Thursday, August 18, 2011

Noodle Swimming

I can still visualize the moment I looked over and saw the sea turtle staring at me.  That turtle made me think a lot about focus and swimming through the "noodles".

Two weeks ago tomorrow, I was training in Poipu, Kauai, and my body was getting limp.  I had done 100 burpees in the sand, 100 sand liners, countless push ups/squats and dive bomb push ups.  The beach was quiet at 6:30 am, it was the surfers and me.  Nobody else on the beach, the waves were nice and not to intense.  After doing sand training, I dove into the water to swim 7 lengths back and forth in the bay at the Wai 'o Hai.  I figured time wise it was equivalent to 1.3-1.5 miles and the Pacific Grove Tri is 1 mile.  Thus, perfect distance for training and for being in my happy place.  Swimming in open water is much more challenging than the pool, but incredibly powerful for the spirit. At least it is for mine.

I was born with the love of open water, started swim team at age 5 since I couldn't wait to hop whenever in my swimsuit...or without. I didn't care but for as long as I know water has been my healing place. It's where I feel strong, powerful, at one with myself and at peace.  It is different than running for me.  When swimming the methodic rhythm of moving one arm in front of the other, with only my inner thoughts to hear, eases me.  Jack learned this early on, and on days when I seem a bit stressed he encourages me to run to the Club and go for a swim, knowing that after I am bound to come home depleted like a wet noodle but with incredible inner peace.  My husband knows me to well and as often as I want to fight it, is right in regards to knowing what my body needs at times more than I do.

Thus, I dove into the water on this morning, stroke by stroke was feeling my lats and deltoids work.  My core felt strong, in addition to my hamstrings as I was kicking.  While swimming I was lucky enough to look at Parrot Fish, Angel Fish, the Hawaiian State Fish-Humuhumunukunukuapuaa, and many other fish and sea cucumbers.  During this time my mind started going to the question that seems to be on many of our dear friends and acquaintances thoughts these days.  The question of, "It has been almost one year since Makenzie got sick.  How is she doing and aren't you so happy it is all behind you?".  What they don't realize is how loaded the question is.  While I want to jump up and down and scream, "Life is perfect and she is forever healed!!!", it is not the case.  Is it as bad as the hospital days, heck no! We are beyond blessed and grateful for the rest of our lives that we are a solid family of four.  We have both our daughters at home with us, stronger each day, and getting more and more independent than we want to admit.  But is it all behind us, not yet, and it will be a process before it is entirely, if ever.

While we came home from the hospital right before Christmas, we have fought a long battle since.  We have learned how to live together as a family of four again.  We have learned what our real schedule of life is like with a preschooler and elementary school kid.  We learned that we all cope with stress and the various medical concerns of Makenzie differently...and it is OK.  We learned that medical bills suck, and 8 months of attempting to work hard at paying them off combined with still catching up on Emerson's medical bills when she was sick combined with a few lay offs and relocation will take a while to overcome, but is our life.  Are any of these situations horrible and horrendous in our opinion - heck no!!!  Are they trying- heck yes!!! Is that a bad thing, no, but a challenging thing when people assume months at home equal easiness of day to day life again. We are all forever changed.

Thus back to swimming.  I started to get tired on the 6th out and back. While a competitive person, I began to question if I could make it to the 7th out and back. My arms felt like wet noodles and my mind was following.  I started to feel physically and emotionally spent.  I continued my freestyle towards the sandbar and looked over at a moving object.  At that very instant I saw a sea turtle look right at me.  This turtle, I'll name him Fred, looked me directly in the eye.  He started to swim towards me and I swam a bit deeper to look right at him.  Fred swam towards the rocks and then swam back towards me.  For those of you who know me, you know I love sea turtles like I love my family.  I even have a  sea turtle tattoo that my own daughters want to emulate (when they are 30 I say!), on my back and will swim with them at any chance.  This turtle got me.  I was depleted, so depleted. And he came to me at that moment just starting me down. He went out and came back, almost to make sure I was there. He was peaceful, and I swam up and down with him for a while. Fred, the turtle, was playing in his own way.  He also, without realizing it, stood for something.  That is inspiration.  The inspiration to never give up home and to always be at peace. To me, that is what I felt.

After we played for about 7-10 minutes Fred swam away and I continued on.  That little bit of Sea Turtle inspiration gave me the energy to swim the rest of the 6th out and back and finish the 7th out and back.  It also gave me the strength to allow myself to think all of my thoughts through in regards to the question "Are we OK, and it is it all behind us now?".  Yes, life has grown and moved on. But in the past 8 months, Jack and I have learned to fight and love each other on a deeper level, both healing in our own ways.  Emerson has developed night terrors crying for her sister to stay home, and not lose her pink blanket.  She has developed a fear of doctors offices and all things attached to them...even going with me to a knee MD appointment.  She thinks doctors equate her family going to the hospital. Makenzie is stronger than ever.  She is also fearful that when she shows symptoms of distress it means she will be back in UCSF in minutes. She downplays the smallest cold (with highest fever), and on the days leading to our plane trip to Kauai she had stomach issues but said they were nothing. My inner core was full of nerves but I tried to downplay it on the outside for Makenzie's sake.  I was on the phone with her medical team and she was almost admitted.  Jack has been working tons and doesn't like to talk about when Makenzie was sick, about how it has affected our life, but only when she is well. He doesn't wants to discuss the potential(most likely reality) of Type 1 Diabetes right now, nor think that anything else can happen.  We are all coping differently and growing as we move on.

That being said, we really know how to LIVE each moment now. We know not to sweat SMALL things and to have faith that things will work out. We know that money is money, and keeping up with the Joneses isn't part of who we are or want to be, even though we are in the busier Bay Area and it's easy to get caught up in that.  We again learned LIFE is the most important thing, as are the MOMENTS we have with each other.

Yes, I thought of all of that when swimming.  I know, my mind can be on overload quite a lot. But it is at these times that life gives us moments of inspiration.  And that is what the Sea Turtle, Fred, gave me.  He inspired me to keep moving on and keep moving my body. He gave me focus again on what I was to do and where my place was at the moment.

MY own life is evolving, as is yours, every moment.  Sometimes I want to hold onto the moment where I am at for fear that moving forward means potential for more questions that go unanswered.  But after swimming and feeling my inner strength, I again felt the notion to always move forward with noodle arms and all.  Even in moments of weakness, an inner deep strength will pull through and make all of us stronger in the end.

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I am probably out running, but I thank you for taking the time to share. I look forward to your additional input as this blog grows and evolves.
Erin Kreitz Shirey