Swimming Against The Current

Recently I completed my first Olympic Triathlon.  I participated in it in an effort to raise money for my Foundation.  The SMSRF  is an organization that provides grants to researchers to help individuals with a very rare disorder called Smith Magenis Syndrome.  My daughter Sydney age 6 was born with it.  When a good friend of mine approached me about forming a team to participate in this event I was thrilled to be a part of it.

There are some moments in your life that no matter how much time passes or how much you have healed since that day; the event is simply embedded in your brain.  Hours after my husband told me the shocking news about Sydney; I said to him “Our world is going to spin differently.”  My husband looked at me with a blank face, he had no idea what I was tying to say.  I tried to clarify myself, “The world spins in one direction and gravity forces everyone to move with it.  This devastating condition will grab hold of us and push us in the other direction but we will have to force ourselves to move in the right direction or we are going to fall off”.  I think at the time my husband agreed with me even though he had no idea what I was trying to say.  After knowing me for over two decades he knew better than to question me considering the state of mind I was in, so he just nodded in agreement.

Over the past five years my thoughts that day made more and more sense as I began to live this life that moved in a different direction than everyone else.  The constant struggle to hold onto your footing so you don’t get lost was something that I was becoming quite proficient at.  Unbeknown to me at the time I was already in training.

These past six months as I was preparing my mind and body to compete in this triathlon there were many new challenges I was faced with.   Preparing my body to go from one activity to the other with little to no rest in between was one of them.  These training exercises are referred to as bricks.   I found myself rather comfortable juggling the different modalities and quickly felt that it was exactly what I had inadvertently been doing ever since Sydney’s diagnosis.  Never a day has gone by that I have not had to handle one struggle, one challenge, or one obstacle at a time.  Many things could and would come at me in a single day and I would have to rise above it in order to keep moving forward.

After months of training the big day was finally here.  I felt strong, I felt ready, and most importantly I felt prepared.  And then the current hit.

The first event in every triathlon is the swim. As I entered the water that morning feeling understandably anxious, I was confident that I was both physically and mentally ready.  Halfway into the swim the winds picked up and the water became choppy.  I was swimming but not really moving anywhere.  I worked hard to combat the waves but was not very successful.  The minutes were passing and I was not getting any closer to that finish line.  I found myself taking many breaks and thinking about how I was going to get through this.  I feared I was the last one in the water and there was a good possibility that I was not going to be able to complete this swim.  But much to my surprise I did not panic, in fact, I found myself surprisingly calm.  I even jokingly shouted to the man in the kayak nearby and said, “Hey am I the only one left in the sound?”  He chuckled and assured me that there were still some people behind me.

I realized that my triathlon training did not prepare me for that swim but my life with special needs did.  Every single day I swim against the current and it is exactly the point I was trying to make five years ago.  Having a child with special needs makes it harder to move through life but you do learn how to do it and having a sense of humor certainly helps.   I may not have swam as fast as I would have liked or as gracefully as I had hoped but I did manage to complete that portion of the triathlon.

Life with Sydney does not move fast and I can assure you that there is nothing graceful about the tantrums or the global delays, but after five years of training I have learned that an unexpected current will not pull me under.