pool. I don’t know yet if it’s cold. My feet and legs are numb from diabetes. By the third step I know that the water is cold. I keep walking though. I’m used to this. I’ve been doing it every other day for more than three years. I start to jump up and down and march in place to warm myself up. Others are smiling at me because of my screwed up (but brave, I think) face. I smile back. I start to laugh a little. Everyone else has just gone through this experience of shivering too. They tell me I’ll be warm in a minute.
Dee, the instructor, starts her class. The beat of music is in the background. Softly for me because I can’t wear my hearing aids in the pool. I watch Dee. And I start to have fun, and to jump, and stretch and dance. I do laps, I pretend I’m a frog. Ribbit Ribbit. The aqua and navy blue and silvery lights from the water dance around me. The water splashes and bubbles. I am warm now. I splash the guy next to me, just for fun. He splashes me back. Just for fun. He wants to talk about politics but we don’t agree so we don’t talk about politics. We talk about our pets instead.
By now I am smiling with every molecule of my body. And most of the faces around me are smiling too. The ones not smiling are laughing out loud. The lady in baggy polyester, the lady with the thinning hair, the lady with the walker, she’s now a water nymph. The white haired women in the shallow end, the ones with the saggy upper arms and baggy chins. They are rocking the five pound barbells over their heads. Looks of concentration and satisfaction on their faces. Their grandkids aren’t going to get the best of them yet.
The speakers blast a Latin beat. The swimmers begin to dance. More laughter at that. We boomers, yes, we know how to dance to a beat. We were young once. And we aren’t going out without a fight. Our old bodies, to our amazement, react to exercise like they always have, getting stronger. Maybe not as pretty as we once were but still strong. And still beautiful in our own ways. We envy the beautiful lifeguards but we wouldn’t trade with them.
Now we are doing sit ups to keep our core strength. We don’t like this part much. We bitch about it, but still, we do it. Maybe a hundred sits ups in the water. Maybe it just seems like a hundred sit ups. We push ourselves up at the side of the pool to strengthen our arms and backs and shoulders. We don’t like this one either, but we do that too. Muttering under our breath, looking at the clock. Why yes, we are still enjoying ourselves, having fun and feeling young. Stretching out at the end, feeling the snap, crackle and pop in our backs.
We reward ourselves with a soak in the hot tub, and a lot of meaningful and intense conversation because good health means good friends. We know that we have just bought ourselves another day of freedom from old age. We put that old bitch, aging, back in her box one more time. I win today.