It is a beautiful morning. I am alone today at this beautiful beach. My husband has work matters to take care of. So, I took the snorkel gear down for a swim just beyond the beautiful breaking waves. There is a whole universe teaming with tropical fish and the amazing architecture of a coral reef. I look like every one else preparing to enter the water with their snorkel gear in place. However, I need to take extra precautions. My balance is a concern. I must find a rock to sit on the apply my flippers. If a wave comes, will I topple into the harsh edges of volcanic rock?
Now I know what you are thinking. Poop baby. You get to be at a tropical beach snorkeling. The fact is... every aspect of life and even the “fun” activities change after a stroke. One of the biggest detriments to my continued post-stroke journey is that from the casual observer, I look completely normal. There is not a droop to my face or a paralyzed limb. My struggles are not observable just by assessing my physical attributes.
Being partially blind and functioning in the world does take a lot of energy. I must remind myself to look to my blind side. I must take extra time to make sure each step is made with a firm footing.
I paddle myself out to the reef. It is beautiful. I spot a sea turtle as it gently glides thought the reef. It looks at me and I just sit there and observe its unique beauty. It glides up to the surface of the water and pokes its head out just far enough to take a breath. It is beautiful and simple. I wonder how long it can swim on that single quick breath of fresh air.
This particular morning I am heading out by myself. No safety net of a family member to keep watch on me. Within a few minutes I am in shallower water almost upon the reef. It is not where I want to be. I feel my anxiety rise. I look up above the surface of the water. I must determine the direction to swim to maintain my safety.
Taking the time to reassess. To poke my own head out of the water. To take the snorkel out of my mouth and just breath the fresh ocean air is invigorating. How did I get to this beautiful place? What if I let my fear of being out here by myself stop me from this experience?
It is not long before I return to shore. Since my stroke, I am quick to develop motion sickness. For weeks after my initial injury, I could not even ride in the car with my eyes open without feeling sick. Now even snorkeling is a time
limited activity before I must return to shore and recover.
But, I am grateful for the opportunity. I am proud of myself for trying. I am learning to enjoy the small, simple gifts that I have been given. While my life may never be the same, it can still be enjoyable. Finding joy in the simple things helps lift my spirits and propel me forward on my journey.
PS.. this is what happens when you are blind and one side and are walking looking at the beautiful ocean on your sighted side!
ouch! Lava rocks hurt!