2: Counting Laps

2: Counting Laps

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Count Your Blessings

Counting Laps

H2O: two parts Heart and one part Obsession.
~Author Unknown

In 2002 my dad, brother, sister and I bought a small condo in Florida. Being faint-of-pocketbook, my quarter-share took most of my retirement money, but I live by the principle that you should follow your dreams while you’re still awake. Besides, I was born in Tallahassee just two months after the big war ended and I’ve always thought God intended for me to be a Floridian, even though my folks moved back to their home state of Illinois three weeks after my birth and I’d lived up north, mostly in Wisconsin, ever since.

At any rate, I was happier than a flower-lover in a field full of orchids every time I got to stay at the family condo. Florida captured my heart. No matter how many times I made the trip, I was thrilled to arrive in sun, sand, sea, surf and swimming pool country.

Two years later, after visiting the sunny south at least five times, I sold my home in Wisconsin and bought a condo in the building right next to the one where our family condo is. My building is directly across the street from the big luxurious swimming pool. Heaven on earth!

The large condo pool is next to the Intracoastal Waterway, one street away from the Gulf of Mexico. Now, I swim almost every day of my life. Sometimes twice a day. And each time I’m at the pool, I’m actually in the water, unlike most people who sit in the lounge chairs reading, talking or sleeping. Not me. I go to the pool to swim, and I’m often in the water for an hour and a half or two hours at a time, swimming leisurely laps.

The problem with swimming laps is keeping track. My mind wanders. Oh, look, there’s a dolphin jumping out of the Intracoastal! Or three or four condo friends jump in the pool to cool off and we gab each time I reach the shallow end. Or perhaps a pelican, seagull, heron or egret swoops by to my delight when I’m doing the backstroke and I lose track of my lap count.

My cousin Meta has one solution for keeping track of laps. She walks around her one-eighth mile circular driveway out in the country every morning twenty-four times with her neighbor. Meta has a large coffee can on the driveway that holds twenty-four small pebbles. When they start walking she puts the pebbles in her coat pocket and drops one in the can each time they go around. As these two women chat about everything under their Cincinnati sky, they know exactly when they’ve finished their three miles.

But at the swimming pool there’s no place in my swimsuit for thirty pebbles. The solution came one day when I was feeling especially joyful about being in that pool under a robin egg blue sky on a glorious 80-degree Florida day. I started thinking about all my blessings. That’s it! I thought. I’ll think about specific blessings that have particular importance in my life and that have significance to the number of lap I’m on.

ONE: The amazing, warm, wonderful sun. What a blessing! For twenty-four years in Wisconsin I froze every winter. Now I’m swimming outdoors every day all year long thanks to that one glorious, magnificent sun. Side stroke, breaststroke, crawl.

TWO: On this lap I think about how fortunate I am to have my dear friend Jack who lives in the condo fifty-seven steps from my own. We’ve been together as a twosome, a wonderful couple since 2004. Two people whose hearts are together and who both love to swim for exercise.

THREE: Lap number three is about the work I do, work I love. Three part-time freelance jobs, instead of one monumental stressful one. I write, I speak, I paint jars. I make a little money with each, enough to survive. Lots of freedom. Breast stroke, frog kick.

FOUR: My four children, two daughters, two sons. Children who have filled my life with joy, sometimes angst. But, oh, the blessings of having children. As I butterfly kick my way to the other end of the pool, I think about each child. Jeanne, an art professor in California. Julia, working on her master’s degree in Wisconsin while raising her three children as a single parent. Michael’s busy life in Ohio with his wonderful wife and three beautiful redheaded children. Andrew, following his dreams working for a company in the sports field in California. Four interesting lives. Suddenly that lap is finished.

FIVE: I wonder what I’m thankful for that has a number five connected to it? Sometimes it’s hard to come up with something for a certain number. One day in the pool I recalled that I have five pair of sandals in my condo closet. The next day as I did the side stroke up the pool and down, I thought about the tasty five-bean salad recipe I made and the five friends who ate it.

SIX: Six days of the week that we do water aerobics in the pool. Each morning at 9 A.M. one of the half-dozen CDs of great water aerobics instruction is played at our neighborhood pool, and Monday through Saturday, Jack and I and any number of friends and neighbors jump in the pool and exercise for forty or fifty minutes. Six days a week. What a great workout!

SEVEN: The seven seas. As a swimmer I pass the time back-stroking during lap seven by recalling all the wonderful places I’ve swam. Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean, the aqua blue Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, the warm waters off Kauai, Oahu, and the big island of Hawaii. I’m thankful for the seven seas, the oceans, rivers, lakes, and ponds. Thankful for water.

EIGHT: Eight grandchildren: Hailey, Casey, Riley, Hannah, Zachary, Chloe, Adeline and Ethan. I love lap number eight best. Imagine the fun of thinking about the antics of eight little people who are tied so tightly to your heartstrings that sometimes you think you’ll just burst from happiness.

NINE: The first thing that came to mind when I hit number nine lap, was “nine lives” as in the number cats are supposed to have. Sometimes when my friends Wally and Shirley are on vacation I get to take care of their cats.

TEN: This is the place in my lap swimming where I examine my conscience. The Ten Commandments come in handy for this one. I run through them all trying to decide if I’ve blown it and whether or not I need to apologize to anyone for anything.

Sometimes I only do ten laps in the pool. Sometimes twenty. Now that I’ve figured out how to keep track of the count, my pool time takes on a life of its own. Every day emerge I from that pool a new person … blessings counted, conscience examined, life evaluated, attitude adjusted, and exercise completed.

Jump in! The water’s perfect!

~Patricia Lorenz

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