The day after my last update I went out waterskiing again with my friend Sean. On the way there I still found myself extremely nervous even though I had already experienced and conquered the monoski. It didn’t take a long to figure out exactly why anxiousness and nausea were rearing their ugly heads. I had experienced the monoski but I had yet to experience the act of falling. Before my accident, the experience of falling was scary to me but really no big deal. I mean, I used to fly down concrete hills on my skateboard going 25/30 mph. I soared 15/20 ft. in the air clearing huge tabletops on my snow board and jumped off 30 ft. cliffs into small pools of water. But now the simple act of falling face first into some water with a life jacket on seemed life-threatening and was stirring up some serious nerve issues inside of me. Because I’m unable to rollover in the water after falling I must remain calm and hold my breath until the jumpers following me on jet skis leap in and basically save my life. It is comforting to know that these people are there of course, but it is not so comforting a thought to be completely dependent on someone else who will make sure you don’t drown.
The sun was beginning to creep out from behind the clouds when we left my house, but once we arrived at the Lake a cool breeze skimmed across the water and rain seemed imminent. There were also rumors going around that the water was slightly frigid. This may not seem too horrible to the average able-bodied person but to the high-level quadriplegic this is somewhat comparable to waterskiing in Antarctica. For some reason the higher the level of spinal cord injury the more being cold becomes ingrained within daily life. Most of the time, I’ll do just about anything to not be cold but not this day. I was getting back on that monoski and nothing was going to stop me.
We went through the normal routine and I was lowered into the water. My muscles immediately tensed up and through the outcry of spasms my body cried out its frustrations. The water hit my injury level point where sensation is normal and I discovered that the rumors were true, the water was cold. I was immediately ready to get on the ski and get some blood flowing, but after we got me all set up to go we realized the quad back was not in place. This is a back support that would keep me from hyperextending my back if I lose my grip on the handlebars. So I spent an excruciating five more minutes in what was really just relatively cold water but felt like a Lake created by polar ice caps.
Finally, I was in the ski, behind the boat ready to go. The start off went smooth just like last time but from the start I felt a little uncomfortable. My balance seemed to be slightly off and I was using one arm more than the other. When we reached the first turn, instead of staying tucked in to the inside I began to drift outwards. I could immediately sense trouble and was having to lean pretty hard to the left to stay up. Suddenly momentum won out and the right side of my face smacked against the water. My first instinct was to of course panic, but I then calmly held my breath and awaited the arrival of my gorgeous rescuers. Five seconds later I emerged from the water with a smile and realized that falling was nothing much to be concerned about. In fact, it was rather enjoyable.
The rest of my water ski experience was rather frustrating. My balance was way off and my left arm was doing all the work. I told them to stop once to readjust myself but it didn’t help. I’ve been trying to figure out ever since what went wrong, but I can’t really come to any conclusions. I’m not going to have much more time to problem solve because next week is the last time it is being held. I know, I don’t understand it either. There’s probably two more months of warm weather. It’s too bad I discovered my monoski capabilities so late in the summer. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.
Moving on to other news, I turned the ripe old age of 22 this past Saturday. I’ve surpassed the last reckless and immature age of 21 and it’s time to start growing up. What a shame. It’s not easy feeling like an adult however when I live with my parents and am so dependent on them for most things. I still feel very much like a teenager who bickers and fights with his parents about meaningless trivial subjects and strive to be rebellious just to get under their skin. Both sides of the parent/son relationship contribute this feeling of continued adolescence as they tend to treat me like a young inexperienced teen and I react in kind. We have discussed this problem recently and I feel we should be able to get past the unusual circumstances and fulfill what should be the normal roles of a 22-year-old and his parents.
I didn’t create too much of a big deal about my birthday. Five friends came over that night, who actually all went to my high school, and we grilled shish-ka-bobs and took part in some tasty beverages. Around 11 o’clock we headed out to a local tavern. I ended up seeing about 8 other people from my high school only two of whom I talked to. Maybe the alcohol had something to do with it, but the two I spoke with were extremely comfortable in confronting me about my injury. I love it when I run into old friends or even new friends, and they’re able to ask me straightforward questions about my life and what the future has in store for me. I’m not shy at all about discussing my injury as you may have noticed from my writings, and when people simply come out and say what’s on their mind, it really breaks the ice and sets up comfortable conversation. Things tend to get uncomfortable when people are too nervous to ask what’s on their minds, so they try to think of things to say when they really want to say something totally different.
I’m not saying that I am angry or disappointed in those people who do get nervous around me or don’t know what to say. It is completely understandable that many people are afraid of offending me or hitting on a touchy subject. People fear what they cannot understand and the average person has no understanding of the spinal cord injury. Paralysis is not an easy fear to confront. Before my accident, I personally could not look a disabled person in the eye. I thought that if I was to ever end up in a wheelchair, I would probably kill myself. I was afraid of paralysis because I had no understanding of it.
I remember seeing a quadriplegic at the YMCA working out. His hands flopped over and he was connecting his wrists to various machines. I had no idea what was wrong with him and instead of just walking up and talking to him, I avoided him and proceeded to give quick nervous glances because of my curiosity. If I saw him today I could probably tell you his exact injury level and whether or not he was incomplete.
So don’t feel bad if you’re the kind of person who cannot confront paralysis. It is not an easy thing to face. And if you do feel the urge to stare, don’t worry I’ll just assume your wondering how I got so damn cute.
I finally saw my sister and Mike’s apartment on Sunday. They held a little family gathering for my birthday. It was nice spending some time with my family and catching up with all of them. I really like Mike and Rishas apartment, and after the family left I enjoyed some personal moments of conscious observation out on the porch. As I focused on my breathing, I fully absorbed myself in the moment as I watched the various interactions of kids, adults, dogs, and bugs while some thunder rumbled powerfully off in the distance. I felt extremely peaceful and was able to harness the wonderful power of now. I love it when that happens.