Monday, February 24, 2014


My little world at about 7 AM. The bus ride I take to North Central High School most Saturdays
is very different from the one I passed through this last weekend to get to Warren Central High School.
The former is a pretty ride, lined mostly with nice houses that the owners have taken care to repaint and restore.
The latter was another world, where several homes had graffiti on the front, marking places where
someone had died, probably violently. The difficulties most of those folks have in keeping a roof over their
families' heads and food in their bellies can be seen in the faded paint, torn siding, and rotted wood
on many of the structures. My efforts to get into shape, to end my obesity and to *find* George Clooney
are very First World difficulties, set set in the shadows of the homes I passed.
This winter has been hard on everyone, everywhere. 
Too much snow in places that don't see a lot of it, 
drought on the West Coast. 
The rivers here are over-running their banks 
while others are going dry.
The world is full of people with serious problems.
The TV news doesn't even begin to describe 
the range of ecological, biological 
and political issues that face us.
 In comparison, I am a simple woman 
with decidedly First World problems. 
Today, I will go to swim, determined to make up 
the time lost due to weather-related cancellations 
of our practices, while other folks just try to survive 
another day. I remind myself of this reality
every time I start to bitch. Well, I do most of the time.

Last Saturday, the practice usually held at North Central 
High School was held instead at Warren Central, 
on the far east side of town. I left home at 6 a.m. to
catch the bus downtown where I would catch another bus
that'd take me to the 9500 block of East 21st Street. 
From there I would just walk a half-mile south 
to the high school to make the 9 a.m. session. 
Easy peasy, right? Right.

Fucking Google maps.
The Indygo transit system website links to
Google maps to show viewers routes to their 
destinations. I'd used the website to plan my trip,
allowing about thirty minutes to find the correct building
and to change into my swimsuit. The ride to the
east side of town was okay. I got off the bus 
near the 9500 block were I expected to find a cross
street that would take me south to the school.
Nah-dah. Instead, I found myself in an older housing
development made up of 1960's ranch homes
sited along winding side streets. I could see the high
school through the trees and roof tops, but I could not
reach it because every road leading from the street 
I was on was actually a cul-de-sac, a dead end.
I suppose I should have known that, when the gray line
on the map describing the walk from the bus line 
to the school ended in a squiggle, it wasn't 
to describe a round-about but was instead 
showing a knot of its own confusion.

Frustrated, I walked west, back to Post Road, the 
last north-south intersection I had passed on the bus.
Dogs barked at me from their yards, large bite-osaureses
warning me of their intent to eat the middle-aged
woman who'd entered their territory.
Their woofing declarations were taken up by
their canine neighbors along the way as I walked 
the half-mile back to the intersection, then 
south another half mile to Sixteenth Street, then east 
AGAIN! repeating the half mile to the school.

Of course, I was very late to practice, but I did get 
to swim for a while. The pool was very nice, 
I saw some nice people, and I got an additional bit of 
exercise in the form of three miles of walking.
But I hated being late and was embarrassed that
my First World dependence on an e-map 
had influenced my poor decision.
Effing Google maps.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Searching for George Clooney

This blog started with the title, A Manatee Among the Seal People
a description of my obese body swimming amid 
a bunch of sleek, experienced swimmers. 
As a couple friends have pointed out, however, I look less 
and less like a manatee. Increasingly, my appearance 
has taken on that of the seals I want to emulate.
I now resemble a Shar Pei, but I couldn't think of a clever
way to incorporate the breed name into a title.

As a way of describing my goals, Searching for George Clooney
is absolutely dead on because finding George (for myself) 
seems as realistic as Don Quixote tilting at windmills. 
While my efforts to become a swimmer strong enough to swim 
the English Channel and to win the love of a man I adore may just 
fall into the same categories, just trying is worth it because 
I will achieve a healthier, stronger body 
and become more self-assured.

Gawd, how could I not love a face like that?

Monday, February 10, 2014


My evening practices have not gone well. 
I'm just not feeling the love. I swim and quit, start again. 
I'm not out of breath and don't feel overly stressed, 
just lethargic and discouraged.
Even Brian said on one occasion he thought he'd lost me.
I've just wanted to hide in a corner of the pool, 
to have a little pity party.

It has been this way since December; the cold
temperatures made my shoulders achy and stiff.
As I swim I try figure out whether I am stressing myself
just enough to improve or causing injury. 
Instead, I end up trying to not do any damage.
A lot of us have missed quite a bit of practice due to 
weather-related cancellations, so I am not alone.
 I guess what I am doing is just trying to catch up with myself. 
A week ago, I put in a good effort at a Saturday practice 
session and the troubles of the past 
weeks seemed to fall away.

