Relative thinking


Almost anyone who has been in the military has done a cross-country move. They can be quite stressful, what with the packing, and loading, and paperwork and such. And I think I can speak for all of us when I say there is one thing that is the king of stress. It overshadows all the other distractions that come with a cross-country move.

Of course I’m talking about swimming in the motel pool.

Because unlike when you are at your duty station and running and eating right, when you are on the road you sit in a car and eat fast food all day. So when you decide to hit the pool (if you can find your swim trunks), this is what you see when you walk past the full length mirror in your motel room:

I was on a little cross-country jaunt myself this last week, and because the day had been going too well I decided to punish myself with a little swim in the motel pool. I squeezed into my gym shorts (doubling as swim trunks) and took off my shirt. Then I looked in the mirror.

At first I thought I was looking at a giant muffin, but muffins have wider shoulders and at least a hint of a tan. The V-shape I had grown up with had somehow – mysteriously – become inverted. I longed for a baggy Hawaiian shirt. Inexplicably, and despite all the evidence before me, I was going to walk into a public place and disrobe in front of the whole world.

It was quite stressful.

When I got to the pool, I heard laughter. “Great,” I thought, “They are already warmed up for the main act.” I steeled myself for the embarrassment that was sure to come, and opened the door.

And there, lounging around the pool, was a large group of people.

When I say large, I do not mean numerically. They were people who had obviously enjoyed the finer things in life, meaning pizza. Each outweighed me by at least thirty pounds, including the children.

Suddenly – and relatively speaking – I was Adonis. I was the guy who kicks sand in the 98 pound weakling’s face. The barely-visible deformations in the skin around my abdomen became six packs – at least to them. The farmer’s tan on my arms revealed – again, relatively – muscular biceps formed from years (albeit years ago) of rigorous exercise. Did I see…pride in my daughter’s face? Probably not since she is three years old and was more interested in seeing what was in the “used towels” bin, but that’s beside the point.

It was the best swim I have had in years.

I learned from that experience. Life is what you make of it. Be comfortable in your own skin. Pack in as much fun as you can.

That being said, you also might want to pack a Hawaiian shirt – just in case.


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