Sink or Swim

on October 25, 2010 in Misc

I’ve never thought of Layla as being a strong swimmer.

She can snorkel for fun and scuba dive like an expert, but I don’t think she’s the kind of person who swims laps in a pool or whips out fancy dives.  Drop her in a cove and she’s more likely to paddle underwater to see if there’s anything interesting under the waves.

When I was a little kid I too preferred to swim underwater, usually while pretending I was a mermaid.  Oxygen deprivation from holding my breath for too long can explain a few things about me now.  I didn’t get swimming lessons until the summer before fourth grade, which coincided with my eyes going south; from then on I was cursed with glasses that got thicker over the years.  This was a big reason why I didn’t like to dive off a board – I was never sure if I was jumping in on top of someone who was swimming under the water line like some dumb mermaid.  Only as an adult did I start to do some (rather wuss) diving, and then only because I could combine contacts with tight goggles which meant I saw where I was going and where the other swimmers were in the pool.

Since Layla lives in Europe it’s easy for her to hop over to the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, where she can scuba dive all she wants and dabble in underwater archeology and exploration. 

Me, I’m in Colorado, which ain’t known for having large bodies of water.  Most Coloradans who scuba dive get certified somewhere else.  An interesting factoid:  Colorado is second in the continental U.S. for certified scuba divers; only Florida has more.  I think this is because a) we’re a jock state, b) we can go stir-crazy in winter and want to get away somewhere warm and watery, and c) there are cheap airline tickets from Denver to Mexico and some of the islands.

Years ago I took scuba lessons at a place in my neighborhood, but I never got certified.  Later when I was in Cambodia I scuba dived with a friend who had dived all over the South Pacific and could be my guide.  But now I’m so rusty I’ll have to study up and practice at the nearby scuba school so that maybe sometimes this next year I can FINALLY go to the islands, get certified, and swim around underwater like a pretend marine archeologist.

About my eyesight:  A couple years ago I went to an ophthalmologist to see if I could have Lasik.  Turned out my eye tissue was too thin so I wasn’t a candidate, and on top of that I had the beginnings of cataracts at an early age.  It may surprise you but this turned out to be good news because I had cataract surgery which meant permanent prescription lens were inserted in my eyes.  So for the first time since third grade I can see all on my lonesome – except that I need reading glasses.  But that’s okay.  I can see and that makes me luckier than some people.

As for Layla — she’s always had 20/20 eyesight, and as usual I’m jealous.

4 Responses to “Sink or Swim”

  1. Hart says:

    Helena-I’m impressed with the scuba diving! I am convinced it would make me claustrophobic–I even get that snorkeling–it is the flippers–I feel like I don’t have full control and panic. And I have been a lap swimmer and love it. It does make sense though, that for a spy, the scuba diving is a more important skill. How fabulous you have fresh eyes! I got Lasik a few years ago and it is good enough that I only wear glasses to drive and watch TV or movies, but it wasn’t complete. It IS nice to see adequately to exercise again–I gave up laps because I couldn’t see the line on the bottom of the pool anymore.

  2. Helena says:

    Hart — Isn’t it great to be able to see AND swim? In my pre-surgery days I learned either to keep my glasses at poolside or combine contacts with googles because I almost walked into the men’s room a couple times. I swear I could’ve showered with those guys and not know I was in the wrong place.

  3. ann says:

    Hart;s comment about claustrophobia makes me wonder what personal fears or challenges Layla has to face. Is she afraid of heights or tight places? Is she blind without her contacts? Does she have asthma with occasional attacks which can only be quieted with an inhaler? Of course we only get to see Layla in a very short time period but she seems to have taken on a life of her own in your blog. ….like the wild and crazy sister everyone likes to talk about at the family dinner table

  4. Helena says:

    Ann — Layla doesn’t have asthma but I’ve now written in details of the injuries she gets in the story. They include cracked ribs and a partially collapsed lung (sound familiar?), so from then on she can’t run or physically exert herself without panting furiously. Simply taking a deep breath hurts her. But I like your idea of giving her a life-long challenge. Instead of something physical, I’d like to make it emotional. Fear of commitment to the wrong man? Fear of powerlessness and poverty?