Last week my husband and I took our children white water rafting on the Tieton River in Central Washington, one of the fastest rivers in the state. Before we got on the boat, as we were stuffing ourselves into our wetsuits and pulling on our life jackets, I told my kids how running the river is a lot like life: you have to learn to go with the flow. Yes, it was trite. Yes, they rolled their eyes.
I wore my water leg – a leg that looks much like a pirate’s peg leg but made out of metal instead of wood. I listened intently as our guide told us how paddle and when it was time to get in the boat, I placed myself on the right side so my long leg could keep me stabilized.
I had forgotten how gorgeous Central Washington is. The brown, rolling hills looking soft as a pillow, the fragrant pine trees and the tubular rock formations created a postcard view as we paddled down the river. The water in the river was still low making it a technical trip as our guide navigated around the many rocks.
About a third of the way down the river we came to a cluster of rocks. The boat ahead of us was stuck and to avoid hitting them our guide told us to paddle forward, right into the rocks. Just as he said, “This is going to get tricky,” I saw the rocks slowly rise up to meet me. Though it felt like it happened in slow motion, I was suddenly in the water. As my head bobbed to the surface, I realized that our guide was in the water with me; he looked shocked.
Though shallow enough that I could have stood up and only been about chest high in water, the river was powerful. There was no standing up. I barely had the ability to turn myself over. I tried to remember the instructions the guide gave us if we fell in the water, but I was too confused. I was trying to avoid feeling like an out-of-control ping pong ball bouncing over the rocks.
I finally was able to grab hold of the line on the raft and was pulled into the boat. After we parked in an eddy, I scooted back to my seat and started to assess my body. My guide kept asking if I was okay. “I’m fine.” I assured him. But my hand was shaking and each fingertip felt like it had been smashed. I knew my hips had bounced over a few rocks and anticipated that, within a few days, I’d be black and blue.
After about ten minutes I stopped the internal shaking that comes from sudden shock and was able to enjoy the incredible landscape as we finished our trip.
When we arrived back at our hotel, I talked about walking to the restaurant for dinner so I could walk my mile. I’m glad my husband had the good sense to say we’d drive. I didn’t argue. By the time we arrived at the restaurant I felt nauseous, fatigued and out-of-sorts. Eating helped, but I was simply exhausted.
When I awoke the next morning I felt like I had been run over by a truck. My upper back hurt, my arms ached and my hips were sore. Except for the walking we did at the Kittitas County Fair, before heading over to the rodeo, I didn’t walk that day either.
Going with the flow meant that I had to re-prioritize without beating myself up (the river took care of that!). I’m learning to be okay with not meeting my own expectations or meeting them differently than I first anticipated. Yes, I thought I’d walk one mile everyday for 100 days, but sometimes life has gotten in the way, just like those rocks in the river, but I figure out a way to make up the miles. Going with the flow doesn’t mean I don’t stay on track. It just means that the track may meander a bit before I get where I want to go.