For the past few weeks I have been reading, writing and exploring the depths of my interests. Novel concept, right? Doing what I want to do.
This week I started a swimming class at the local aquatics center because I have never been a strong swimmer. I “learned” how to swim in Lake Michigan during a tornado warning in 1996. It was dark, ominous and the water was outrageously choppy.
My brothers caught on quickly and my dad had to continually coax me into the lake–a true feat of parenting considering my dramatic antics and cries of anguish as water went into my nose for the umpteenth time, effectively killing any desire I had to learn to swim.
Tornado sirens, immediately recognizable to all native Midwesterners, went off as we swam and we all jumped out of the water. My sister, busy practicing her already mastered breaststroke, kept swimming farther and farther away from the shore as the sirens went off. Later, we would learn that in a nervous panic her mind had been paralyzed in fear and she temporarily lost it. She thought that if she turned her body around she would immediately sink.
There was a dramatic rescue by the lifeguard in a little tugboat type thing and then we all sat around in the women’s shower area until it was safe to drive home.
Luckily, the tornado never came and instead there were just a few strong winds that scattered some tree branches and frightened a few children (in particular: me). The next year, my parents got divorced and we didn’t go back to the house in Michigan for the summer. That was lucky, too, because a tornado actually hit and it was terrible.
That fall, while filling out the customary grade school “What I Did This Summer” project, I decided this story wasn’t dramatic enough to share. I edited out the whole part about being out at Lake Michigan and made up an elaborate story about how my parents were watching Independence Day in a movie theater when a tornado swept through, tore the roof off and killed at least one patron (DRA-MATIC). I specifically remember writing “the Will Smith movie” and drawing a picture of a cinema house with horrified patrons looking up in shock as their roof floated away. My teacher, Mrs. Leiker, asked me if it was true and I confidently replied that of course it was true. This was my first taste of incendiary storytelling.
Later, I would write a Frosty the Snowman-esque comedy about a dancing scarecrow that would yield belly laughs from that same teacher and my class, after she asked me to share it with everyone. That is definitely when I learned to love my audience.
Other byproducts of that summer in Michigan include an inability to immediately recognize dramatic stories as dramatic stories and a fear of large bodies of water.
So, I’m in a swimming class now.
My classmates are triathletes learning how to improve their breathing strategies and I’m the weirdo trying to learn how to not feel like I’m going to drown every time my head is submerged in water.
It’s a process and my teacher is wonderfully patient.
My basic goal with that is to not be so afraid of the lake this summer, and maybe, maybe, not freak out about the possibility of flying off the jetski when my friends and I double up.
This week I want to share a little bit more about where I spend my time—both online and off, in a “Starting to Get Addicted To…” series. Maybe I’ll even introduce you to a new addiction (and I promise, it will not be toilet paper).
Let’s all agree to carve out happy trails this week. Deal? Deal.