By the time we had been in the water 30 minutes I was not feeling the joy and Molly, sensing my lack of confidence, had already ditched me for the relative safety of Jeff’s kayak. This freed me up for some deeper thoughts and, without getting all “woo-woo” on you, what I came to realize was that a paddle down the creek has many of the same elements as our lives do. It’s just the scale that’s different.
This year, over the 4th of July weekend, Jeff and I made every effort to stay out of our home office and have some outdoor fun. To cap it all off, on Sunday we took the kayaks down to Terrapin Creek to paddle the six mile lower run. We’ve heard from locals that Terrapin is a MUST DO. You can be as lazy as you like, enjoy the sunshine and the peacefulness of the creek and just have a good time. So I was a little surprised to hit choppy little white water rapids almost immediately. We were “pickin’ rocks” and the first rough patch got Molly knocked off my kayak and dunked in the creek. She was wearing her PFD (puppy flotation device), so not a big deal, but the logistics of navigating the unaccustomed chop and hauling the ‘doodle back into the kayak at the same time left me a little flustered and she picks up on my mood instantly. Next, I managed to dry dock myself on some rocks to the point that Jeff got out of his kayak and waded upstream for a quick rescue, so I could avoid another logistical challenge.
Once Molly had decided her odds of survival were better in the other boat and we were cruising some deep, calm water. I began to have time for some deep, calm reflections.
The glassy, smooth water that creates no challenges is nice, and many times we wish it could all be that way. But if things are easy for too long, you lose your focus and get complacent, leaving you unprepared for the next spot of chop. It’s the hard times that hone our skills, sharpen our minds and reinforce our confidence. We become more aware and more “alive’.
Attitude makes all the difference, and attitude is a choice. When I was stuck up on those rocks, I found myself getting frustrated and mad at the world. Why was I the only one getting stuck? There were other people on the creek and they weren’t stuck! I must not be cut out for this. I’m too weak, small, stupid….fill in the blank with your own terms of self abuse. Later, meeting equally difficult challenges, but with a different attitude, I experienced a different outcome. It ain’t rocket surgery!
Just as a paddle down the creek is not a one dimensional experience, neither is life. It took many emotions to navigate from put-in to take-out: a little healthy fear, with a splash of frustration when my actions didn’t produce the desired outcome or my skills were insufficient. Bubbling anger at myself and anyone or any thing I could blame for my lack of perfection. But there were also the peaceful moments of stillness, watching the turtles sunning themselves on weathered snags and a rush of surprise and joy as two ducklings chased each other across our path. I felt gratitude for my life and our good health that allows moments like these, love for Jeff and Molly’s steadfast companionship. She wasn’t abandoning ship after all, only giving me space to get my head right.
Everywhere we turn, the message is to seek single emotion lives. Don’t worry, be happy. But, life is richer than that. To live life fully requires that we feel ALL our emotions–the good and the not so good (Dare I say it? The bad.) What counts is how we choose to deal with them. As Dumbledore says to Harry Potter, “It’s our choices Harry, that show who we really are, far more than our abilities.” And that’s my message. Choose!