Stretching the Gray Matter…

A ray of sunlight streams through the window in the small space that is my study. Dust particles in the air seem to dance in that stream of light as if in appreciation of the sun finally making a grand appearance after many dreary winter days. It may only be for a few moments, or with any hope, hours but still, all shines happy in this moment in my room…which clearly needs tidying and a good swipe of the dust cloth.


Alas, I don’t have the energy even for a vacuum cleaner.  I’m still tired from an out-of-the-usual experience just the other day.  The fact that I’m not a spring chicken anymore is ever clearer to me, even as I acknowledge that part of my tiredness (and feeling older than I really should) is due to a marked change in my fitness regimen.  I’m not sure what label to give it because any word I would use would be negative and counter-productive to living in a more bliss-full state… (e.g. lazy comes to mind).

My out-of-the-usual experience involved three hours in the swimming pool.

And heavens no…I did not swim for three hours (those days are long past!).  I would most likely still be in bed if that were the case!

So, it’s not news that last year was spent dealing–or trying to deal with–getting through to my wayward adult son.  Ten months of trying to help him help himself left me depleted both emotionally and physically. Add to that house projects and other family issues, and a robust work schedule for Rocket-man (nothing to complain about there for sure, but still….)  all of which made Rocket-man emphatically proclaim:  It’s time for a little fun in 2019!”

His first action for the new year was to book a scuba-diving vacation.  It’s been over ten years since I last donned a wet-suit.  That was for an impromptu afternoon scuba adventure in Hawaii where Rocket-man was attending a work-related conference.  Prior to that it had been seven years since we had been on an actual scuba diving vacation.  Naturally, I was game for my husband’s plan however not without a healthy amount of reservation mixed with a sprinkling of fear.

“It’s been over ten years since we’ve been scuba diving.  “My wet-suit probably won’t even fit now,” I said.  “….and besides, we’ll need a refresher course of some sort before we go.”

“Nah….it will all come back to you on day one of our dive vacation….sort of like riding a bicycle,” said the Ph.D. dude who has many more dives under his belt than moi.

So, we are in the basement rifling through our scuba equipment that has been stored in boxes through two moves.  “Clearly we need to get our gear serviced before our trip,” says Rocket-man as he carefully inspects his regulator.   Meanwhile, I look at my wet-suit noting the size tag: medium.  Hmm.  Yeah, right I think to myself as I steal upstairs to try it on as Rocket-man continues going through the gear.  With some struggle, common with wet-suits, I try it on and am amazed that I can still zip it up.  Standing in front of the large floor mirror I regard the image before me.

“It is what it is.  It’s not my best post-menopausal look but it could be worse,” I whisper with a rueful grin.

Back downstairs, Rocket-man has gathered the equipment that needs to be serviced.  I hold up my BCD vest.  It’s black and purple and looks no worse for the wear after being stored away for so long.  “I don’t even remember what BCD stands for,” I say to my husband.

“Buoyancy Control Device,” he answered.


“So what does this do? I asked pointing to a long, rigid hose on the left shoulder of the BCD vest.

Rocket-man does not give me a “you’re a dolt” look but I can see for a moment he is perplexed that I don’t remember something so…well… basic.  “That’s the BC inflator hose.  You know, to inflate the BC for…

“…yes, duh….buoyancy,”  I reply.   “Okay….still, as you can see, I would feel more comfortable if we spent some time reacquainting ourselves with all of this.  Maybe you don’t need it, but I certainly do.  I won’t feel one bit comfortable in the water without a refresher class.  And, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that it’s not particularly safe to go open water diving without knowing what the hell you’re doing.”

“Okay,” said Rocket-man.  I’ll schedule a class through the dive shop.  I’ll do it with you so you don’t have to go it alone.  You are, after all, my beautiful dive buddy.”


Then, for a few minutes he patiently goes over the five basic parts and functions of the diving regulator, that critical piece of equipment which enables one to breathe from a scuba tank.  Inquiring minds can check out this useful link:

As you may have surmised by now, the three-hour pool session was our scuba refresher class.  I was excited to be at the pool with gear in hand, that is…until I learned that  a pop-quiz would be the start of our session!   Real test anxiety called for calming breaths.  A voice in my head said go with the flow; don’t resist.   Still, when I got to the section on Dive Tables and determining surface intervals and bottom time, I choked.  Literally.  I mean, look at the table for yourself and tell me if your eyes don’t glaze over!  I missed more than I am happy to admit.  Even my Ph.D. dude missed a couple of questions.

PADI: Recreational Dive Table

Crushed, I thought that surely it would be further downhill from there but luckily going over the tables with the dive instructor helped to slowly stretch the good old gray matter and things started to make sense once again; with weeks to practice with the dive table over various scenarios before my trip I’ll feel more than prepared.  In addition, I passed most of the underwater skills on the first try!  Even one that I struggled with years ago during my open water scuba certification, Mask Clearing.

We both had some trouble with maintaining neutral buoyancy during our three hours but even the instructor admitted that one pool session wasn’t going to help us achieve that certain drag-less grace in the water (e.g. no flailing around with hands and legs potentially kicking up sand and/or bumping into other divers).   It is one of the harder skills to master and needs, first and foremost correct “weighting” of the body combined with particular attention to breathing through inhales and exhales.  Our instructor assured us that by day two in the water during our scuba vacation we’d be hovering practically motionless horizontally and streamlining our bodies effortlessly and efficiently with the style and grace of an elegant sea creature.

After class, as I showered and then rinsed the chlorine off my wet-suit, I thought about how important it is, as we age, to keep stepping out of the box, even for an afternoon.  Body and brain were stretched and tired but there was a beautiful satisfaction in knowing that I did not resist…I just did…and that buoyed my spirits for the rest of the day.

After class, as we hauled our gear and tired bodies to the car, Rocket-man, without provocation from yours truly, admitted:

“You were right Cristina.”

“What’s that you say my dearest? ”

“You were right to insist on a refresher class.”

How blissful to mine ears!

3 thoughts on “Stretching the Gray Matter…

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