Sunday, June 28, 2009

Diversions from Pain

I'm always looking for ways to distract myself from thinking about my chronic pain. The pain's a fact of my life, but I refuse to be defined by it.

It's true that some days don't give me much of a choice. I have to give in and rest. On those days, you won't hear from me. I cloister myself in a dark, quiet room, remain as still as possible and wait.

But today! Today I won! I beat it back and triumphed! Take that, pain! Ha!

How? I threw caution to the wind - literally.

At Green Turtle Bay Marina, the summery souls who love to sunfish sail are giving free lessons on Saturdays and Sundays until September. What's that? Did you say free? Free! Now, there's never been anything free that I didn't look at twice. I've bought more Clinique and Estee Lauder products that I didn't need just to get the free "bonus" than I care to admit. I'm a sucker for a deal.

And today's deal was just too good to pass up. The sun was shining while the wind gusted gently. A cute kid was out in the cove, briskly tacking and heeling and clipping along across the diamond-kissed water. He made it look like it was the most fun a human could have. He made it look easy. He made it look painless.

Evidently, this kid - Zach - was hired to fake me out, to lure me in, to mess with my mind. Doug, the instructor, smiled at me and assured me that sunfish sailing was going to be a breeze. Obviously he was part of the conspiracy as well.

I strapped on my life jacket and climbed in. I might mention that right now I'm trying to get accustomed to some new medication. It makes me a tad dizzy. In fact, it makes me feel like I'm trying to walk across a wave-tossed dock with 25-pound weights strapped to my ankles.

I don't think this had anything to do with what happened next, though. No, I don't think I can blame medication, Doug, Zach or anybody or anything else. I'm inclined to think that maybe it was simply my own inability to coordinate a tiller, a boom and my bottom.

One minute we were sailing merrily along. The next, I was sliding slowly (yet gracefully, I was told by onlookers) into the very water that had called me away.

Yes, I had fallen off the boat. And now I faced a tough decision. Swim to shore or try to get back into the boat? Doug was quite confident that he could haul me back into the boat. I like a guy with healthy self-esteem, but I feared he was overly-optimistic. I probably out-weighed him by 40 pounds.

I suggested that I try by myself. I gripped the edge and flung my leg up and over. Half of me was on the sunfish. Half of me was still in the lake. Realizing that I couldn't do this without resembling a drunk walrus - or maybe I used the words "beached whale" when conversing with Doug - I surrendered my pride. I rolled over to my stomach and thrashed until the other leg joined my torso on the little vessel. Now I was laying flat on my belly, but at least I was on the boat. All I had to do was gently roll over and resume my dignified position as sailing student.

Doug was stunned into silence.

The second time I fell in, we both knew the drill. After I was safely back aboard, he said, "Oh, you got back in much faster this time." But, of course. I may not be slick, but I do learn. And, I might mention, I had fallen in twice now, but had managed to keep my sunglasses and visor...a fairly impressive accomplishment, I thought.

With Doug's praise ringing in my ears and my shade accessories still in tact, I determined to get out while I had a shred of dignity left. At least, I had deluded myself into thinking that I still had a shred. A girl's gotta believe what a girl's gotta believe.

Doug turned the sunfish completely over to me and, after I repeatedly assured him that I didn't think I should try sailing without him in the boat with me, we made our way back to the sandy shore.

I felt victorious. I was alive. Doug was alive. Zach, the kid out on the water with us, was still alive. I had not harmed anyone seriously, not even fish or turtles. My bruises and tender ego would heal. They always had before.

And the best part? I was distracted from pain for a whole 43 minutes.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


We've taken some days away. Some days to be still and quiet.

Right now I'm looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows of this beautiful house that overlooks Barkley Lake.

The lake, still and glassy, holds onto a fathomless, deep olive green while it manages to reflect the soft, blurry blue of the sky. A thousand tiny shards of mirrors shimmer when a breeze skits across its surface.

A fat, furry groundhog scuttles across unfamiliar terrain, clearly uncomfortable. He's comical in his bunching, awkward travels. He's surprised himself by being where he is, it seems, and he's nervous and tense, unhappy to be exposed. Unhappy to be away from his home.

A flock of geese try to take over the yard. They strut territorially, obnoxiously announcing their arrival with throaty honks, daring a homeowner who doesn't want to deal with their droppings to confront them.

A majestic bald eagle, not fully grown, swoops through the humid air, cutting and dipping, finally landing in the tall trees. He holds himself still and silent, as if expecting the reverence and honor due him as king.

Turtles strain their necks to pop their heads above the surface of the green water. Though they seem to be bobbing along on a course, they're actually paddling frantically underneath with prehistoric, webbed feet, moldy green, both tough and tender.

A whole host of hidden birds call out to each other, communicating with trills and cries, a Morse code of warbles and hymns. Gray squirrels chase each other from limb to limb, weaving through branches that were abbreviated in the ice storm.

The trees stand with a new vulnerability, bearing the scars of the winter's icy grip. It looks as if dinosaurs have roamed through, chewing hunks out of the tops and sides of ancient oaks, hickories, dogwoods. Some are totem poles now, bleak and bare, pointing upward, unwilling to give up.

White cumulus clouds thicken the sky. The air hangs heavily, weighted with humidity and heat. But, once in a while a breath tickles through, blowing a hint of comfort, altering the clouds' piled formations.

Now and again a boat courses across the water, reminding me there are other people out there. But on the whole, I'm a solitary observer, seeing through my eyes, my self hidden away, safe from any judgments or claims.

My soul feels comforted by the sweet song of nature. Its spell conjures a healing balm for my spirits. It's a quiet, restoring symphony of discoveries.

Bless the Creator for such a gift.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Wedded Bliss

Like my brother-in-law said, "You get a bunch of Baptists a couple of hundred miles away from home, give 'em sparkling grape juice and a good band and there's no telling what will happen."

Our oldest son, Ben, just married our -- I mean, HIS -- dream girl, Amy. What a celebration! I don't know when I've had more fun. If I would have known how much I was going to enjoy myself, I might have popped like a corn kernel swimming in hot oil in anticipation.

I am slightly concerned about photos showing up of me, though. Amy's uncle took quite a few candid shots. And, I was pretty much letting it all hang out. I was shocked when I learned my glass was full of grape juice. For all I knew, it was the real stuff. My neurologist (yes, that's a head doctor) had given me quite a bit of medication earlier in the week, hoping it would help my chronic headache and allow me to enjoy all the festivities. Evidently, I thrive on Lortab.

I danced with pretty much everyone at the reception and sometimes I just danced all by myself. Thinking it over, I may have permanently scarred the boys' psyches. I'm not sure anyone should see their mother behaving that way. Fortunately I didn't embarrass my sons, new daughter and husband enough to cause them to cut off all ties. They are still speaking to me.

Of course, the video hasn't been released yet. Upon further review, they may decide I did make a total fool of myself. Thank goodness I've already gotten this year's Mother's Day gift. Maybe by Christmas they will have forgotten.

Or maybe not.

No, I doubt any of us will forget how much fun we had, how much joy we shared. After all, it's not every day that you get to welcome a new daughter, a new sister and a new wife into your life.

It was a day of blessing, worthy of dance!