Saturday, January 14, 2012

Swimming with Napoleon

New year, old lesson: it is so much easier not to stop doing something than to stop it and have to start up all over again.

Luckily for me, I had to drive my spouse to work the other day, as his somewhat battered Nissan was in the shop. Which meant there I was, right around the corner from the community pool where I've been swimming the Panama Canal Challenge (24 miles before February 1st). A place I haven't been lately, what with the cold and the holiday busyness and the ongoing excuse of, "oh, it's too far to drive. Just walk our property instead."

No excuse left (except the cold), I got into the pool and swam my mile. Which completely doesn't express how agonizingly hard it was to do and keep doing. Not so much for physical reasons as for mental: my mind never stopped complaining and whining and wanting to be anywhere else but.

Being fairly bullheaded, I told my mind I just had to get to 20 laps. Then 25, then, what the heck, finish off the 33 for my mile.  Which I did. And felt physically recharged and mentally pretty upbeat (always a challenge in the depths of January).

All to say, I remembered how much I usually enjoy being in the pool. I remembered how invigorated I feel afterwards.

I remembered why it's a lot easier to just keep on with a discipline, once begun.

So with War and Peace. Which (the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation) has been sitting untouched beside my bed for about a month.  As well as on my writing desk (the Maude translation), my reading chair (the Garnett), and even on my Ipad, which eliminates the excuse of "it's too late at night to hold up such a heavy book" because those 1200-plus pages are practically weightless. Plus I can read them without my glasses.

But I wasn't. Reading. Wasn't even opening the book to see where I was. Was barely managing to remember to renew the edition I'd checked out of the library.

Until after that swim, when I acknowledged just like doing laps, War and Peace takes discipline to begin, unlike murder mysteries, but, once begun, offers refreshment and stimulation and a sense of--"wow, I did it."

And once I'd found my place (Nikolai about to experience his first battle), I remembered how much I like reading Tolstoy. Which, yes, requires some effort, including finding a map that laid out for me just where the heck Napoleon's army was in October of 1805 so I could understand what it meant that he had taken Vienna while the Russian and Austrian troops fled before him.

But then, most of the things that make life worthwhile require a little effort. Picking up the phone, for instance, after first getting over the feeling that you're about to interrupt somebody's busy life with your call, so better not. Or bundling up to get out for a walk before the short day closes down.

And it really didn't take any longer to recollect the difference between young Nicolai and his comrade Boris  than it did to get back into the rhythm of breathing every third stroke during those laps.

What are you putting off?


  1. deadlines... I am swamped, yet I keep putting off deadlines... I do this to myself, yet I manage to get them done, but stress like crazy doing so... I'm aware, now I need to change that! thanks!

  2. I hope you're enjoying the book, Margaret! :)

  3. Jillian, I really am! Sometime after pushing through the longest war part, and it all began to click. . . . Now I WANT to be reading it, vs feeling like I should be.
    Which is also the way it happens with so many other things. Once I really get a running start and get past the dread.....

  4. thank you for this wonderful post! I'm just starting reading the book (my copy dates from wayyy back), and I was still daunted by it. Your post has highlighted the positive aspect of conquering this task! I'll be blogging about my efforts as well, but I'll be visiting you to draw inspiration!

  5. Yes, Ataleof3, we can do this! It's just a book......we are on!

  6. Good efforts. All the best for future posts. I have bookmarked you. Well done. I read and like this post. Thanks.