SOL Tuesday: Another First Day

And so, we began again.

I introduced myself. My colleagues introduced themselves and

we were off…

A new school year set in motion

just like that.

Smiles and giggles,

question mark faces and shy glances

show who is new and not new.

I notice how apprehension rises around a child so thick you can almost touch it

then watch the hesitancy melt away, one activity at a time.

We begin.

We open.

We welcome.

We introduce.

We show.

We tell.

We start the thing.

We are not new

and yet we begin

as if we might be just that.

 

 

 

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SOL Tuesday: The Joy of Diving In

I learned to swim when I was 6. On a cross country road trip with my mom, aunt and older brother, I had lessons in each motel swimming pool where we stayed. My short, rotund aunt patiently held and encouraged me and by the end of our trip I was leaping in and swimming eagerly towards her outstretched hands. My mother applauded from the side, beaming with pride.

In grade school I continued my lessons at the YMCA, even earning a life-saving certificate before I was 12. I loved the water and building my skills. I came close to joining a swim team but one test run let me know that I wasn’t prepared for the endurance demands. I let that idea die a quick death.

Fast forward to middle age where I swim only very irregularly, mostly during the summer months. The water has to be in close proximity and the temperatures of air and water sufficiently warm. I’m picky, to say the least. But when I do choose to dive in, that early relationship is rekindled and I recognize that the water is, in fact, my element.

On our recent trip to a mountain lake we frequent, I savored every swim as never before. The water was welcoming, the space seemingly infinite and my joy at diving in, sparkling. It became my habit to walk out to the end of the pier, dip my hands in to check the temperature and in my own good time, dive headlong into the open water. That momentary jolt of cold and wet enveloping my whole body thrilled me!  And it thrilled me that I could do it – confidently, without a second thought. Like a natural.

Before we left I decided I wanted a video for myself. To recall the joy, the wonder, the thrill. Because when do I get to see a healthy Black woman diving confidently into an Alpine lake? Okay, never. So I decided I needed to have that image to remind myself: That exists. It’s a thing. In fact, it’s my thing. Which then led me to another train of thought about why it is not a commonplace thing. To see Black women swimming in open water. It made me remember my mother who grew up in Jim Crow Tennessee of the 30’s and 40’s. I started a poem:

My mother raised me a swimmer

perhaps because she had not

learned to swim as a child.

I saw her practice as an adult at the Y.

I saw her tentative movements

in the shallow end

and thought it peculiar to see

so big a person

so afraid.

 

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SOL Tuesday: Weight Loss

Wait, loss?

No, really this is about waist.

A little less waist.

Yes, less behind.

Oh, pants of easy fit!

Oh, appetite of clear limits!

Oh, disciplined intake and

the champion’s glow of virtuosity!

We interrupt this broadcast for an urgent message!

I am not more right when I control my eating.

I am not dramatically happier if I carry a little less around the middle.

I decided to re-apply the principles of a nutrition plan recently and yes, there are results. Yes, I’ve dropped some of the middle age extras that accumulate without warning. I’ve gotten into a rhythm of meals that feels healthier (at times). I taste my food with remarkable intensity. My pants fit more comfortably.

Eating is fraught.

Body size is fraught.

Weight gain and weight loss are fraught.

Which is why we should sometimes wait.

Gain perspective.

Wait and ask which

Loss at which cost.

The trick is to stay whole

With more or less.

SOL Tuesday: What would you do if you wanted to be helpful?

 

I started a thread on Twitter tonight.

The purpose of the recurring question is to establish ‘helpful’ as fundamental to our functioning as a group. To position ‘helpful’ as necessary. And I believe most children have this inclination. They really want to help others.

Yes, and. They would love to help put equipment away… of course. But the balls are so bouncy, the hula hoops are begging for a few more tries, the tag game can’t really be over *already*…

I’m asking them to be helpful *on my terms*, not theirs, and it shows. That said, I realize that the repetition has enabled me to make ‘helpful’ my default setting. I am deliberate about cooperating and speak up when it’s not possible.

Not sure where I wanted to go with this. Just thinking out loud. The Q: “What would you do if you wanted to be helpful?” Curious how that lands with you. Where might it be of use?

That was my thread. What would you do if you wanted to be helpful?

SOL Tuesday: Dedicated to the last ISST T&F JV Boys Champions

If you could have seen them. If you could have seen me. If you could have seen us, then you would understand.

“ARMS, ARMS, ARMS!” I screamed. “Let’s go, you got this!” I stand around the 250m mark where they will hear me. I am screaming as if my voice might carry them a few steps around that curve. In that moment I am everything but detached. They hear me and know this.

I leave the tournament hoarse and full of wonder. Some of the boys are carrying the glass trophy. They pass it back and forth to each other, admiring it, admiring themselves.

Inside myself a warmth grows: pride mixed with amazement and affection. Look at these boys in their early teens, cocky with each other, humble when life doles out its inevitable “lessons.”  But they’re on the other side now and their collected bests were a little more than enough to be able to call themselves “champions.”

I watch them when their unexpected title is announced. They jump and yell and cheer. We all jump and yell and cheer. This is the first division championship for our school in 30 years of this tournament. I’ve been a coach at the school, in this tournament, for 27 years.

Junior Varsity Boys sounds funny to describe an age group category of athletes whose sizes and presence couldn’t be more varied. Some have so much size and facial hair that the “junior” part seems fully misplaced. Our squad of 8 are credibly around 14 years old – handsome, goofy, and intense – occasionally all three things at once.

As coach, as a woman, as an elder – our specific relationships take time to become real and relevant. They know I know some things but that doesn’t mean they’re always ready to listen. They also know some things. They make guesses and try stuff out. They make beginner mistakes. I watch them make their beginner mistakes and afterwards we can sit down together and talk about it, because then they’re ready to listen.

I don’t know them all equally well for my domain is the sprints. And yet, I see them each blossom before me, one race at a time. I cheer them on as if our lives depended on it. I see them labor and push, dig deep and press on.

The tournament will be reconfigured next year. The Junior Varsity Boys’ Division will cease to exist. Our boys are the last JV ISST Track and Field Champions the world will ever know. When this came up during our hustle through the airport on the way home, our graduating senior said to them: “Then you’ll be the forever champions.” And with that my heart melted away away.

SOL Tuesday: Writing Because

Writing because it’s Tuesday.

Writing because it’s now what I do.

Writing because I feel better afterwards.

Writing because I’m tired of talking out loud.

Writing because I refuse to be silent.

Writing to take a chance on the unexpected.

Writing because I don’t know how it’s likely to turn out.

Writing because I’m curious.

Writing because I can make words do what I want sometimes.

Writing because the world doesn’t do what I want a lot of the time.

Writing because I have time and opportunity.

Writing because someone’s listening.

Writing so I can hear myself think.

Writing because it comes naturally.

Writing because I want to participate.

Writing because I can’t draw very well.

Writing because it’s free.

Writing because I’m free.

Writing because it’s Tuesday.