Sunday, August 23, 2015

Life Is A Beach

    When one is in California, one goes to the beach. It’s almost a requirement. And considering I am sick and my mobility is limited (pronounced S*U*C*K*S), relaxing on the beach was so appealing to me! I imagined listening to the waves while wandering slowly at the water line looking for shells and baubles. Until I actually got to the beach that is. Then the fun (pronounced M*A*Y*H*E*M) started.
    I grew up on beaches. We have one here in Rochester on the shore of Lake Ontario. I know-those of you who live on an ocean do not consider lake beaches real beaches. But they are sandy and difficult to walk on so you learn how to compensate. And the waves steal the sand from under your feet when you walk in the water forcing you to learn to be quick or develop really good balancing muscles.
    We also went to Myrtle Beach every year and to Florida a few times when I was in my tweens and early teens. Mom was a water bug like I am and dad was a Navy man, but I don’t think he was as fond of the water as he was of the beach and walking along the waterline looking for treasure. Walking with him solidified my love of doing the same.
    I also spent many years as a lifeguard in my teens. I used to be able to swim 2 miles at a time as well as swim the length of an olympic sized pool with a kicking, screaming, struggling person in tow. Personally, I would drop anyone who started up on me like that. But it’s part of the test. I learned about undertows, safe vs harmful sea life, and could tread water for 30 minutes. In jeans. I don’t think that’s part of the test. I think our instructor hated us.
    The point is that around water and beaches, I am at home. It had all become second nature to me after years of exposure and training. So what happened on vacation was totally unexpected. And it happened immediately. The first beach we hit-the one across from our hotel-took me down. And it was a wimpy beach! (No offense)
    We drove over. I did not want to waste my energy by walking as it was farther than I expected.  We took off down the paved trail to the beach and then we hit the sand. And I figured out very quickly that I no longer have beach legs. It was a scene from Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi. The mini walker hits a rolling pile of logs and suddenly his robot legs start going every which way and down he goes. That was me. And it didn’t get much better. I was a “Drunken Sailor” every time I hit sand.
    By the end of the trip, we visited a real beach. I mean huge waves, gorgeous sand, cliffs down the side…  And all I wanted to do for a bit was wander the water line and look for treasures like I used to with my father. So in I went. And the waves did what waves do and stole the sand out from under my feet. But my body did not do what it was supposed to do. Instead, it completely lost all sense of solid ground and acted as if I was drunk, again, on a tightrope. Even my son decided to very firmly let me know I should get out while I still could.
    I managed to find a few baubles that day. Ones I will turn into jewelry. But by far what I found most was the awareness of how much my body has changed. It is not simply that I have not been to the beach in a long time. We were in California 4 years ago or so. It wasn’t like this. It is simply the disease has taken more since then. Much more. And knowing it vs experiencing it happen in my life are two very different things.
    I went to the beach in California to find shells and sea glass and treasures.
    Instead. I found my truth. I have lost my balance.

Sharilynn Battaglia

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