Susquehanna Morning

Susquehanna Morning

Friday, June 3, 2016

Healing, By the Numbers

I returned to the pool this week, for the first time in a long time.

First time since having pneumonia.

First time since last summer, actually. I had to look at my calendar and check. It was true.

I am in the midst of a... what? A program, maybe? Of actions I am taking, very intentionally, to restore myself to health.

This is about more than having pneumonia.

I am walking, a little longer each morning. I am walking with my partner, S, and a dog we have sort of half-adopted, a beautiful blue-and-black Australian cattle dog who belongs to one of S's tenants. We walk a little longer each day. (A mile and a half, today.) And with that, I notice that this process seems to involve a lot of numbers.

There were lots of numbers involved, at the Y, when I went for my swim.

* Re-memorize lock combination. (Same lock I've had for over 20 years. Always have to re-memorize.)

* Note time when I began my swim. How long are the laps taking me? (Answer: a little longer than usual, by a full 15 seconds.) And wonder: can I successfully keep my start time and the combination in my head for the full duration of the swim? (Yes.)

* Note time/ distance during which I felt great. (It was about 20 yards.)

* Note time/ distance before I tired. Which is to say, before my lungs began to burn. Under normal circumstances, I can return to the pool, even after nearly a year, and swim a half mile with little or no trouble.

(In fact, I do believed I moaned with pleasure at the feeling of the cool water washing over me, on a hot late spring day, at the end of what was my longest day in the office since my return.)

After that... well, it's the lungs, you see. They are still not where they were. I struggled through one lap (two lengths), and flipped onto my back to do the second lap. Backstroke is much easier, breathing-wise. It gives me time to return my breathing to near-normal, before attempting another lap with the crawl.

* Keep count of the laps. (Turns out, when you are alternating crawl/ backstroke, it's relatively easy to do this.)

* Assess level of success: I did not make my half mile; I could only swim half that, a quarter mile. And that felt like a victory, all things considered. ("All things" including: the memory of the first week of being sick, when I sounded like a death scene in a Dickens novel. When, for the first time in my life I could not take breathing for granted, but was experiencing it as an underwater-type of phenomenon, noisy, ragged. When, if I am completely honest with myself, I was frightened.)

And then, there was the exit from the pool...

* Wonder at the length of time I need to lean on the wall, after exiting the pool, before legs stop feeling wobbly. (It was only a minute. Less, probably.)

So... next up in healing by the numbers:

Length of time it will take me to understand that this is a slow process, and I can neither dictate it by force of will, nor game it by racking up the "right" statistics. All I can do is take it step by step, stroke by stroke, breath by breath.


  1. Good for you! It's inspiring that you are making progress in improving your health. The numbers may not always progress in a linear way, but the trend will be positive.

  2. I'm a lap swimmer, too. Reading your reflection, I felt like I was in the lane next to you, a companion, willing you on. Keep going yet be gentle with your lungs. We swimmers sure can take them for granted. Not you, not now. Blessings on your body as your recovery continues!

  3. I received a Garmin for Christmas, a little wrist device that keeps track (more or less) of every step I take, how many flights of stairs I climb, the "intensity" minutes I acquire each week (goal is 150), it even records how I sleep. Lots of numbers in that device, which end up motivating me to do more. I'm glad you are feel well enough to walk and swim and re-engage with your health. I hope it goes well and you feel terrific as a result!