November 2, 2006

my moment

I've never been an alcoholic, and I've never been to an AA meeting. But I have heard often of the moment of clarity that can occur through the fog of alcoholism, a moment that allows you to visualize the path to recovery.
I had a moment of clarity this morning about 800 yards into my swim.

I realized that to swim well, you must have good form.

Now that sounds pretty damn simple, but the more I thought about it the more layers of understanding I was able to peel off the complexities of my life. I suddenly understood why, or at least one of the reasons why, my relationships haven't worked even though I felt like I was trying so damn hard to make them work.
I always have valued endurance. And I always have thought that if you endure, you will conquer. This concept has been ingrained into me since early childhood. If you just read the vocabulary list enough times, you will be able to remember the words for the test. If you go to the weightroom more than your teammates, you eventually will press more than they can. If you start early and put a little money away for a long time, you will retire wealthy. If you can tolerate 4 years of college then 4 more years of med school and then another 4 years of residency then you can be an emergency physician. Endurance led to success.
And what better sport for someone, in whom the concept of endurance leads to success is ingrained, then triathlon?
It all started to fall apart when I realized that for me there was not a direct relationship between time spent in pool and either performance during race or perception of improvement. This troubled me. The bike was easy - ride a long time and you will be able to ride a long time. Run a lot, and you will be able to run a lot. At least that is what I always thought. My mediocre-at-best results I attributed to lack of natural talent.
So I started talking to some friends who were swimmers, and even had a pool session with a friend who was a several time NCAA All American and former NCAA national champion swimmer. She told me some things I was doing wrong, and I tried to correct them. But I still thought that if I just swam enough, I eventually would learn to swim efficiently. Extra work surely would equal better performance. It didn't.
Finally I turned to my favorite resources, Google and youtube. On youtube I studied Ian Thorpe's stroke. On google I sought out and found tons of comprehensive info on proper form, on drills to develop muscle memory and form.

I learned to prolong my stroke.
I learned that my swim golf score was very close to my embarrasing too-high-to-count real golf score.
I learned to use my forearm and not just my hand during the catch and pull.
I learned to rotate my body along its horizontal axis.
I still haven't learned how to breathe, but I guess I haven't drowned yet (that will have to be the next research topic)...
The last few weeks I have started to apply these concepts; and, like any new athletic movements, these too have felt amazingly awkward.
Until today...
Today I didn't think about swimming downhill - it was just happening. I didn't think about entering the water elbow high - it was just happening. I didn't think about extending my lead hand before I pulled - it was just happening.

And then my moment...

Endurance alone doesn't always work. If you seek to have success and happiness at your destination, you have to have proper mechanics and good form during your journey.

I used to tell myself (and others) that I never thought I would get divorced because "I am committed to being committed." Endurance. No matter what, I will stick with it and that dedication will make it work.

A relationship is intricately effected by an infinite number of variables. You can't read a book and make a relationship work. You can't do a google search and make a relationship work. You can't youtube a video about a loving couple and expect your relationship to be great. It just ain't that simple...

For a relationship to work, it takes both persons being dedicated to and constantly striving to achieve perfect form.

Perfect mechanics.

One person can't make it work. And sticking with it just to stick with it won't make it work. It takes constant and mutual attention, constant and mutual research, constant and mutual flexibility, constant and mutual understanding, constant and mutual sacrifice, constant and mutual work.

Thank god learning proper swimming form isn't as difficult as making a relationship work. If it were, I wouldn't stand a chance.

But we live, and we learn. And we love, and we learn. And those we love, we sometimes lose. It isn't always our fault, although it frequently seems that way.

Relationships are complicated.

For me, today, I moved a step closer to someday maybe having a successful one...

1 comment:

Triteacher said...

Man, doesn't this sport speak to you on so many levels? Great post.