I meet Alexis in the Lido parking lot for the second day in a row. We drive. Tropical Storm Debby is churning up the ocean and pissing rain on everything. We get out to look at The Street and the ocean is a stranger, the seascape so heaving and unfamiliar I get a weird sense of vertigo as we stand in the rain on the beach. We are not going out in that.
Everything is wet and gray. We drive back down through, stopping at each spot for a second time to assess. We end up back at Lido two hours later. All this driving and looking has me in a frenzy. I’m ready to surf. Alexis would have been content to go back to bed at this point. She’s from the East Coast; both more talented and more selective than I. I want it so badly that reason escapes me.
We walk way down the beach to paddle out. It’s hard. I am afraid that I won’t make it, and when I do I am so relieved and self-satisfied with this small victory that I could have went home then and felt alright about it. Unfortunately, once you get out, there’s only one way back in.
This break, usually so benign and familiar feels menacing and strange. It’s as though I can feel the storm in each of my cells. I’m uneasy. Borderline terrified. I was separated from Alexis on the paddle out and I’ve landed right next to the girl who is always mean to me. I don’t try for any waves, I try for composure. This will be a one wave drift, so I don’t want to fuck it up. I let the drift carry me North to put some distance between myself and Mean Girl. Unfortunately, this also takes me farther from Alexis and the comfort of her ability. On a normal day Mean Girl is just a funny character, but today I want to remove all possible negative variables.
I feel like a hunted animal. I have no thoughts. I am all senses. I’m starting to enjoy it in a ‘overcoming fear’ kind of way. Before I realize it, I am all alone. The two guys I’d been trying to stay close to for my own personal comfort have paddled in. I start to get nervous. At this point I’m just trying to catch one so I can go in. I desperately want to get in. Repeated failed attempts to catch a wave carry me too far inside.
Finally, I do catch one, well… almost. I get pitched and slammed against the ocean floor, making impact on my right shoulder. There is a loud, popping sound and a flash of white light. I get compressed for what feels like a really long time. I hear blood rushing between my ears or maybe its the ocean. Even back at the surface everything seems very loud yet too quiet. That same hyper-aware-slow-motion-feeling you get when you’re in a car accident or someone is trying to hurt you.
I can’t quite touch and lots of water is moving. I have my board by the rail with my left hand, intending to grab it with both hands, but my right arm is not showing up. This confuses me. Where is my arm? I’m telling it to do something, but it is not listening. I reach over and grab my right arm like you would if you woke in the night and it had fallen dead asleep. Holy shit, is my arm broken? I flop it onto my board like a dead fish and kind of lay on top of it, trying to paddle toward the beach. I get tossed by the next insider and still can’t touch. My right arm dangling, unresponsive. I have a weird sense of mortality. As if until this moment, it didn’t occur to me that I could get hurt (or die)— surfing or anywhere—part of me still refuses to accept this notion.
I finally wash up on the beach, luck playing a larger role in this outcome than anything else. There’s a nice couple walking by as I flail out of the ocean. “Will you guys talk to me for a second?” I ask. Even as I say it I know I sound like a looney tune, but I don’t care. I feel all nuts and I just want to talk to someone for a minute. By this time, my arm is back in the socket and I can flop it around, just not control it, so I’m pretty sure its not broken. I am getting from the people that they think I am more looney than hurt. This comforts me, oddly enough.
“Where are your friends?” They ask me. There is only one guy left in the water.
“They’re in the parking lot.” I lie. I am suddenly embarrassed. I just want to get in my car.
“Do you want us to walk you?”
“No, no, I’m fine.” And I mean it, I feel fine. My arm doesn’t really hurt. It’s numb and I’m a little worried about its not doing what I tell it to do, but mostly I just feel embarrassed for getting hurt and possibly over-reacting.
It’s windy and raining. There are a lot of people in the parking lot and I pray that none of them will try to talk to me. I throw my board in the car and almost pass out taking my wetsuit top off. Shit is starting to hurt now. I call my ex-husband and tell him what happened. Driving home is the pits because I have to shift the car and my arm won’t land where I want it and hot knives are being driven through my shoulder. It’s starting to swell. My ex-husband meets me at my house with my little boy and takes me to the hospital.
There was no blood or gore with this injury, but there was plenty of ugliness in the weeks that followed. It wasn’t broken, just dislocated. They gave me a sling and some drugs at the hospital and sent me on my way. I couldn’t surf, or do Tae Kwon Do or participate properly in CrossFit. I couldn’t sleep or do my job without taking those fucking pills. For an alcoholic/addict like me, taking pills is a dangerous choice. I was a cranky mess. I realized just how much of my sense of self-worth comes from the things that I can do. Not being able to snatch or do pullups at CrossFit made me feel less than. I felt ashamed to be injured. Who the hell am I if I can’t win? Trust me, I know how fucked up that sounds. I am so vigilant about teaching my son that who you are and what you can do are not the same thing, that my love for him is not connected to what he achieves. Apparently, I need to work on treating myself the same way.
But here I am. I haven’t jumped off any cliffs or resorted to the bottle. Life goes on. Thanks to making shoulder rehab a part-time job, I am feeling strong again. Humbled and a little broken, but strong.
Special shout-out to my favorite Sarasota Memorial employee, Michael Lutus. You’re the sh*t!
AUTHOR’S NOTE: I’ve had the pleasure of meeting some of you lately and based on what I’m hearing and the number of strange emails I’m getting on a daily basis, I wanted to clear some things up. This blog is not intended to be a comprehensive self-portrait, it’s about the writing. Just because I write about how I went surfing with Brad and how I felt about that doesn’t mean that I think about him all the time. Brad moved away and I’m happy for him. We are friends. I’m not sitting over here in a pile of Kleenex pining away, I promise. I’m not all serious and introspective all the time either. I’m so flattered that so many of you read this and feel connected to me in some way, that’s what I want. But if you meet me, please be aware that the Katrina you think you know from reading this may not be an accurate representation of who I actually am (but yes, I do in fact, hang out in just my underwear all day).
Proust said it best, “Every reader, as he reads, is actually the reader of himself. The writer’s work is only a kind of optical instrument he provides the reader so he can discern what he might never have seen in himself without this book. The reader’s recognition in himself of what the book says is the proof of the book’s truth.”
Thanks for reading, and look for new photos next week. Scott Braun is taking my butt’s picture— err, I mean my picture— again this Friday. If you have any bright ideas for photo shoot concepts, please email me; I’m running out of ideas. Oh! And I almost forgot. Welcome aboard Steezy Surfer, my newest advertiser, check them out on Facebook.
My ex-husband didn’t realize the phone was on video and captured this couple seconds of my pain, I thought it was funny…