2nd on the list of activities in my life that serve as barometers of my spiritual footing is my behavior in the pool (the 1st activity on the list is my behavior in traffic !)
When in my best Self, aligned with my Higher Power, I stay in my lane - literally and figuratively.
When I believe I am in charge, I am JAWS.
Two weekends ago, my spiritual ground clearly in question, I am irritated by a man who is taking up an entire lane (at the pool where I swim, lanes are shared by 2 people when it is crowded) during prime Sunday morning swim time. He is swimming purposefully, I believe, down the middle and so sprawled out that it is nearly impossible to share a lane. In my place of self-righteous anger, I dub him "The Old Walrus" and feel justified doing so. There is no room in the pool when I arrive and I have a futile and aggravating experience in negotiating space with him, until fortunately a lane opens up. I swim next to him seething the entire time with fantasies of splashing him or dunking his face full force under the water. I have allowed this experience to rent space in my head and yet want to blame him for all of it (this would be known as "resentment"). I talk about him to a dear friend and want to find allies in seeing the injustice of his behavior.
I go to a meeting later that day which I was chairing on Step 8. I recognize that I am not practicing willingness to treat every person with care, as they suggest in this step, and I allow myself temporarily to see my part, to see my vulnerabilities of character and to share humbly about it all at group level.
Fast forward to the next Sunday, which was yesterday.
I arrive promptly at the opening of the gym, make my way into the pool, and who is there but
The Old Walrus. I feel a familiar pang of irritation arise. I choose a different lane. The pool slowly but surely begins to fill up with enthusiastic Sunday morning mermaids and mermen. The Old Walrus is fully engaged in his taking up an entire lane so that no one can share and I glance over from time to time, thankful that I am sharing with a kind woman who makes it easy for each of us to swim effortlessly. Out of the corner of my eye, I see a young man who enters the pool area with no other choice but to go in the lane with the Old Walrus. He is clearly a swimmer: broad shoulders, thin muscular legs, able to sport a Speedo. He is a pool Adonis.
He hops in the lane and it appears that he may be more of an egomaniac than the Old Walrus and this is the perfect monsoon. He proceeds to do, of all strokes, the Butterfly ! Watching these guys duke it out for splashing rights is a sight to behold. I try not to gawk and to just stay in my lane and swim. I am very aware of how I secretly want to see the Old Walrus put in his place once and for all.
And then something else happened ...
The two people sharing the lane next to me both exit at the same time. It is completely open. I am content swimming where I am and quite sure that the Old Walrus will want that lane. As I am kicking away on my board toward the end of the lane, the Old Walrus motions with his hand to the open lane -- gesturing as to whether I want it or not and can he have it. I motion and state "Go right ahead." I realize in this moment that it's not that important and I don't need to exercise my power to prove a point or to do to him what the Adonis was doing. I recall a reminder that a beloved soul shared with me just a couple days before about "seeing the God in everyone". My week had been such that I was residing on much more solid spiritual footing than I previously had been.
As I reach the end of the lane and put my kickboard up on the ledge so that I can return to doing breaststroke, my eyes now come into clear focus with this older man (no longer objectified by the term of non-endearment I was using). He remarks: "I don't share lanes very well." I reply: "It seems like you prefer a lot of space." His eyes get wide and light up: "You have NO idea..." My gaze met his and there was an understanding in that moment that went unspoken.
I returned to swimming, my heart wide and my whole being softened. I pondered whether or not he lived with a domineering, intrusive spouse and this was the only place he could have his own space.
He became so human to me; there was no longer any "thing" here between us.
When I got out of the pool to leave, he waved goodbye and I waved back.
I was given an opportunity for healing and to practice the principles of the 12 Steps in all my affairs.
It was a choice point and I chose to be happy and not to be right.
I stayed in my lane.