Sunday, May 4, 2008
Sesame Street Lessons
While aqua running yesterday afternoon at the UWF pool, I caught myself staring (quite openly) at another girl’s rear end. She had just hopped into the cold water, about to begin her swim, but evidently forgotten something in her swim bag. After a quick exit and retrieval, she was back in the water, prepping for her swim.
It was a beautiful rear end, one that many gentlemen were watching as well. Heck, I’m sure other women were checking her out; she just had that kind of body. But I was more than a bit embarrassed when the guy in the next lane over saw me staring, gave me a big grin, and then checked out derrière-girl himself.
That’s when I turned away and continued with my run.
And before you – dear readers – start entertaining the idea of hidden lesbianism from this triathlete, know that I’m happily married to a knock-out bang kind of a guy, secure in my sexuality. But I can (and do) admire a beautiful body, a shapely physique – men and women.
However I usually don’t stare quite as openly as I did yesterday.
But when I was watching derrière-girl, I wasn’t thinking about the shapeliness of her rear, how her suit fit her just so (why can’t my bathing suits fit me “just so”?) or her great legs.
No, instead I found myself slightly envious over her intact sacrum.
Where did that notion come from?
Somewhere beyond left field!
And then I realized that I was harboring a tad amount of frustration. Great. Now I was pool running and angry at another girl's rear end. Fantastic!
She never broke her back, never crushed her sacrum, and didn’t have to deal with the aftermath of nerve damage and zero sensation.
And as quickly as the thought had entered my mind, it left. Vanished. Was gone.
But it left me puzzled, wondering where the heck that notion had even come from in the first place. Never in my 27 years have I ever looked at another person’s rear end – and a girl’s at that – and wished that I had their sacrum.
Let's be honest - have you?
Didn't think so.
So I did what any other athlete would do: I peeked at my watch, ensured that my heart rate was in the proper zone (because my Coach has a great way of making sure that when I aqua run, I get in a phenomenal workout – and it works! Hooray!), made sure that my form was spot-on, and continued on my way.
But I was ever-so mindful of my previous thoughts with regards to this woman’s sacrum, and her body.
A few minutes later – notably when she began actually swimming (as she had been fiddling with her goggles and cap and goggles (again) at the side) – I started watching her once more.
Walking at first and now running in the water has given me a new appreciation for swimming technique. It is awe inspiring to watch one heavy-set gentleman rip out his 200 fly. From the deck, he doesn’t appear the butterfly type: but as soon as he enters the water, he transforms and flyes away.
Same thing for a woman who wears the same suit every session and swims with paddles and the pull buoy. She goes at her own pace, but swims 40 minutes straight with her paddles strapped to her hands. Her elbows make a graceful arc above the water as her paddled fingers hover millimeters over the water’s surface during recovery. (And she has great lats to boot.)
And while it’s wonderful to spot the great swimmers, those who are technically proficient in the water, it’s just as easy to recognize the folks who just don’t quite get it.
One guy likes to rotate his hips so much, so that his recovering hand slaps water on the other side of his body when he takes a breath. Sound confusing? Believe me – it is. You’d have to see it to believe it. Trust me. I’m still trying to figure out how he does it.
Or the pair of really buff (and tan) twenty-something males, who flex their muscles before diving in, swim 50 yards, and then spend more time on the wall recovering than actually swimming.
AND, they drag their heavily muscled legs in the water. Legs that would be more appropriate for breaking open coconuts when squeezed together, but are quite burdensome for keeping the hips afloat.
(They should practice tying their ankles together and swimming without the use of their legs. HA! That would teach them! (If you don’t believe me – try it. Jen made me do it at Camp HTFU, and it quickly taught me the importance of proper body position). And it would give me something to laugh at while they plowed along. I managed to talk Donna and her friend/my newfound friend Zach into trying the drill – to my great amusement. But it works, I swear. Try it yourself, and then for a laugh, make a friend do it. Fun times at the pool! Sorry Zach and Donna, hee hee hee).
But as I watched derrière-girl swim, I noticed that she wasn’t really all that comfortable in the water. Awkward at best. She didn’t flow well; and I could tell that swimming didn’t come naturally to her a la Michael Phelps. She did attempt a flip turn, but had to stop as she got water up her nose and into her goggles.
