Is it time to float?

Favorite floating pastime, my sassy grandbaby, Blakely Faye

Favorite floating pastime, my sassy grandbaby, Blakely Faye

Hi folks!

I’ll never forget the first time I tried to swim after paralysis. Although a good swimmer, I had no idea how to manage my paralyzed parts in the water. Midway down my abdomen, about three inches north of my belly button, both sensation and motor-control are gone thanks to transverse myelitis, a rare inflammation of the spinal cord affecting about one in a million that for me began with the flu. Although my spinal cord was never severed, the nerve-conducting myelin sheath that surrounded it was destroyed by the inflammation. Now my body is divided into two parts—the controllable above my waist and uncontrollable below it.

It’s hard to describe paralysis, this strange divided state where your mind commands a body part to do something and it refuses. I guess it’s a bit like when a hand or foot “falls asleep,” numbed by pressure or lack of movement.

Except for my limbs never woke up. (Sigh)

After a while, I began calling my lower body my “two-year-old” since it, well, it tended not to mind me and was quite moody, often having tantrums (involuntary spasms) that sent my knees popping up to my chest for no apparent reason.

Nevertheless, I kept trying new things, including swimming. With an instructor watching, I first moved my body through the water with a freestyle stroke, hoping my upper body strength would drag along the two-year-old. All was well until I stopped to rest and my two-year-old decided to tantrum. My hips spasmed up behind me and pushed my head down into the water. I kept thinking, “Hips down, hips down!” but they wouldn’t listen. I choked, madly thrashing around until the instructor could grab me and pull me to the side of the pool.

“What happened?” I said, coughing up water.

“You’re fine,” she said.

“Are you kidding? No, I’m not,” I wheezed still catching my breath. “My hips popped up, pushed my head down. I couldn’t breathe!”

“Yes, I saw. That happens sometimes,” she said in a confident tone with a hint of compassion. “Your abdominals aren’t working like they used to so you can’t use them to pull your hips underneath you.” She pointed to her hips and showed me the tuck motion I could no longer do. “You can still swim, though. Just turn your face up and flip on your back,” she said. “I’ll show you.”

She glided face first into the water, only using her hands. Then she turned one shoulder up and out of the water along with her face and began to float on her back.

“When you need to rest, just float,” she said.

I followed her lead and it worked. Soon I had a pattern. Swim until I was weary, then float.

I thought about that lesson this week. After a couple of weeks of confronting tolerations and fears, I was weary. Maybe it was time to float.

So often we struggle—facing fears, overcoming obstacles, preparing to battle what life has thrown at us. Sometimes we have no choice. People are depending on us. We have responsibilities. We need to honor our commitments.

Yet there is a time when we need to float. We need to stop fighting, relax, and let our bodies rise to the top to rest.

So today, I’m floating. I’m letting the struggles beneath me buoy me up to rest. I know they will be there for me to dive back into when I’m more rested. I’m enjoying photos of my sassy granddaughter, my sunny deck, and the company of my charming puggle, Tripp.

My charming puggle, Tripp

Do you need to float today, too? What do you do when you “float?” I’d love to know.

My best—always,


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