Thursday, June 13, 2013

Of kayaking trips and life lessons

I have a story. To make it sound less awkward, I decided today is the day to pick names for my husband and me on this blog. That way, I can call him by name instead of continuing to say "my husband" this and "my husband that."

He'll be Jack (his choice) and I'll be Marie.

Isn't this beautiful? We hiked here a few days ago.

 We went kayaking today. We even invited my mom.

When we reached our destination (a spot on the lake that extends somewhere between 100-200 yards wide), I flopped out of my kayak (yes, I flopped. It was not at all graceful) to swim some laps.

I heard from our bishop's wife that swimming laps in the lake is so much better than in the fitness center.

The fitness center where we usually go to swim is a 20 minute drive away. It takes a long time for us to drive there, change, swim, shower and change, do my stretches, then drive home. We go 2-3 times a week, though, because I love swimming and it is the only form of exercise I am allowed to do right now.

I wanted to swim today. Jack wanted to kayak. Rather than taking two hours to swim at the fitness center and then take a small kayaking trip, we decided to try out the bishop wife's vision of swimming in the lake. I was excited! I've wanted to try swimming in the lake, but I just hadn't gotten around to it yet. This was the perfect opportunity.

Little did I know this was the perfect opportunity to test my weaknesses.

First of all, it's not like I don't have stuff to do. I have a lot of school business I am working on for next year along with my callings and assignment in the church. I had a plan for today. It was to get up (I got up WAY later than anticipated), study my scriptures, go kayaking/swimming, work on all that stuff I need to do, do the facilitator training modules (I'm a facilitator now, yay!), and prepare for and attend group.

When my day doesn't go according to plan, I tend to freak out a little bit (that is one of my weaknesses). Stress, anxiety, and fear start creeping in, and I get mean. I don't deal with changes to my plan very well. It's something I have been working on.

By the time we got to the lake, it was almost noon. I realized that my day was probably going to be shot, and I faced a choice: I could get irritated at everyone who made my day slower than it was supposed to be, or I could just get over it and enjoy our kayaking trip.

I chose to try to forget about the anger starting to creep in (SUCCESS!) and just enjoy the day (and not make any kind of scene in front of my mom, who also happened to be half the reason my day was getting so far off-plan). I told myself to just breathe and not freak out. In reality, I don't even have anything that has to be done by tomorrow. Everything will be fine if it doesn't get done today. I can relax and enjoy my summer days.

I got in my kayak first and let Jack and my mom push me out. The nose of the kayak went under and I started freaking out because I thought I was going to sink (fear and freaking out: weakness #2). As if I wasn't right by the shore...

My back tensed up (as it always done when I panic), and I told Jack I was scared that my back would hurt too much and maybe I shouldn't actually go out today. He told me to decide, and I remembered that I am being fearless now.

I started paddling.

When we reached our destination, I put on my goggles, kicked off my flip-flops, and flopped out of my kayak. I tied our kayaks together, and looked across the lake. Fear settled in the pit of my stomach. "I can't do this," I thought. "I am going to die." Have you ever had that feeling where you are so determined to do something cool, and then you realize that it's way more freaky than you thought? That's how I envision myself if I ever go sky-diving. It sounds really fun, but I bet right before jumping out of the plane, I would cry. I don't know if swimming laps in a lake sounds cool to you, but it did to me. The idea of it made me feel like I'm awesome, and I didn't even think about the fact that

1. Unlike a pool, I would have nowhere to stop and rest when I get tired. Even though I swim for half an hour at the pool, I take a couple of small breaks.

2. If I got tired in the middle of the lake, I could drown.

3. You can't see anything in a lake. I could barely see beyond my wrist.

And other thoughts ran through my mind, but I can't remember it all. Those were split-second thoughts. Really, in that moment, it felt like I was heading out into the ocean to swim for my life. Or that I had been shipwrecked and had to swim to shore.

