Transposing emblem by Jade Phelps
I never had a migraine until I was 45. At first, they struck only occasionally. By the time I was 54, they took me down almost daily. I consulted with my physician, a neurologist, a chiropractor and an acupuncture specialist. I dosed myself up with the recommended mineral supplements like Vitamin B-2 and magnesium. Nothing helped. Most nights I spent half my time in bed clutching my head in agony, crouched under a waterfall of hot water in the shower. I rarely slept. I lost 10 pounds I didn’t need to lose. I had to give up my career as a fitness professional. Despite all the suffering and the heavy feelings of defeat, I knew there had to be a way out. A few times when we had traveled to coastal areas, I’d experienced a hiatus from the agony. I told my husband I needed to do something different. He agreed. I packed my bags and left Arizona to live on the Sea of Cortez in Mexico.
Kevin was still working in Phoenix when I started my new life in Mexico. That was more than a year ago. Day by day, the natural world healed me. I took long swims in the salty sea, stroking through the blue-green water, rising and falling with the swells. Pods of dolphins often surrounded me. I walked to the El Soldado estuary and meditated to the background music of crashing waves and crying terns. I met a Mexican couple one day at the beach. We talked as I strolled along the shoreline with them. Soon we started walking a few kilometers together almost every afternoon. We became close friends. The frequency of my headaches decreased month by month. I pursued writing again. I taught yoga twice a week to people living in our complex. My condition would only relapse when I returned to Phoenix.
My husband retired from his job as an IT supervisor two weeks ago. Now he’s here with me in Mexico. But San Carlos isn’t the slice of heaven on the sea for him the way it is for me. He feels heavy fatigue here and is restless. He surfs the net on his phone and computer while I’m outside swimming and turning cartwheels in the sand. There’s nothing for him to do here, he says. I tell him about opportunities to volunteer in the schools, with different local charities. He always has a reason for why he won’t contact anyone. I wonder what the future holds for us. Me here. Him in Phoenix. Us separated, rather than together?
I wake up early. It’s 5:30 AM. I stretch my yoga mat out on the front patio and raise my arms in the air – the tall mountain pose. While I do five rounds of Sun Salutation A, I hear crashing waves, a chirping gecko and the shrill call of a woodpecker in a nearby coconut palm. I finish my practice feeling calm, my skin beaded with sweat. I walk to the beach and slip into the sea. I stroke through the water, feeling supported and safe. Most people are afraid to swim in the ocean. For me, the ocean is pure serenity. Swimming through the water feels so natural, so comfortable, it reminds me of who I am. It’s the only place I really feel secure. I know this sounds strange. Only I would say the sea feels safe when in the blue green depths there are stingrays and jellyfish and every kind of eel. But I feel completely at peace in the water. It’s where I can escape the uncertainty of my life. On land, I live with the constant fear of migraines. And now I worry about Kevin. He seems distant, depressed, insecure. I don’t want him to be unhappy. I love him so much. He made it possible for me to come to this place that helped me heal. I need to be here. But maybe here isn’t the place for him.
I don’t want to let go of what we have. Or what we had. It’s been almost a year since we’ve spent much time together. Now our relationship feels awkward. I’m always saying the wrong thing. Why can’t we go back to where we were 18 years ago when we first met? We were in love then. There were none of these stilted conversations and meals sitting across from each other, dominated by awkward silence. So often I look at him and want to know what he is thinking, but I’m afraid to ask. Sometimes when I’m out swimming in the sea, I wish I never had to go back to shore. When I return to the condo, Kevin is sitting at the table, his gaze focused on his laptop screen. He’s sweaty from his trip to the gym. He glances away from the computer screen for a moment when some reminder buzzes on his smartphone. He’s retired now. He’s no longer on call 24/7. Yet he remains tethered to electronic devices. I have a laptop, smartphone and iPad. And I use them often enough. I’m glad I can call my kids whenever I want and post some of my new photos on Facebook. But Kevin’s devices seem to hold him prisoner. Does he notice the sound of the waves? Does he ever look out across the blue green sea and let out a long sigh of satisfaction? I can’t help myself. I’m so overwhelmed by the beauty of this place. San Carlos rescued me from constant suffering. Gave me a chance to start over again. But now I’m weighed down by uncertainty. What if this new beginning for me turns out to be the end of us?