A Good Home

Strimping and Swimping

It’s  a pattern, I’ve come to realize. 

I return from each medical assessment with worsened pain, more intense PTSD nightmares, deep anxiety and a feeling of dread. 

But the moment I start to see daylight again, I become determined to DO something. 

I might wash the drapes. Or rearrange something. 

Almost always, I write in my journal, and from there, return to blogging. Occasionally, I give you a glimpse of my struggles.  Mostly, I write cheerful, hopeful posts, meant to uplift myself as well as you.

But those first days are dangerous.

Blog Photo - Tree and Shady Garden

Once, I tried to climb a tree, using a stepladder my husband had left nearby.  I’d loved climbing trees, even as an adult.

Slowly, carefully, I negotiated each step. Got to where the trunk forked then manoeuvred myself up, pain worsening with every move. 

I rested against one large branch, clung to another with my good arm and closed my eyes in relief. I’d done it.  I’d climbed Everest.

It was now time to climb back down. 

I’d focused hard on climbing up, not sparing a single thought for how I’d climb down. And now my injured body couldn’t do it. I was stuck.

Blog Photo - Bird Scratches self

Stuck, watching a ladder that was tantalizingly close, but not close enough. Stuck, wondering why humans didn’t have wings, and how hard the ground would be if I just jumped.

How long was I there?  Measure it in life-times, not minutes. 

Once again, my husband came home and into the garden. He looked even more frightened than I was.

I fervently promised to behave better in future. No more stupid risks. No more frightening this good man.


The great opposite of risk-taking is to live in fear. I’ve done a lot of that too.

Take swimming. We are blessed with a backyard pool which came with the house.

Blog Photo - Pool long shot

Yet, for three years (forget last summer – my left leg was in a heavy cast after I fell), I’ve never gone into it alone. Fear of my right leg and thigh becoming numb and heavy, which they often do.  Fear of drowning.

Recently, I decided to try.

I asked my husband, the first few times, to stand on the pool deck, watching me. I used one of those sponge noodles (a flotation device), splashed around, but didn’t stay long. My right side, of course, was the biggest problem.  Even in the water, and despite great efforts, my right leg felt useless.

The next time, I told my husband he could do something else, as long as he checked on me every few minutes. 

Blog Photo - Muskoka chairs and Umbrella

Each time, I stayed longer, tried harder. And here’s what I discovered (big drum roll, please): I can swim on one leg! 

My left leg, the one broken last year, is a champion; while my right leg simply floats, the left is doing the work of two.  I’m still using that noodle, but I’m swimming, for whole minutes, without fear.


Two evenings ago, I did not announce it. I just went. 

Back and forth I swam, from one end of the pool to another. When I stopped and  looked up, my husband was standing there, watching me and smiling.

“You’ve been out here for quite a while,” he noted.

“Thanks to my left leg!” I laughed. “I’m swimping!”

He laughed back, recognizing immediately that I had combined the words swimming and limping. After all, it was he who first called my style of strolling “strimping”. Now, I, too, have made up a new word.

“If we keep this up, we could create a whole dictionary,” I said. 





50 thoughts on “Strimping and Swimping”

  1. I love your new words Cynthia! And more importantly your courageous spirit, and authentic writing. I’m sorry that your challenges are many, but it seems your determination and spirit keep you going. Keep on strimping and swimping!

  2. Cynthia, sharing your struggles – and your strength of character in overcoming them and learning coping techniques – is important for all of us, to read and more importantly to absorb. So many lessons in living for everyone. Thank you.

    1. When I was at Toronto Rehab, doing aquatherapy, was my best activity. I never wanted to leave the pool. It was probably the only time the physiotherapists ever saw me smile — when I was in that pool.

  3. Even in describing your fears and limitation your humor and courage come through! I hate to hear of your struggles, but as long as you don’t lose the desire to DO something, you will make progress. Swimping I can understand…but climbing a tree…what were you thinking? I am glad your husband was there to rescue you like a kitten in a tree. Your courage inspires all of us. Hugs, my friend!

  4. There comes a time in everyone’s life when we have to cut back on our adventurous impulses, whether we have gone through struggles like you or just aging and our bones are weakening, like me. I will not be skiing anymore and replaced all my shrubs for low bushes…no more ladders. Swimming is a wonderful exercise to move freely through the water. Have you tired water aerobics? Also, I believe there is a light swimming vest to help keep you up. I have seen ladies using them at the lake. Best wishes to you and I always look forward to your blogs!!

  5. Climbing trees?? Wow that’s so courageous in these bodies that get denser over the years, swimming, now that sounds wonderful, like the sea creatures we perhaps once were, I love that feeling of weightlessness, especially the sea gives us, though it’s not always easy to get in and out. Well done!

