Re-learning the Basics

When I was recovering from cancer, a strange thing happened. After I took my first sip of water, I was encouraged by my nurses to try to eat things like Jello and applesauce. I put a spoon full of apple sauce in my mouth, and my mouth forgot what to do with it. It just sat there. My tongue didn’t move. I consciously tried to move it, but I didn’t know how. I couldn’t swallow the applesauce. It just sat there. Eventually, I had to wipe it off of my tongue.

My nurses had seen this happen, and they arranged for physical therapy to teach me how to eat again. It seemed crazy, how does a body or a mind forget something so basic and simple? I had to do facial exercises 5 times a day. It was then that I also realized that I couldn’t smile. My cheeks and facial muscles had become incredibly stiff, and when I even tried to smile, it actually hurt. I had to do physical therapy exercises to learn how to smile again too.

But there is this defining moment when you realize the simplest things can be so difficult or even painful. How can we forget such basic, natural things?

I took the girls to the hot springs again. You know how you think a place is so great, and then you go back, and it’s not quite as awesome as you remembered? This place is completely different. It was even better than last time in many ways. And, the whole two day trip for everything included (even taxi) didn’t cost $100. Probably close to $85 or so. This time we were very lucky though. My landlord offered to drive us there. I don’t think he realized what he had gotten himself into though, because it is way out in the middle of nowhere.

We arrived about 2 hours before check-in and four hours earlier than last time. The pools and hot springs don’t even open until 1 pm, but the staff did check us in early, and we played at the playground by the lake for about an hour.
The girls were so excited that the pools were open, and took no time, with suits and everything. They were in that water in a second. It was about 84 degrees and cloudy, so it was actually perfect. There were anywhere between 6 and 20 people in the big pool. The girls had A LOT of kids to play with and seriously, I had to make them take a break every so often.

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There was one moment when Rumi jumped in to an area that was way over her head. She panicked. I have told her since she was a baby, to never panic. She knows how to swim like a fish, but the minute she forgets that, she’s a goner. I ran over to her. I could have jumped in and saved her right then, but I yelled at her. “Rumi! Stop!” And she did. Then I said, “Now swim!” And she did. The ladder was only a couple of feet away.

She sat with me for a minute and I reminded her how bad it is to panic and how she just saw that first hand. I told her my sandals were off and I was going to jump in, but that she wouldn’t have learned. She told me she didn’t know she could swim in water over head. For about an entire hour after that, she spent the whole time in the deep section swimming back and forth. That’s what I love about her. When she learns something new, she practices and practices almost obsessively.

The water in the pool isn’t heated, so it was a bit too cold for me. I did spend about two, half-hour sessions in the hot mineral spring though, slouching down so that my neck could get the full benefit. We didn’t even walk around to the twenty or so other springs this time.

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But as I was sitting on the deck chair watching the girls, I had my beach bag with my iPod, journals and other things, I realized that I had forgotten how to relax. And maybe I haven’t relaxed since I’ve had them. In yoga classes and meditation sessions, I was the queen of relaxed, but just like eating or smiling, the simple ability had left me. All of the “Mommy, watch me!” “Mommy, are you watching me?” “Did you see that?” “Can you help me do what she is doing?” didn’t help. I would have loved to close my eyes for a few minutes, or even doodled with some colored pencils, but I noticed even my muscles were on alert. I couldn’t even sink into the chair, I sat at attention.

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Don’t get me wrong. I really, REALLY enjoyed my time. But I think I need some physical therapy session to teach me how to relax again. A couple of exercises in my non-existent free-time, and maybe it will come back to me like eating and smiling.

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