There is a group of older women I see at the pool. Many of them use walkers and canes. Some arrive with their swim floatie around their waist already. They are coming for a swim or aquafit. They chat in Portuguese, Mandarin, Italian and beautiful Jamaican English. Over a lifetime they have travelled tens of thousands of miles to meet on this Tuesday at this slightly shabby but well-loved community centre. I am sure their life stories could fill a library.
I am in awe of them. Outside of this space they are probably seen as “little old ladies” – aged bodies moving slowly, physically fragile. But I see their fierceness. They are animated, laughing, arguing, greeting each other. Their bathing attire is often eccentric (shower caps, bathing skirts)…and their spirits are high.
I admire them more than triathletes. It is hard to get to the pool early in the morning when you need to dress yourself with arthritic hands, when your mobility is difficult and makes going outside a risky challenge, when you have to wait for WheelTrans or take a city bus to get you there. But if the lifeguard does not open the door on time they pound on it. They are here and they want everyone to know it! They want to swim, exercise and feel their lovely selves bobbing gracefully in the water. They have earned their leisure and they are claiming it.
We are all both fierce and fragile. Even those of us fortunate to be physically able can be fragile in other ways: anxious, feeling insecure or undermined at work, fearing that an important relationship is in trouble, lacking confidence and self-esteem, being confused about what we really want in our life.
On the other hand we all have that a kernel of fierceness, if we can recognize it. We have all been brave, shown strength, gotten through a tough time. It doesn’t matter what other people see or think. I want you to know it. I want you to find your strength and fierceness and own it so that you, too can pursue what you want. Let’s do it together.