Day 19: Out of My Element

Few know of my small phobia of big water. This unwelcome fear is why I don’t typically seek out water-oriented diversions. That changed a little today when Glenn and I took half a day to paddle a canoe down the Androscoggin River.

Land Versus Water

Gardening, hiking, biking, and (formerly) running are some of the land-loving pastimes I rely on to help me reset and reconnect when I need it. Somehow, putting my hands into soil or traveling close to the earth literally and figuratively re-grounds me.

Many people are drawn to water for similar reasons. Intellectually, I appreciate the appeal, but it’s never worked for me. I am a confident swimmer, so that’s not the problem. There’s just this irrational fear of being in or on big water that wakes up when the circumstances are right.

Today, I chose to poke that lurking fear to full alert with a large wooden oar.

How did I get here?

Setting the Pace

What you choose to surround you sets your pace.

Until recently, a churning corporate machine was what I chose to surround me. I bought into the ideas people sold me about what winning looked like and how the score was kept. That corporate ride was for winners only.

Years ago, with an enthusiastic running leap, I jumped in for a spin and stomped on the accelerator. The thrilling roar of that enormous engine challenged me to keep up. Excited to reap the promised rewards at an imagined finish line, I forced the pace of my life and my family’s to match its driving beat.

Faster. Ever faster.

Eventually, I couldn’t tell who was driving, me or the machine.

Of course, I was never really the one driving. I got caught up in a joy ride, and realized I forgot to set a destination. No wonder I felt lost.

So I pushed the eject button I had overlooked and got off that ride and … stopped.

The River Flowed

Back to that canoe trip.

Today Glenn and I have the enormous good fortune of crafting our own – genuine – joy ride. Since I spent so much time forcing myself to adapt to a prescribed way of living, I need to unlearn a lot. Which is to say I have a lot to learn.

By pushing against my own boundaries, I’m learning which ones are immovable walls and which ones are doors that open to new delightful experiences.

Life jacket secured, I stepped into the canoe and allowed the smooth, slow pull of the river to show me a world I couldn’t see standing on one of its shores. The brilliant yellow wildflowers on a small sandbar. The quiet mystery of a wooded island standing its ground against the constant flow of the water. A bald eagle, tracking our progress in trees along our way as it dove for its meal.

With my oar pushing, pulling and steering in the silent water, I watched everything unfold from my seat in the canoe. The pace of that world was set not by a relentless drumbeat, but by the quiet timeless flow of the river.

What a ride.

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