Splendor of ended day, floating and filling me!

(“Song at Sunset” by Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass)

The anniversary slipped past without me thinking much of it, which is actually kind of nice. Three years (and a few days) ago, I was a patient, etherized upon a table, while a robot nabbed my uterus, thus relieving me of not only the cancer that had begun to sprout there but a slew of not-very-ladylike health problems that had plagued me more than I’d realized.

I didn’t panic until I was all alone, my mother and boyfriend ensconced in the waiting room while I took off my brave face, and donned the butt-baring robe, my feet mummified in weirdly binding socks. So this is it, kid, I thought, and what do you have to show for it? What would you do again if you had the chance?

Hey, you get a free pass for melodrama when they’re about to conk you out for major surgery and you’re not 100% sure — who is? — you’re going to come out on the other side.

The thing that rankled me most was my self-consciousness about swimming. When I was a kid, I loved to swim. Looking back, I see now that it was the only form of exercise at which I felt I was any good, and it was certainly the only physical thing I ever did to the point of exhaustion. It’s remarkable that I gave it up so quickly. My flabulousness made me an easy target during awkward middle-school swim classes, and so my swimming career ended in eighth grade, when I passed the “lifesaver” test, wherein I bobbed like a cork in the deep end of the school pool, a wet pair of size-14 jeans inflated and looped around my neck as a clammy makeshift life preserver. (Yes, really, that was the final element of our swim test.) As God as my witness, nobody would see my naked arms ever again! If I had to lie, steal, cheat or kill!

Life is too short for that. A cliché, yes! But deadly seriously true. I was furious with myself in those last few minutes of consciousness: You loved it! And you let it go! Because you didn’t want anyone to see your arms, your belly, your thighs? Because you didn’t want to be seen at all!

Obviously, I did wake up from surgery, and I really took my deathbed-but-not-really-but-it-seemed-like-it-at-the-time epiphany seriously, telling myself whenever I felt wiggly that what other people thought of me was none of my business. Going to the gym was a huge step. Working out with a trainer, a huge lunging step. Walking, jogging, all that stuff, literally huge steps.

The swimming thing I kept on a back burner until the right opportunity presented itself. One of the jewels in the crown of my gym’s massive new facility is a gorgeous aquatic center that opened a few weeks ago. I signed up for swim lessons, the first of which was last night. I don’t even know if there are words to describe how great it was to jump back in. After the lesson, I farted around in the therapy pool, in the whirlpool, in the steam room and sauna, not really wanting the evening to end.

When you step out of the water, gravity seeps back into your bones. I was so giddy that I didn’t really notice the effect. The endorphins of exertion were at work and play in my bloodstream here, of course, but more than that, there was a promise fulfilled, a wrong righted, a disconnected chunk of my soul has slipped back into place.

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