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Moving Beyond My Comfort Zone

I am taking refresher swim lessons. I am also taking piano lessons and a beginner’s Spanish course. (The other Earrings Off co-host, Teresa, is also in the Spanish class.) There, I said it so there is no going back. Once I took my first piano lesson, I recorded myself playing and singing. I sent the recording to two close friends and family members. You know, folks who I knew would be duly impressed and disregard the fact that I was offkey.

Part of my childhood was spent in the segregated south. Black folks in my neighborhood didn’t have access to pools. When I was a young girl, two or three small children drowned in a pond near their house. I remember that another child drowned in another incident soon after. You know how it goes: None of them could swim and when one got in trouble in the water, the others tried to help. They all drowned. I remember the sadness and the grief in our community from the deaths. There was unrelenting pain everywhere. I didn’t know how to swim and stayed away from pools as I grew up unless the pool was clearly marked, and I knew I could safely stay in the shallow end.

That changed when my son took swim lessons. He took to the water like a fish to water; absolutely loved to swim. Although he was a great swimmer, when I would take him to the pool it bothered me that should he get in trouble in the deep end I couldn’t save him. My friend Carol and I took swim lessons when we were about 35 years old. I used to swim quite a bit after that and felt very comfortable in the water. However, I moved to another area and stopped swimming regularly. About 2 years ago I was swimming with my family and noticed I was no longer as comfortable in the deep end as I had been. Well, I am now a grandmother and I need to feel assured (yet again!) that when I take my grandkids to the pool that I am comfortable jumping in if the need arises. I set up a refresher course and it took 4 sessions for the instructor to break down my technique and relearn the basics. I am now comfortable with swimming laps and with being in the deep end of the pool. I swim at least once a week, so I don’t forget. Mission accomplished.

During the pandemic I read stories about people learning to cook and gaining skills in many different areas. I thought about cooking but whenever I would mention cooking more my husband would get a pained expression on his face and ask me not to try it. I am ok with that. However, not to be deterred I began to think about what I could learn that I maybe had put on the back burner. Ahhhh, learning the piano and Spanish! I always wanted to learn to play the piano and also wanted to take Spanish. I took introductory Spanish in college but that was years ago. I checked several options for beginning Spanish classes, but they were over my budget. Luckily I found one at a local university that was very affordable. I purchased a used keyboard, researched where I could take lessons and signed up.

And no, I am not having a mid-life crisis. I am getting older and know the importance of keeping my brain active. My sister Rent works crossword puzzles like a champ and she often does those “find a word” activities. The puzzles and word books are cheap, and they help with memory and problem-solving skills. I know that just like I go to the gym to work my muscles, I have to work my brain to ward off Alzheimer’s, dementia and other conditions which negatively impact my cognition. I encourage you to find some activity that forces your brain to stretch and struggle to process new information. Seek opportunities to be uncomfortable for your brain health and don’t be afraid. Jump in!

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