The Tides of Life

As the tide washed in, the Dutch Tulip Man faced the ocean:
“Conjoiner rejoinder poisoner concealer revelator. Look at it, rising up and rising down, taking everything with it.”
“What’s that?” I asked.
“Water,” the Dutchman said. “Well, and time.” – Peter Van Houten, An Imperial Affliction (from John Green’s book, ‘The Fault in Our Stars’)


I loved to watch my mom in the ocean. She had no fear. I still giggle, thinking back to the different expressions my mom would make as her back faced the incoming waves. I was a teenager sitting on our beach blanket with my feet in the sand at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. My mom would make silly faces, as she had no idea whether the next wave would pummel her under the water or if she would peacefully glide above it. She seemed to enjoy this unknown thrill. I loved to see this fun-loving side of her. Mom would encourage me to come out into the water, but I enjoyed the safety of the sand and watching her. This was a priceless snapshot of health and family enjoyment at its finest.


I smiled at my mom’s excited eyes getting real big right before a white-capped wave encapsulated her, or her cheesy grin when she would float atop a wave. Now that I look back, the ocean speaks volumes in regards to the flow of life. Whether living with or without a chronic illness like PKD, there are highs and lows and ripples in between. There are times of smooth sailing and others where there is a heavy tide. Many float with their heads above water, wave after wave, as the years pass by. Others surf right through them.

With all the times I have been ‘swept under water’ fighting, enduring and recovering, I sometimes get this sense that I need to make up for lost time. The past couple of weeks have been somewhat calm compared to the past year and a half. When this happens, I can’t help but wonder if I’m in the calm before the next storm phase. I continue to go to physical therapy three times a week to regain the strength that I have lost over the past 18 months. This past weekend, Noah and I had what one might call a ‘common’ weekend. We tackled some house projects that have been on hold due to my health issues and took a short walk with a dear friend. This may not seem special, but a weekend without lying flat on my back due to pain or spending it in a hospital, is miraculous in our world.


“The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

ocean tide

Life brings inevitable challenges. Moments where we are pulled down by worry and stress. Longing for placid times. I know with my health struggles, I will always be bobbing up and down, but my passion and will to live will be my life vest. I believe it is important to not be naïve to the fact that there will be storms, but we must keep paddling. Just like my mom in the ocean. Although we don’t know what the next wave will bring, let’s stand strong, fearless and with a smile on our face.


  1. Jane Jorgensen

    I remember that feeling of “when will the other shoe drop” with Tom. Yet that did not change our full fledge “savor the moment” now philosophy. Life is good with its ups and downs and we are fortunate to experience that. Enjoy those everyday moments!

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Jane,
      Wonderful to hear from you and beautifully said. I am so happy you and Tom had such a strong bond and wonderful philosophy on life. I am lucky that Noah and I share that same zest for life. Big hugs!!!

  2. Susan Adcock

    Thank you Valen for sharing your journey with PKD; you speak for those who also suffer from PKD or any chronic illness. It’s comforting to share with others like yourself. I am not left wondering am I the only one who feels the way I do both physically and mentally. Like you I’ve spent several years very sick and now need to regain my strength. Daunting but not impossible,mI am glad I have the opportunity to ‘go for it’ again.
    Thank you again for your blog.

    • Valen Keefer

      Hi Susan,
      Thank you for this very kind message. It give me the extra push to keep writing and sharing when I get a message like yours. I am learning that regaining strength takes longer than we would like. I like the way you put it, “daunting but not impossible.” Yes, we are lucky that we have the opportunity to “go for it again.” I talked to my back surgeon last week and his advice was to “keep plugging away.” So here’s to us plugging away. 🙂


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