I went back to the body sculpt class today. It was somewhat less painful, and I did not need to pause to avoid vomiting. So that’s good. But the best part of class was when the instructor started the class by asking if it was anyone’s first time. She was a different instructor from the last class, so I raised my hand. She came right over to me with a smile and welcomed me to the class and gave me some quick pointers.

It was a quick interaction, but I felt grateful for her warmth and kindness all the same.

My friend K is, like I was two years ago, learning to swim as an adult. Like I was, she’s uncomfortable in the water. We had a swim the other day and I could so relate to the sputtery panicky feeling when your face is in the water and you can’t breath and you do breath, but suddenly there’s water in your face and you can’t go forward and like that, you’re just standing up sputtering. It’s frustrating, to say the least.

So we did some floating and we set goals — we’d swim to one end, or maybe just half way. And maybe we’d kick our feet a bit. And for a few seconds we’d practice breathing with our ear in the water, and our faces tilted out. We chatted and floated. I had a good time, and I hope she did too.

But what I wanted to do was to give her the trust that the water will hold her up. I felt frustrated with myself that I couldn’t pass that along. But when I think of the warmth and kindness that today’s instructor showed, I can only hope that K left our swim with that same little pep. Anyone’s first time doing anything is troubling and scary. I wonder if we keep it up because someone else smiled and nodded and didn’t necessarily give us that tip that makes the whole thing work, but gave us something less definable.