But watching her swim, it made me think about my very favorite Sesame Street Skit ever (support Public Broadcasting!).
I remember watching it, captivated by the young girl and the older man. I don’t remember when I first saw it, but I’ve seen it several times during my younger years – and it obviously made an impression.
It began with a young girl carrying a violin. She effortlessly walked up to a stage, ran up the four steps, and took a seat in one of the two folding chairs. Within seconds of her appearance on screen, she was seated and waiting for the seat next to him to be filled.
The second person to appear was none other, than the violin virtuoso Itzhak Perlman. As a young child Perlman was plagued with polio, which resulted in his inability to walk without the aid of crutches. From the moment he appeared on screen, it took almost a minute for him to cover the same ground that his young counterpart had managed within seconds. Hi crutches clunked, and the effort he made in walking was clear to all. His legs did not want to cooperate in traversing the stairs, but eventually – after what appeared to be a great effort in the mind of a 4-year-old – he was seated and holding his beautiful violin.
Then he said, “Some things that are really easy for you, are really hard for me.”
The effort he had made to seat himself in the folding chair, turning around, balancing on his crutches, carefully lowering himself into the proper position, adjusting his legs under his body, and setting his crutches on the floor next to him – were apparent to all.
Without further ado, he picked up his beautiful violin and began playing. Sitting squarely in the chair, his crutches on the floor next to his feet, he raised the violin under his chin, closed his eyes, drew the bow across the string, and played the most beautiful melody. It was liquid gold for the ears. His fingers flew effortlessly over the fingerboard, bow seemingly hovering over the strings. His huge hands delicately held the violin and he smiled while he played.
After quickly playing his beautiful melody, he opened his eyes and held his violin in his lap.
His young counterpart looked at him and replied, “Yes, but some things that are easy for you are hard for me.”
Then she played her violin. The sound was squeaky at best. Her intonation was off, and it was with great difficulty she produced a few notes of music. Her fingers tried clumsily to grip the bow, and her left wrist threatened to collapse in effort to support the violin. She looked awkward, as though the position and effort was not natural.
After a minute or two, she stopped – looking exhausted, but proud of her effort.
The message was clear: what’s easy for one person may not be for another. And vice versa.
Perlman made his craft, his exquisite playing seem effortless. Indeed, the violin seemed to be merely an extension of his heart, body, and of his soul. Perlman and the violin were one; together producing melodies that would make even Vivaldi or Mozart happy. Yet the young girl struggled more with the music. It was not natural for her – far from it.
Walking and mobility though, were a different story. What the young girl could do so effortlessly, took Perlman much concentration and exertion.
I thought about this scene as I aqua ran along, watching derrière-girl in the next lane over. Though her sacrum was intact (at least it appeared to be intact!), her swim stroke was rough, unnatural, labored.
Whereas my sacrum had been broken, my stroke was much more proficient. In the water, at least, my form and technique were much more natural and second nature than derriere-girl's. Years of practice, drills, and technique work on my part. Sure, I still had work to do (remember – my hips tend to drag), could still use pointers on my form, but after 6 weeks and 4 days of no swimming, it felt great to be back in the water. And my body responded accordingly.
For her, although getting into and out of the pool were effortless (it takes me a bit of awkward motions before I’m clear of the water – due to my limited flexibility and lower back strength), I struggled more with that aspect.
The Sesame Street clip is a classic: it reminds us to be thankful for what we have and to not lament what we do not. We all have special talents and abilities. But, some things are easier for others, however that doesn’t mean that those individuals don’t have challenges of their own. We all have our share of obstacles to overcome.
Opportunities to grow stronger – if you ask me.
In the end, I would never want to trade bodies or places with derriere-girl. Though her sacrum is presumably intact, I’m sure that she has her own hurdles to overcome – including her flip turn and swim stroke. And I’m sure she wouldn’t want a broken back and nerve damage to boot.
But that’s also the wonderful thing about life: we have the opportunity to make our weaknesses our strengths, and to overcome the obstacles that are thrown our way. With practice, determination, and effort – we too can be successful and learn how to conquer each challenge.
And if we’re lucky, we’ll make our own beautiful music along the way.