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.

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