Swimming is one of many activities I have had to adapt since I became disabled by a stroke 19 years ago. Now I need to wear a personal flotation device in order to swim.
The list of activities that I completely lost the ability to do seems endless. I used to hike, ski, ice skate, dance, roller blade, ride bikes, take brisk walks, jog occasionally (mostly to cross a busy street or get through a rain storm quickly on the way to or from the car), knit, and make pottery. I have almost no fine motor skills in my left hand. My balance is poor. My left leg is weak. My left foot is paralyzed. I have adapted to walking with a limp and a cane. Sounds a bit dismal, but I am grateful to be alive, able to function, and enjoy life.
It occurred to me over the weekend that there is a fairly short list of life affirming and life enhancing forms of exercise available to me. In no particular order, I can still swim, dance, ride and screw.
Rex and I sat on the deck looking at the lake just before the fourth of July. We plan to spend as much time as possible at the lake this summer. I suggested we push each other a bit to swim as much as we can. We have each put on a few pounds since we met nearly a year ago. Is is “fat and happy” weight. As I looked at the lake, I saw a perfect opportunity to get some easy exercise. We shook hands on our agreement to swim a bit further than we would on our own. We spent as much of the weekend in the water with Rex mostly pushing me to swim more and more.
Rex likes to swim without a bathing suit. I do, too, but am a bit more reserved at the lake I’ve been vacationing at with my family for 17 years. He jumped in the lake naked early in the morning before anyone was around. Later, I swam in my bathing suit until I was drying in my lounge chair and Rex asked if I wanted to take off my suit and swim with him. Of course I did. Naturally, people started to come out of the woodwork at the otherwise deserted lake when I took my clothes off. As we pushed to swim a little further down toward the end of the lake, I commented that we were the only naked people around. His response was it was because no one else was as cool as us. Obviously. It was delightful to feel the water glide over our bodies. The warm sun and cool breeze dried us when we got out of the lake and sat on the dock. I enjoyed it so much that I decided there was no reason I should wear a suit for the rest of the summer other than in the presence of young children or my sons and their friends. It is a private community. I’m sure there are rules within the community about nudity, but I don’t care.
I was a trained dancer when I was young. Dancing is a part of my very essence. I danced onstage in community theater productions. I love music. My kids always asked me if I have to dance while I’m driving with music on. The answer is yes, I do. It is really just head bobbing in the car, but whatever. I’m sure I have embarrassed them on many occasions when I had to dance in public because I know I look ridiculous with half of my body being uncooperative. Having a stroke could not kill the dancer in me. It may have made me look silly when I dance, but it feels good so I do it anyway.
I had limited experience riding horses before I became disabled. I started taking lessons a year after I had the stroke. It is an adaptive program for people with physical, emotional and developental challenges. I need help mouting and dismounting the horse. I ride independently. I have won champion in two horse shows at the facility where I take lessons, and some reserve champion ribbons, as well. With zero room for a lapse of attention while on horseback, I feel as if I’m fully living when I ride. I have to muster up my courage, strength and sharp thinking skills.
Making love is another activity that makes me feel fully alive. I have always been sex positive. Having a close brush with death made me much more so. I was married when I had the stroke. My husband couldn’t deal with the changes, and lost interest in having sex. We were never on the same page again in this department after I was injured. I wanted to be ALIVE, and enjoy it. He just couldn’t do it. We separated three years ago. I have been fortunate to have been able to find partners who are on the same page as far as enjoying sex for the life affirming connection and pure pleasure of it.
I remember someone in the rehab hospital telling me to focus on what I CAN do rather than on what I can’t. This is great advice for all of us, not just those recovering from an injury. Swim, dance, ride and screw.