Image by Josue Michel on Unsplash
18 March 2023
I have just come back from my Saturday morning swim with the Masters. When I say, “with the Masters”, I speak rather relatively. Yes, I am part of the Masters group, and so get access to special opening times, long before the sun rises. On Saturdays we start an hour later, and have access to fewer lanes as half of the pool is given over to the “Top Hot Shot Youngsters” who zip through the water like rockets. And yet there seem to be even more of the Masters people – perhaps because it’s Saturday, perhaps because we start a full hour later, perhaps because the slot is longer… whatever. I tend to do my own thing – lots of blocks of 400 metres, varying strokes and material, then get out, whatever distance I have covered, after an hour. At that time, even younger zippy swimmers come along for their training, so I feel I need to give up my lane for people multiple generations younger than me. But while I am there, for that hour, I feel welcome, even if I am a good bit slower (and older) than most other people.
The Saturday trainer is a little older than most of the trainers I have come across. He’s also had a kid – recently – and so I am in particular awe of his ability to be making those early morning starts. There’s something about him that is just more “rounded”, “mature” than other sports trainers I have come across, whose focus is to get the youth of today to go faster, harder, stronger. This trainer seems more gentle. He takes time. He smiles and connects. Looks you in the eye. Even though most of the time I am just plodding up and down, when I do stop to drink some water, pick up a pull buoy, or just have a bit of a chat with someone, I sense a warm, calm energy around the pool. It’s nice. It’s welcoming. It’s supportive.
One of the things I do during my Saturday swims is reflect on my week that’s just gone, start to noodle what is coming up, and also, if I haven’t done my weekly blogpost writing, ponder what I might write about. If nothing specific comes to mind, I just let my mind wander and see what comes into it. And since I was swimming, what came to mind was an exquisite moment, at the last training just before Christmas, as Medjool and I finished our hour’s swim on a Saturday morning. For yes, Medjool also now swims with the Masters.
Since we are the only ones getting out after an hour, we went over to the trainer, R, to thank him, to wish him a peaceful Christmas, to enquire how he was adjusting with his new baby, and so on. I don’t typically take that time with the trainers. I am not enough of a core part of the swimming club to do that. I am usually surprised when the trainers know my name. And anyway, they are usually focused on timing the whizzy swimmers as they do timed distances.
Anyway – on this occasion, the trainer also asked a question – which was along the lines of, “So – you’re together, right?” (Err, yes). “So – why didn’t you register as a family? You would have had a discount”. (Well, we are not a family, we are not married, and we don’t live together. We don’t even live in the same country). “Yes, but I think you can register as a family”.
I felt totally baffled. Less about the focus he seemed to have on the “get a discount on your club fees” idea, and more on the “But you’re a family” idea. And I must have looked bemused. So I added, “Well – it’s just that it is rather far from what I think of as “family”, because it’s still a new relationship, because my husband died, and the family I did have here has evaporated”.
A Pause. Space. Acknowledgement. The words, and all their weight, all of the nuance and the unsaid words, landed.
R nodded. He heard it all. The said and the unsaid. I realised later that he might know more about my family and story than I realised, because as my “original family unit”, we have been going there for close to two decades. And some of the staff have been there that long.
He looked at us both, and smiled gently, and said with genuine warmth, “Ah – donc lui, votre relation… ce n’était pas voulu, mais choisi”.
He didn’t fill the awkward space with a joke. He didn’t ignore the weight of the words. He didn’t make light. He didn’t try to extricate himself. He simply said, “Ah – so him, so your relationship – it’s not what you wanted, but it’s what you have chosen”.
Which is beautiful.
Medjool – he’s not what I wanted.
I wanted what I had.
Life with Mike. Life with a full complement of three stunning children. Dog and cat. Family meals and family holidays.
But I don’t have that life. That life ended.
I didn’t choose for that life to end. It just did.
But I have chosen a new version of life, with a new relationship in it.
Pas voulu, mais choisi.
Chosen. Intentionally chosen.
Yes – I choose to have more living love in my life.
I choose this man to be in my life.
I choose this relationship.
I choose this love to enhance whatever days, months and years I still get to breathe in this lifetime.
It doesn’t feel like what I think of as “family”, but he does complement and complete me and my life.
Which feels like family, after all.
Pas voulu, mais choisi.
More than good enough.