The wall pressed against my fingertips, convincing them to believe it was finally safe to breathe.
My head bobbed to the surface and I clung breathlessly to the side of the pool, searching frantically for Cindy — my life preserver, my time keeper, the woman who told me, a chubby kid who swam like a Christmas ham, to pretend I saw a fudge pop at the other end of the pool (in an effort to make me swim faster).
Most kids would have asked for their time. Most kids would have rejoiced. Not me. Instead, I asked, “How come I’ve never seen you swim?”
I wanted to know why this woman who spent an hour every week teaching me to thrive in a medium not prevalent in my species’ evolutionary history, a medium that could invade my body and kill me, never even got wet.
How could I trust her advice? How could I be sure she knew what it felt like to have your lungs about to explode, or your arms and legs scream out with fatigue? The only thing I knew about her was that she was, for my specific purposes, a highly literate fudge pop.
The summer passed slow and lazy, like they do for eight-year-old kids. By the time the first day of school rolled around, I had already snagged the Back-Float Award and the Most Improved Award (which was code for “you sucked when you got here, and now you suck a little less”).
But that’s not what I think about when I go back to that summer. I think about the last day when Cindy stripped off her shorts and t-shirt to reveal the broadest female shoulders I’d ever seen, sinewy legs and barely-there hips. She climbed up on the diving board and soundlessly slipped into the crystal blue water, emerging like something on a Beaches commercial. In that moment, she was transformed from a fudge pop to an honest-to-goodness mermaid.
I hadn’t realized that my mother had signed me up for swimming lessons with a former siren of the Atlantic. I guess she didn’t think I needed to know. Looking back, I wish I had. If I would have known how at-home Cindy felt in the water, or how seamlessly she mingled into it, not fighting it, not struggling…just being…I wouldn’t have needed that fudge-pop image.
My motivation would have been born of pure and authentic respect. Her raw example, her presence, would have been more than enough to make me kick faster, reach farther…be better.
Did Cindy do anything wrong? Absolutely not.
Have I? Without a doubt, yes.
You see, for the past 13 years, I have been coaching clients through writing their books. I’ve been editing their work and teaching them to better express themselves, and to more effectively communicate with their readers. I have taught them how we can use words to build businesses, reputations and relationships. I have been writing books for those experts too intimidated by the process, or too busy to give it their full attention. I have been cheering for the success of those works, as if they were my own.
And yet, I have not shed my layers and plunged into the waters I so affectionately call my home.
I have not written a book of my own.
That’s about to change.