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Going with the flow
It’s almost three months since I fell from my horse and busted up my shoulder and wrist. I’ve been working hard in physical therapy and the pain I’ve been struggling with is finally beginning to ebb. It will be some time before I’m ready to ride again but that doesn’t keep me away from the barn. I enjoy seeing my horses, spending time with my community, and watching my friends ride. You can learn a lot by watching others.
Last week I was watching as my trainer rode horse after horse. Every horse following her cues, responding to her instruction. She rides with an air that is mesmerizing. A combination of control, confidence, and professional competency. There’s also joy on her face and her frequent laughter is infectious. She is doing what she loves, and it shows.
In the ease of her riding and her connection to the horse her energy just flows. She knows the unique traits of each horse and works with them where they are, with what they understand and where they are struggling. She understands ‘what is’ and goes with it. She adjusts.
I’ve a long way to go before I can ride with that ease and flow. The closest I’ve ever been to it is when I was scuba diving.
I felt a lot of joy scuba diving. I’ve been diving all over the world and have several advanced certifications. Some diving is relatively simple, but there are some locations where the conditions are challenging, and you must stay on your toes. No matter what, you should always have a good dive buddy to watch out for you.
The first thing to know about diving is: if you find yourself in a tough situation, don’t panic.
I am fortunate that I don’t suffer from claustrophobia and finding small caves and wrecks to explore while diving is fun for me. But not everyone is comfortable in those tight spaces.
A few years ago, I was diving Truk Lagoon. Truk, or Chuuk, is a small part of Micronesia in the Pacific Ocean. During World War II it was a major naval base for the Japanese fleet. At least until the US launched an operation called Hailstorm and sank dozens of Japanese ships, planes, and of course personnel. Today, it’s a premier diving spot and I found exploring the shipwrecks and downed planes fascinating.
I was behind one of my fellow divers as we descended an enclosed stairway into to the hold of one of the mangled ships. As the diver got about halfway down, some thought entered his head and he suddenly felt trapped. He began kicking wildly and pushing himself backwards against the hull. The silt he was stirring up made visibility nearly impossible for those of us behind him and as he pushed backwards and kicked, his fin came precariously close to my face and almost knocked my regulator, necessary to breathe, out of my mouth. He was panicking. I signaled my buddy behind me to go back, and we quickly got out of the stairwell and away from the flailing diver.
I was younger and cockier then, so I likely rolled my eyes a few times. I remember being a bit miffed. Why fight what is? It’s safer for everyone if you go with the flow. His panic put himself and others in danger. I couldn’t really understand his reaction.
But lately, I’ve gained some new empathy for that diver. Over the past few months, the intense and ever-present pain I’ve experienced caused me to feel panicked and I felt myself struggling and fighting against what is, unable to go with the flow.
I’ve learned since my accident that being in chronic pain is like having claustrophobia. I’ve felt anxious, and at times wondered if there would ever be an end to what felt like torture. I was frustrated and sometimes infuriated and wanted to kick and lash out. I felt isolated and feared I was annoying those around me who I was sure couldn’t really understand. The lack of sleep, the discomfort, and even the medications taken to help with pain, all colored my view of the world. I felt like I was shrinking, collapsing into myself somehow, and depression began to set in. I felt trapped.
I thought of that diver and understood in a way I hadn’t before. You really can learn a lot by watching others.
Thing is, I know how to navigate the depths. I’ve been in some tough spots before. The safe way up to the surface is slow and steady, taking time to let your body and mind adjust. Relaxing into the flow and patiently working with what is.
And don’t forget your dive buddies. They’re there to help.
For now, I sit by the arena and watch friends ride. I smile. One day soon, I’ll get to ride too.
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