In the course of my life, I’ve made some really bad choices. As a matter of fact, one of my chosen topics-to-ponder of late is just how many of these bad choices, and in how much detail, do I share with my kids. Should I be a walking, talking, cautionary tale, or should I tell stories about a dear friend of mine from high school. That died a horrible, painful death.

I’m still working that out, and I will let you know what I decide. That is, unless they peel themselves away from IFunny and Instagram and read my blog. In which case, it’s a mute point.

I don’t miss standing in line for the bathroom, or checking my nose in the mirror before heading out. I don’t miss long, intense conversations about bad things that happened in high school, endless Scrabble games, or racing to the liquor store at 10:45, (I’ve spent a good part of my life in Massachusetts, liquor stores close at 11.)

I’ve never been able to figure out why I clung to those things for so long. For a little while, it was fun. We felt like we were all part of an inside joke, had stumbled on a way to feel perpetually like a member of the cool crowd. We thought our conversations were unique, our observations hysterical, our taste in clothes and restaurants and drinks and clubs and friends were impeccable.

Looking back, I suppose clothes looked good because all I’d have for dinner was three bites before I got distracted by another trip to the ladies room. Restaurants were amazing because I was only nibbling on food until I could get up and use the ladies room again. Drinks were amazing because they got me drunk, or took the edge off, depending on where I was in the evening. And friends were anyone and everyone that were doing the same stupid things that I was.

So, it’s established, I don’t miss those days. But sometimes, I miss the cigarettes. The standing outside with a stranger. The first puff, the curl of smoke and the smell of sulphur. The way that first drag established the end of a meal. The end of a day. The end of really good sex. Regret, joy, exhaustion… all of these seemed to be well celebrated with a lit Marlboro, a few minutes, and a deep couple of drags.

Now at the end of a day, or at the end of a meal, I go to the pool. We live in a small town, right outside of Boston. There is a huge outdoor pool about a mile away from our home.At 6:30 most nights, I head over. Some nights I bring my daughter. Tonight, I went by myself.

I am probably the only adult in my age group that visits Cunningham Pool without trailing behind a few kids. I know the man at the gate that checks the tags. He hasn’t asked for mine in about five years. Which is good, because I put them away as souvenirs the first day I pick them up.

I smile, make brief conversation about how hot, cold, humid or rainy it’s been. He agrees. We decide that tomorrow it will be more of the same.

Then I step inside. I peel off my clothes, I always wear my swim suit underneath. I drop them on top of my cell phone, on top of my gym bag, on top of my purse. I creep into the water, down the kiddie stairs in the shallow end. I ignore the cute babies. Most of the time, I love cute babies, but at the pool, it’s best not to think about them.

Then I swim. I slip down the length of the pool to the lap lane. First lap, I dolphin dive. I follow the floor of the pool, parallel to the bottom. I look at the pine needles and elastics. I wiggle my stomach and flop my legs like a novice mermaid. I come up, I gulp air, I dive down again. Next lap is free style. I sprint. I stretch my arms long, out of their sockets, I reach far like my coach taught me thirty some years ago. I take few breaths, I slid thru the water like a blade, or a shark, or a competitor. Next lap is back stroke. I leave my goggles on, they are cloudy, but I can make out the sun falling down, and the pine branches above. I pull hard.

I rotate the strokes. I go fast, mostly, except when I’m playing little mermaid under the water. I swim for about an hour, straight thru the adult swim, until about fifteen minutes before the pool closes. Then, I make my way thru the shallow part of the pool, to the stairs. I step out of the water I peel my goggles of my face. I pull the bottoms of my swim suit back to where they belong. I smile at the cute babies. I say hello to the moms I know, and nod at the moms I don’t . I look at the pregnant women with a mixture of awe, recognition and on really hot days, an expression that probably says “thank god I’m done with that.”

I don’t know how I can swim so long, and so fast when I consider all of the horrible things I’ve done to my body over the years. Especially the smoking. I don’t know how I can swim the length of the pool without taking a breath when I consider that for a lifetime my favorite thing to do was to fill my lungs with smoke, hold it like a gift, and then blow it away.

But I do know when I look back on these days, it will be with the knowledge that these days, and these choices are not mistakes.

I can tell my children that truth, and maybe that will hold them for a while.