And the psychological games continue.
On Monday, I was rude to someone I love 
and I've felt lousy about it since. The person has been 
nothing but kind to me, but I let myself have my
feelings hurt by another woman's emotional games,
and I took it out on him. There's no explaining to a man
the nightmares that came back to haunt me as I watched
a woman young enough to be our daughter tossing her 
fanny around for the benefit of a man I like.

I grew up watching as other girls flirted with, dated,
and married boys I'd liked. I never knew how to play
their games. I wasn't pretty and didn't have
the lines of chat they did. I retreated into my books
and artwork, knowing there was probably
never going to be a similar scenario for me.
So many years later, while all logic and reason tells me
differently, the pain came back almost as
sharply as it did back then, and I allowed myself
to be manipulated by her games.

I've since apologized to the man, but somehow
I felt as though it was not enough. I think he was more
hurt than he let on. I keep telling myself that things will work out
the way I want them just as long as I keep working hard
 in the pool, make nice drawings and paintings, 
take decent pictures, and continue to find ways to become
a decent writer. In the meanwhile, I've learned
that one keeps learning hard lessons every day, and I hope
I can learn them without hurting people I care about.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

"The Girls" May Try to Break for Freedom

The photo above shows the pool North Central High School, 
where I usually go to swim on Saturdays with other 
members of Indy Aquatics Masters. Snow and extreme cold 
had closed schools and most of the pools where IAM 
practice sessions are held, so that meant a lot of  people,
including children from area schools showed up 
to swim. The place was crowded and noisy all morning
with the purposeful flurry of people swimming laps,
back and forth as they performed drills intended 
to improve their conditioning and times.

I'd missed quite a bit of time in the pool over the past
month, so have been feeling the effort more
than usual. My weight loss has been stagnant, too,
so I feel the need to return to my routine.
Nevertheless, one of the other members gave me an 
encouraging word the other night, when he remarked that
he noticed how much stronger I've been swimming.
He's an experienced triathlete, a man who's competed 
in ten Iron Man triathlons so his comment meant a lot to me.
After Saturday's practice, I looked in the mirror 
to notice that my swimsuit has started to get baggy, 
so was both pleased and dismayed to see how much 
the suit had loosened around my boobs.
It was an additional month before my last suit began to 
cling to my body, instead of compressing it.
I bought my present one just a couple months ago!
Seriously, just eight weeks ago.  And they're not cheap;
the last one cost just over $100, including shipping.

It took me a while to earn the money to buy my suit,
and wore the old one longer than I should have; while 
I kept telling myself that our coaches have seen a nipple or 
two during their lives, it wasn't long before 
I was myself too embarrassed to wear the damn thing
one more time. So the upshot is this: since June,
between dieting and swimming, I've gone through three
suits, with a fourth to come in the next few weeks. 
I have another one in a drawer that I tried on 
and it is now a bit too large, as well.
Besides, it's not suitable for the kind of swimming 
I do, being too low cut. I'd probably come 
out of it altogether - or in the altogether.
I'm sure it'd be a real scene to have The Girls' 
noses peeping from under the shelter of the 
suit's Mossy Break-up camouflage print.
I love that print and wish Speedo or Tyr
would make a suit from it. No such luck, I guess. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Social Behavior Adaptations Needed

Illustration borrowed from smokefree(dot)gov
When asked why I want to lose weight, I generally ask whether 
the person wants the politically correct reason or the truth.
The PC reason, of course, is "for my health" and,
while it is legitimate because of concerns about high cholesterol
and the possibility of developing Type 2 diabetes,
the truth is I am tired of being invisible, invisible to men 
and to prospective employers.
But especially to men.

All my life, I've dealt with issues related to my body image. 
Basically, I had/have none. As a child, my brother, sister 
and I were neglected, unkempt and unwashed. 
I was rarely addressed by my name; classmates 
called me "Stinky," "Cootie," or "Scag." 
Until I was well into my 20's I was often called ugly to my face. 
At the age most girls begin dating, it was clear to me 
that the boys I liked would not be paying attention to me 
because, well, I was, of course, ugly
Confused and insecure, I could tell you more 
about the fantasy world I wove for myself 
than I could any details of my everyday life.

One summer during college, I watched television coverage
of the Russian gymnasts competing in the Olympic Games. 
The women had beautifully sculpted bodies, 
like racing Thoroughbreds, honed and lean from years 
spent in the gym. It occurred to me that, 
if weight training helped to create the gymnasts' looks, 
it could do the same for me.

I went to the strength coach at my university,
a middle-aged man who worked with football players, 
gymnasts, and wrestlers. Of course, he'd never
before worked with a woman. Coach Bill developed a routine 
for me, basically the same as the men were doing,
but with lighter weights and more repetitions.
In order to avoid developing bulk, he added a lot
of stretching exercises to increase my flexibility.

