For a long time, when things were going really badly with my oldest daughter--when her mental illness threatened to rip our whole family apart; my chief therapy was going to the YMCA. Sometimes I swam and sometimes I did yoga. When I swam, I swam competitively and aggressively; my bullet-like passage through the water helping to drain away the sorrow and fury. When I did yoga, I chose the toughest class and the most demanding teacher; drawing strength from the act of pushing myself to my limit within exorbitantly difficult poses.
After some time, my daughter began improving and I stopped craving the cleansing power of physical challenge. The yoga teacher left for a different venue and I ratcheted down my practice. And when I swam, I spent a lot of time just floating around in the water.
And then one day as I entered the gentle yoga class, I saw that my former teacher had returned as a “sub.” I almost walked out, but figured: “Oh well, maybe I can still manage this.”
I couldn’t. The very sound of her voice hurled me backward into a visceral memory of that terrible time. After a few minutes, I actually began to shake. I felt helpless, enraged, lost. I rushed out of the class and headed to the locker room to change for the pool, thinking to lose myself in the peace of a few calming laps.
When I arrived, there were only a few people in the water: some older women and one older man "Fred" who flirted shamelessly with me whenever we found ourselves swimming at the same time. I unwrapped myself from my towel, went to hang it up and was heading toward the pool edge when the lifeguard stopped me: “Lady, what on earth are you doing?”
I looked down. In the throes of my remembered grief and fear, I’d managed to put on my goggles and cap but forgotten to put on my bathing suit!
Help! What to do? I could go straight home and never show my face (or anything else) at the pool again or I could go back upstairs, don my suit and swim out to my friends.
I chose the latter course.
“Good heavens, Susan,” said one of the ladies as I reached her side. “I thought you were one of those scandalous French girls!”
“My dear,” said Fred. “I don’t know what to say. Except that it was a beautiful sight.”
I burst out laughing, did my laps, and moved on. We heal.
Susan W. Leicher grew up in the Bronx in a bi-cultural (Latina and Jewish) home. She moved to Manhattan after finishing graduate school with a Masters’ degree in Public Policy and raised her family on the Upper West Side, where she still lives with her husband and two black cats. For the past forty years, she has devoted herself to conducting research and producing policy reports and marketing materials for non-profits, federations, government agencies, and foundations. She has just published her first novel, Acts of Assumption. Susan blogs at https://swleicher.com.