I half-shrieked, "Jack, I'm scared!" I thought I was going to cry.

He looked at me like I was crazy. "Why are you scared?" I felt this undertone of "it's not like you can't swim for half an hour. You can swim across that."

I didn't really know why I was scared, but I was terrified. It was this huge wave of panic that I didn't really know what to do with (yet another weakness happening right here).

"Um, I think I'll drown."

"With me paddling right alongside you?"

"Um, I might get hit by a boat."

"Marie." He gave me his stop-being-afraid-of-stupid-things look. He was paddling alongside me for that specific purpose. So I wouldn't get hit by a boat. We planned that.

"I don't know."

My excuses were gone. And lame. And I'm supposed to be fearless. I started swimming.

Halfway across, I stopped to tread water and, in my panicky voice, yelled, "Come here come here come here COME HERE! I NEED TO HOLD ON TO YOUR KAYAK!!" He thought I was going to capsize him. I was more careful than that. I just needed to overcome my panic again and hold on to something for dear life.

I managed a full lap, stopping every so often to freak out. Then, I climbed (flopped) back into my kayak and laid in the sun, thinking.

It really wasn't so bad. Actually, I wanted to do it again. We paddled around some more so I could rest (climbing back up was HARD). He found a rope-swing to play on while I got to watch and laugh at him for a change. Then, I was ready for round two of swimming.

This time I got in the water with ease and started swimming without hesitation. I knew I wouldn't drown. I knew I could make it all the way across. I knew if anything happened, Jack was right there by my side.

I swam much quicker this time, and I didn't stop for any breaks. I just took breaths and strokes. I felt myself pull into my usual swimming rhythm.

During this round of swimming, I had time to think and take note of what was going on.

Before I got into the lake, I knew I wanted to swim across it. I even thought I would swim for half an hour, just like normal. Once I got into the water, everything changed. Fear sunk in. As I swam my first lap, I felt darkness around me. I had horrible thoughts entering my head, and I was seriously afraid for my life (it's dumb, I know. Haha, don't judge). I didn't think I would make it. I almost didn't want to make it. Part of me just wanted to get back in the kayak and pretend it hadn't even happened.

While I swam, I couldn't see anything. I couldn't even see my hand. I could see as far as my wrist. There could have been anything there, and I wouldn't have been able to see (really, there were only fish... I think. But I kept envisioning myself getting attacked by sharks or snakes or something horrible). In my head, there could have been anything there, and I wouldn't have known until it attacked.

It was a hard swim. It was harder than swimming in the pool. But it was so much more worth it in the end, and it was more fun. If anything bad had happened, my husband was right there to save me. He could reach out to me if I needed it, or I could reach out to him if I knew I needed it.

After making it the first time, I knew I could do the second lap.

I realized that terrifying little swim was like life. 

Before I came to this earth, I knew I wanted to come. I may or may not have understood how hard it would be (I don't know). But I knew I wanted to come here. I knew it would be a great experience and would help me achieve my goal of proving myself worthy to live with Heavenly Father. During life, however, we are tempted by Satan. There are times when we are surrounded by darkness and can't see farther than "our wrist." There are times when we have to know and rely on our Savior, who is always watching over us. And there are times when we need to be humble and ask Him for help ourselves. We experience pain. We experience darkness. We experience numerous trials, and with each one we learn. With each one we realize we do have the strength (through Christ) and the tools, and we become better prepared for the next trial. We can keep pushing on, and we can become better and better through each trial.

I'm grateful that I had the strength to push past my fears and do what I knew I wanted  to do. Actually, I needed to do this. I needed to experience those fear so I could face them.

I'm also grateful that I could pinpoint my weaknesses as they occurred today. It was a good little test, and I'm grateful I could try to find appropriate ways to deal with my stressors.

I see great progress here. Yes, I saw weakness, and yes, I was very full of fear at some points. But I didn't let it stop me. I pushed on, and even gained a life-lesson takeaway while I was at it.


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