    1. No, Claire. Irresponsible of me now, not courageous. It’s a product of all that frustrated desire to DO things. So much I still can’t do. You’re right about the water. I now just let my right leg float much of the time. I think it must be relieved, poor leg!

  6. Well done Cynthia. On the radio a couple of weeks ago i heard a woman speak of her husband who had become paralyzed in a horrible accident. He has managed to teach himself to swim again, as he always loved swimming. It is heart warming to hear these stories of human preseverence. Well done again

    1. It really is, and thank you for this. I love hearing such stories, though they also make me feel like such a wimp! (Maybe that term “swimping” also means people who are wimps about swimming! )

  7. Love this post. You do not give up or give in. You take the bad with the good and come out on top with a smile that also makes us smile. Congrats. Keep on strimping and swimping and revel in being alive…

  8. I think I’d stay out of the trees were I you. I fell out of one and fractured my spine in two places when I was 14 and it hasn’t been a picnic.
    Swimming though is something they say is very good for you, so why not? I’d live in that pool if I had it, especially after the summer we’ve had.
    In any event I hope you will heal and feel much better as soon as possible.

    1. I remember that you fell out of a tree and damaged your back. Would you believe that with all the wild tree-climbing of my youth, I never fell from a real tree, not even once? Slipped down a banana tree, though, silly me! I love being in the water, and now I’ve figured out how to swim, so yippee!!

  9. It must come as a special thrill to find things you *can* do when you’ve been facing so many you can’t. Being in the water, in that lovely pool, must feel so liberating!

  10. Congrats on conquering the pool – you now have it well in hand. 🙂 As we age, there becomes a quality versus a quantity of life. Both would be nice, but sometimes we have to choose one or the other. I guess I’m one of those who would have climbed that ladder just as you did. We had friends who were in their mid 80’s, and he loved a cocktail in the evening. His loving wife wouldn’t let him have it because she thought it wasn’t good for his health. She died before he did. I think of that often when life throws a curve ball. Right now I’m sitting here typing with ice packs on my back trying to figure out how I’ll get my fall gardening chores done. I guess I’ll just have to get creative like you do. 🙂

  11. I am looking forward to the publication of Cynthia’s Dictionary of Words You Never Knew Existed. I predict it will be a best seller. The reader will learn that there is a new word for every occasion and situation in which Cynthia finds herself. While you work on this project I have imagined for you, I hope you will continue to enjoy your swimping pool. Kia Kaha, Cynthia.

  12. You go, Cynthia!! The best way to conquer our fears is to face them and I applaud you for getting out in the pool and doing it. You are stronger than you know. (Not to mention, the swimping is a whole lot safer that the tree climping!) 🙂

  13. I love this story, Cynthia, thank you. I think trying to get the balance between reckless risk-taking and pushing ourselves to do more is such a difficult and constant struggle. Isn’t it great when it works out for the best! Well done you 🙂

  14. I am proud of you, too! You are an inspiration to all of us. 🙂

    Rick fell out of trees several times here over the years, breaking his ribs on the last fall several years ago. New rule at our house. No going up trees unless two people are home.

  15. I had no idea there were still struggles this severe. It makes me admire you even more, Cynthia–you’re plowing ahead with books, family, kindly keeping up with a bunch of our blogs–while dealing with something this challenging. My hat is off to you.

  16. This is wonderful. You and your husband are an example to us all. I am familiar with these choices between risk and fear and, as the watcher, try so hard to give the right support. Love the new vocabulary!

  17. I shouldn’t laugh at the tree escapade but I can’t help noticing that the able bodied people tend to be more sensible … perhaps they’ve nothing to prove. Certainly, the worse me knees get the more I try and do. 🙂 So glad the swimming went better than the climbing. 🙂

    Take care you.



  18. I hope you can continue your swimping for a while longer. My sister who suffers from depression has found great comfort in sea bathing this summer. I think it’s not just the swimming but the being outside that is so good for body and soul. I do not swim. I hate the feel of water up to my neck and am terrified. I know it would be good for me but I just can’t do it! Well done you!

  19. Love you new word, Cynthia! And your demonstration of challenging yourself to do what you want. So many lessons right there for all of us. I’m tempted to share the story of my son’s comeback after a severe accident that almost cut off his left leg, including bones, arteries, nerves etc., but I’ll just say we can achieve much beyond our (or anyone’s) expectations when we have the courage to try and perseverance to match. Well done and many hugs!

  20. The response to this post shows that sharing our weakness often has a divine alchemy about it. It blesses other people. God richly bless you and your supportive family. Keep up your invention of new words as Robert Macfarlane does in his delightful book ‘The Lost Words’ (see my latest post!

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