I am deviating slightly from my usual posts and instead sharing a story about an inspiring spirit.
I rolled over in my sleep. A nagging pain shot across my shoulder blades. I shifted to another position. The pain intensified. “Rats!”
I fidgeted. I continued to move back and forth. Would I find a comfortable spot this time? No.
Eventually, I wandered downstairs. I grabbed a banana and a frozen gel pack. I gulped down the banana while I simultaneously took a heavy duty anti-inflamatory drug. Back in bed, I placed the icy pack under my shoulder blades and waited for the coldness to remove the persistent discomfort. I stared at the ceiling. Within no time, the medicine and the ice took affect. I was asleep.
A gentle touch on my back and a warm kiss awakened me. “Hey, are we exercising today?” my husband questioned.
My eyes blinked. I responded to the bright rays of sunshine flashing through the small openings in the blinds.
With a notable sigh, I half-heartedly replied, “Sure, why not?”
Moments later I was heading to the bathroom. I stretched one way and then another. The irritating pain was temporarily gone. I whispered, “Hallelujah!” One of my minor discomforts was quickly resolved.
As I squeezed my middle-aged body into the confined space of my bathing suit, I had second thoughts. Grumpiness would be my demeanor if I didn’t have enough sleep. But then again, without daily exercise I might be equally as irritable. I grabbed my bag and we drove to the health club.
It was an hour and a half later than normal. The club’s parking lot was filled with cars. A part of me wanted to retreat back to my bed. Did I want to deal with a crowded pool or was I simply not motivated?
All of the swimming pool lanes were occupied. Some already were doubled up. One muscular man was sitting on a chair and two younger women were approaching the pool. After my hip replacement surgery, I preferred having my own space. Was I trying to find another excuse to avoid exercising?
Instead of sharing a lane in the lap pool, I dipped my toe into the therapeutic pool. It was scorching. I rationalized that the heat might be good for my back and miscellaneous aches and pains. While it might have a soothing effect on my muscles, my core temperature rose as soon as I entered the water. I did not have a water bottle and worried about dehydration. It was too hot to swim aggressively.
Instead, I took off my training flippers and put my goggles on top of my bathing cap. I opted to use my accessories- resistance apparatuses for my legs and Styrofoam barbells for my arms. As I meandered from one side to the other, my eyes came in contact with a slender woman wearing an over-sized cap. She was moving very slowly and deliberately.
“Wow, I’m so impressed with what you’re able to do.” she called out to me.
“Huh. I’ve been doing this for years. Working out in the pool is a wonderful way to exercise.” I responded.
I assumed that she was recovering from a recent surgery or an accident. I wanted to say something encouraging. But I wasn’t sure what I should say next. She interrupted my thoughts.
“Yeah, you’re so lucky. I feel like I’m 100,”
I propelled myself closer and treaded water right next to her. I could see that she was rotating her thin arms back and forth while she stood in a stationary position.
“Come on. You look a lot younger than me,” I said.
“I’m 42, but I feel ancient. How old are you?”
I hesitated. I wasn’t sure if I should give my actual age. I sheepishly replied, “Mid 50s.”
She looked down at the water and said, “I shouldn’t have asked. I wish that I could do what you do.”
I didn’t want to intrude on her privacy, but my curiosity was heightened. What had caused such a young woman to become so frail?
“Were you in an accident?”
She moved a little closer and said, “No, I have a degenerative condition. I am constantly coping with one strain, pull, or tear after another. I’m dealing with 3 body parts right now.”
I was stunned. This was not the response I anticipated. I hesitated and then asked, “Does the water offer you any relief?
“Some. Without the pull of gravity, I can at least stand upright. I need someone to help me get dressed. It’s a daily challenge.”
I’ve had my share of orthopedic problems, but each had a light at the end of the tunnel. I was at a loss.
I simply said, “I wish you the best of luck.”
“Yeah, I’m inspired by watching you. I just try to do what I can. I realize my limitations.”
“Keep it up. At least it’s warm and cozy in this pool.”
“Maybe for you, but not for me. I’m freezing. I’ll be even colder when I get out of the water.”
I propelled my overheated body out of the pool.
I stood at the side of the pool and yelled out, “Take care. I wish you well. Hopefully, we can chat again.”
She smiled. I walked toward the locker room.
For the remainder of the day, I could not stop thinking about this stranger. So many times, I have bitched and moaned about a variety of pains and discomforts. Many have put me on the sidelines, but each was eventually resolved by physical therapy, drugs and/or surgery. Even the extreme and unrelenting pain of having bone-on-bone in my hip joint had a solution- a hip replacement.
The pain and suffering that this woman had to endure with no end in sight was hard to fathom. Being totally dependent on others at such a young age was a tragedy. Yet, despite her severe limitations, she was cordial, friendly, and maintained a smile on her face. While she admired my aquatic talents, I appreciated her inspiring spirit. In the face of extreme adversity, she was able to maintain a positive attitude and disposition without showing any outward signs of defeat.
I hope that I never forget the lesson I learned from this inspiring spirit.