Lane 6


When Dad died, I asked Curt to promise me that he would not let me skip any swims. I am fortunate that we swim together. Before the crack of dawn. I am also fortunate that he’s my speed. I knew that it would be critical that movement be part of my healing. Dad and I had talked about this many times, not knowing how important this would become.

Grief wants you to stay in bed, pull the covers over your head and retreat. It’s easy to do and if that is what you need to do, you do it. I needed to move. I needed to swim. I knew that being immersed in water would give me the feeling I needed to start moving forward through this unimaginable time. 

There is something about the sensation of the water, being covered, or supported, or the sound of water. There is just something.

We swim in lane 6, next to the wall, circle swimming so it just works. I used to hate lane 6. Growing up a swimmer I was used to lanes 2,3,4. In meets you swim in the middle lanes if you’re faster.

Dad told me once “You should ask to swim in lane 6 even if you don’t belong there. That’s where the underdogs swim. You are the best underdog there is.”

It’s true. I have always been an underdog. I still am. I absolutely love that role. You are off the radar and can silently slice your way through to the front. You worry about no one. Just your process. 

So I became a lane 6’er whenever I could. 

Curt has never let me skip a swim. He never had to prod me, or get me out of bed. There were many days I sat at the edge of the bed and used all my strength to stand up. Once I pushed off that wall I was ok. I just had to get to that point. After my first stroke swimming took care of itself. The rhythm, the reaching, it brought me down this road of grief. 

I have cried a million times in my goggles. I have swam hard, slicing through the water with pain, anger, sadness, the water never fought me back. It has been a safe place to let it all out. So many times in the pool, on the bike, in a race I have asked myself “Does this hurt worse than grief?” and the answer has been an emphatic NO. 

Then suddenly I have found more within me. I have realized through these months of grief training that the well goes deeper, and I thought it was dry. There was this limit and I am realizing there is room on the other side of this imaginary line.

I am seeing some of my best swims and bikes in many years (my running is coming along post injury as well). 

As I keep saying, this grief journey has been tremendously painful and beautiful. I have found connection with others that has been profound. I have found within myself, strength that I never knew existed, or was afraid to look for. 

I don’t think there is anything I am afraid of right now. I have hurt the deepest I can hurt (for now). I have gone to an edge I didn’t know I could come back from. In the beginning of my marriage, I warned Curt that the day my Dad died I would shatter into a million pieces. And I didn’t know if I would ever be able to come back from that.

Surprisingly, or maybe not surprisingly I am coming back. I am fractured in so many places, yet I am glued together. Those fault lines are where new strength lives and breathes. I didn’t know I could rise from this. I didn’t know I could come back from this. I had no idea where I would get the strength.

I am learning that everything I needed has been inside of me all along. It took leaning on others and reaching deep within myself to bring it to the surface. 

I am still that underdog. I was off my own radar, in lane 6. I am starting to make that strong unexpected surge that makes me ask “Where did she come from?”. 

And then I hear the answer Dad would give. “She’s been here all along.” 

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