The title sounds more dramatic than it probably is, but I feel it’s pretty close to how I’ve been feeling.
Yes, I know, I haven’t written anything in a month and I apologize for that, but it’s not that I didn’t want to write, it’s that I wasn’t sure what to write.
Over the past 30 days I have been going through some dark times. the massacre in New Zealand of 50 Muslim sisters and brothers; some serious turmoil in my own home; and the personal loss of a dear friend of mine last week have affected me deeply. And although I was going through all of this, I kept swimming, though not with a sense of purpose.
Many of you reached out and asked if I was OK. I don’t need to list the multitude of names of you beautiful people, but know that your kind words and notes helped me along the way.
That being said, I really was struggling with getting myself into the water and train. I felt no desire to enter the liquid calm that soothes me even on my worst day. Instead, I dreaded hearing my alarm go off and having to wait at a cold and rainy buss-stop to take the trip down to mywatery blissful place of retreat.
“Aw hell no!” I would say in my mind, “it’s too damn rainy and cold to get my Black butt outta bed today.” I’ll go tomorrow, but still I pulled myself out and went down.
Even after I got in the water I felt no joy, no purpose, no drive, just emptiness.
“What’s wrong with you kid?” my mind would ask, “What’s going on talk too me.” I knew that I was entering a dark place. One that if I didn’t get out of, and quickly, I would never be able to shake it.
So, here I was, this past week, at a crossroads. I had just lost a dear friend of mine, The Christchurch massacre still fresh in my memory, and tension in my home, all pushing me to the breaking point. Add to this I wasn’t up for going further with this marathon swimming nonsense.
“Why am I doing this? What do I have to prove to anybody? This stuff ain’t cheap and you know you ain’t got the money for it, so why even try it?”
A lovely swim friend of mine calls “doubt” a cancer that once it enters the mind is hard to cure yourself of. My cancer was beginning to spread. Each night I would lie awake in bed staring up at the ceiling wondering if I really wanted to keep going.
And then came my answer:
“No, I don’t”
After I heard that voice I felt a little relief, but then a much stronger voice called out and said:
“What do you just say?! We don’t quit until I decide!”
So now I had an internal argument going on in my head. This was just fantastic. That’s all I need to is to have a psychotic breakdown over a marathon swim. So right then and there, I determined that I had until today, April 14th, to see if I would carry on.
Well, things did not go as I had hoped today. First off, my alarm, which never fails me, was not set. I should have been in the water by 5 AM, instead I got in by 6:45 AM. As I stood at the beach looking out at the water, I took a deep sigh and told myself that today was day of reckoning. You either keep going on with your training, or you man up and let folks know on this blog that you ain’t s**t and keep your mouth shut!
So, after about 30 seconds of slowly entering the water, I began my swim. It was a windy day and there was a lot of heavy chop and swells. Usually I get excited over this, but today wasn’t one of those days.
As I swam, I noticed a woman shooting by me with ease: “Showoff.” I thought to myself. But then as if on cue I noticed a very rare sight, but I should back up a minute and fill you in on something.
While I stood on the beach, a buddy of mine got in before me and headed down the direction I was currently going. He got in 10 minutes prior too me and was halfway down the buoy line before I even got started.
Remember how I said that woman shot past my slow butt? Well, I didn’t let that discourage me, I kept my pace, trying not to make a lot of bubbles in the water, swimming quietly. As I approached the end of the line to a spot we call “The flag,” I saw the man that started before me just turning around at the flag and heading back!
“WTF?! How did I catch up to him so fast?”
Now I know what your thinking. Yes I know I’m slow so he must be even slower. Well that’s true and granted he’s a lot older, but still I caught up to him and that’s gotta count for something, right?
After reaching this first landmark I went on to swim to the “opening” in very choppy conditions and then back home. Seeing that I had a lot of energy left in the tank, I chose to do the route again. When I finally got out of the water, I felt like I had been reborn.
The feelings of despair and hopelessness had literally gone away. When I exited the water one of my swim buddies and a marathon swimmer I greatly admire, Evan Morrison, was at the water’s edge. I walked up to him with a big smile on my face.
“How was it Naji? he asked.
“Best day of my entire training so far Evan.”
I walked away smiling for the first time in weeks thinking: “You know what, you just might have a chance at this thing kid.”
Yes sir, I just might.