Over the next year, I lost about twenty pounds. 
There must have been dramatic changes
in my appearance, but I never saw them myself, not
in a mirror (that I can recall) nor in a photograph.
I just remember what the measuring tape
told me, 38-25-38, and the fact that nice-looking
men were coming out of nowhere to hit on me.
Having very little social experience to speak of,
I had no way of knowing that men who say
nice words weren't necessarily nice men.

I had worked hard in the gym only to find that I was
experiencing the opposite end of the same stick;
at one end was the chubby girl who was seen as "easy"
because she'd be grateful for the attention,
and at the other end was the young woman who was 
"asking for it" because she was fit and took care of herself.
The worst of these experiences involved an episode
of date rape that left me physically injured, very ill,
and traumatized. I retreated into my shell and,
while I maintained my conditioning for many years,
I rarely went out and became wrapped up in work,
going out on very few dates.

Many years later, the toned and shapely woman
disappeared into obesity brought on by a sit-down
job as a customer service rep for the IRS. My co-workers
and I were under the control of a management staff
that created and maintained a very toxic working
environment. I gained weight so fast I was in
constant pain, topping out at about 275 pounds.
I retired as soon as I was able, preferring poverty
to slowly dying at my desk.

Last spring, with the help of my doctor and
a dietitian, I began to lose weight. A big part of my
success so far has been due to the swimming I do.
But I again I find myself having to face old demons
as the rats come out of the cracks in the walls.
When I returned to my part-time job last November
 for an assignment, men who could not have been
bothered with me in May suddenly found a "new girl."
One man, of whom I am a bit scared, was offended that
I didn't want to go out with him. He didn't know why
I should be afraid of him because he couldn't
recall ever speaking to me. Uh-huh.
I shared the same lunch table with him on two or three
occasions just last spring. Apparently, I was "invisible,"
but as I emerge from my lard cocoon, my existence
may be acknowledged.

So ... how do I learn to handle this?
Listening to my instincts has helped me to avoid
trouble in the past, but how to I develop
a gracious way of avoiding bad feelings in the future?

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

The Start

Red toe buds, painted because I'm acquiring some sense of feminine identity.
Wouldn't have done it as a habit earlier, but now I do and take pleasure in it.
A co-worker recently asked me how I had gone about 
losing nearly seventy pounds since last April. 
After I'd told him a bit of my story he said he found it 
inspiring and felt that I should write about my journey 
and the places it has been taking me. 
I decided I should start another blog because it would give me 
a place to keep notes about my observations and experiences.
It's not going to be about weight loss and recipes as much 
as it will be about swimming and the journey 
I make towards achieving my goals:
to have a sleek, healthy body and to be able to swim 
one-half mile in less than thirty minutes.

This picture, taken in September of 2007,
shows me weighing in at 275 pounds, which is about the same
weight I was when I began this odyssey in March 2013.
I didn't have any other photos of myself where I wasn't hiding
behind other people in a group, last row on the end.
At this time last year, I would have not been able to make it to the end 
of a 25-meter pool without difficulty. I looked very much as
I did in the above picture when I approached an Indianapolis Aquatic
Masters coach about joining his group at the IUPUI Natatorium.
I'd seen swimmers wearing black caps, swimming back and forth a few
lanes from me, whose relaxed swimming resembled sleek, black 
seals. When I asked Craig how I could learn to swim like that
he said, "Show up." No, I meant do I have to meet a certain time
standard or be able to swim certain strokes (i.e., the butterfly)?
"No," he said, "we'll help you with that."
And repeated, "Show up."

A few weeks later, I began doing just that, starting with two times 
a week, then three, quickly progressing to four sessions 
a week. I am now looking to add a fifth day.
I wouldn't have thought it at first, because I had a difficult time
just getting the skill and confidence to swim one length
of the Natatorium's 50-meter pool. I frustrated Craig, who
came to me with techniques and tricks designed
to help me with my stroke. Craig was very happy as I began
to show progress; he is an outgoing, exuberant man who
loves teaching and it showed with every little bit
of success I've shown him. 

This photo was taken by IAM Founder and Assistant Coach,
Mel Goldstein at the first day of the IAM 100 X 100 Swims. I am not
in this photo as I gave out after about two hours.
Overall, as the pounds have fallen away, I've seen my body 
change, becoming firm and strong. My step and 
posture have changed as I become increasingly confident.
Joining IAM has been one of the best things 
I've done for myself. Ever. 
I've never known such a group of positive, supportive 
people. I've gone from having little panic attacks 
each time I approached the pool, to being able 
to swim about two hours. I've gone from wondering 
whether I might ever be able to accomplish any goals, 
to looking forward to new challenges, trying to 
perform whatever new tests the coaches 
ask me to learn, as well as those I set for myself.

Swim a half mile in under thirty minutes, 
as well as be able to complete two-and-a-half miles?
Let's see what the year brings as I work 
to achieve that goal.