Wednesday, September 2, 2009


66 degrees farenheit. That was the temperature of the water I dove into this morning at 6:30 a.m. When my friend and I started lap swimming earlier in the summer, the water was quite a bit warmer, averaging 85-87 and dropping down to 81 or 82 on a cloudy day. It’s easy to swim in 86 degree water. It’s warm, it’s soothing, your muscles are relaxed, and at 10 degrees lower than your body temperature it’s still refreshing compared to the heat and humidity of a Minnesota summer. 32 degrees below your body temperature is not warm. It’s not particularly soothing. Your muscles are tight. You could call it refreshing but bracing or brisk would be better words and, if we’re really honest about it, it’s damn cold!

My friend’s husband, who occasionally sits in the 102F hot tub drinking hot coffee while we swim said to her last week, with a fair amount of incredulity, “and you guys are proud of this?” Our response is automatic. “Of course we are” we say with a similar smug sanctimoniousness that we Minnesotans take on when people who aren’t from around here say “You really went cross-country skiing when it was minus 22F?” and we respond that of course we did and that there wasn’t any wind so really, when you got going, it wasn’t bad and it was almost even refreshing. Minus 22F isn’t refreshing – it’s damn cold!

But we are proud of it. We’re proud of rising to the challenge. It’s a challenge to go out and ski in minus 22F weather. It’s a challenge to get up at 5:30 in the morning every day to swim laps whether the water is 66F or 86F. Most of our challenges, though, are far more complicated than a number on a thermometer. It’s a challenge to develop a habit that you know is in your best interests now and in the future, but that isn’t necessarily easy. It’s a challenge to leave a job or relationship that isn’t healthy. It’s a challenge to make those jobs and relationships work – and work to make them healthy. It’s a challenge to work through a mistake and make it right, or to sit back and watch your loved ones walk straight into one knowing they must find their own path. It’s a challenge to change, to be better today than you were yesterday, to choose the path that is right as opposed to the path that is comfortable or convenient, to make a difference in your own life and in your own circle.

Rising to the challenge is often its own reward. And sometimes, if we’re lucky, there’s 20 minutes in a 102F hot tub waiting at the end of it.

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