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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Paddle with your left to go right

On labor day Monday, I conquered the Delaware. Well, first my brother Joe from Pa invited Jim and I to come up and go kayaking. It would be us, he said, and Marybeth (my sister-in-law), and a friend of theirs.
Now Jim has gone kayaking a number of times with our daughter, Addie, and they've always enjoyed it. In fact, last summer Jim was pleased and honored when Addie had wanted to spend her last weekend before college with him, kayaking on the Delaware.
But me? I have never gone, and I have never been tempted. A little plastic boat? Paddles? Um, no thanks. Except. This is my 50th year, and I made a vow to do new things in honor of that milestone. I'm making an effort to move out of my comfort zone, attempt things I've never done, say yes more often than no. I want to do 50 new things, and I'm a little behind. So, I took a deep breath and said "Sure, Joe, we'd love to go kayaking". Ugh.
2 hours later we're at the Delaware river, somewhere in Matamoras (I think). We've each got our kayaks, paddles, life-jackets, water, and whatever other gear we think necessary (for Jim, trail mix, for me, my cell). Then come the instructions:
Keep it straight- you don't want to go into the rapids sideways.
okay, makes sense.
Paddle with your left to go right.
Paddle with your right to go left.
Keep the water-shieldy things on the outside of your hands.
okay, what was that about left and right?
If you get stuck on a rock, push off slowly.
right, what?
just stay with us, and stay right under the bridge, then left.
left, right. your side, or my side? wait, which left? what?
There I am with everyone telling me what to do and all I could think was "oh jeez I'm gonna be going in circles". Let me say this- I am not afraid of the river. I am not afraid of water. I have a healthy respect for it, having grown up around the ocean, but I am not afraid of it. I had my life jacket on, and I wasn't worried about getting hurt.
So here is my secret:
I am afraid, horribly horribly scared- of making a fool of myself. I am self-conscious gone viral. I am hopelessly mired up in how I might look to others. So when I'm thinking "Oh jeez I'm gonna be going in circles" I'm not worried about being stuck in one place. I'm worried that people will laugh at me. That I will be the only one who can't figure out how to make the damn boat move.
And this is why my daughter has so often been my hero and always an inspiration- because she does not have one single self-conscious bone in her body. She just does stuff, and who cares how it looks. And she dives into life fully and courageously and with buckets full of joy.
So. I did my best to channel my brave adventurous unselfconscious daughter and go. Just go.

Then I went. And it was fun. I didn't go in circles. In fact, it only took a minute to feel comfortable, competitive even. And I managed to keep my kayak straight through the rapids without much trouble.
Floating slowly could be a little boring, but then the rapids appear and those were lots of fun. I got splashed and the weather was wonderful and the day turned out to be a perfect goodbye to summer. We even had a small bit of kayak-losing, shoe-floating, never-happened-before-drama among our party (not me) which added some flavor to the day.
Here is what I learned:
When you tell me to go left or right I will just look at you completely stupid while I try to translate that idea to my muscles, which, given the further confusion of the paddles working in opposite directions, what would you expect? However- when you tell me to keep the kayak straight with the waves knocking it this way and that- well- I just do it, with no problem at all, because my muscles get it.
Am I glad I went?
Absolutely. And I would do it again, and I would prefer the rapids be bigger even.
It was a very wonderful day, a new adventure, a new memory, and one fewer thing I have to do this year..... because

I am fifty years old, and I have conquered the Delaware.


  1. This is awesome, Vicky. I think many of us have the "I'm going to look stupid" thing going on and I also have the "I'm going to look FAT and stupid" thing going on!
    Next year try the Delaware in the spring after the rains and you'll get a swifter ride! It's kind of like life--sometimes the ride is wild and crazy, and other times you have time to just float along.
    Sam loves the rapids also. Bob takes him to the creek, he jumps in, floats/swims through the rapids, jumps out and runs back up and does just that part of the creek over and over again.
    I love your "50 years young" project and how you have stretched:) I think you are brave and wildly wonderful:)

  2. except the comment was from me, Pat and this dumb thing won't let me be me

  3. Thanks Pat! I will try it again in the spring for sure. :-)

  4. I have some crazy intense hesitation about kayaks. I wouldn't go so far as to call it fear, but I am resistant to it. I spend half my days upside down or balancing on my hands, and I've gone swimming with sharks for goodness sakes - but kayaks... nah.

    Hopefully one of these days I'll finally try kayaking too.

    Lovely to hear that your experience went so well - even if your inner doubt chimed in at first.

  5. Thanks April- swimming with sharks! Wow. I know some don't like the confines of a kayak- I thought it would feel very enclosed- but it didn't seem that way to me after I was in it. Upside down? Now that's something I haven't tried... :-)

  6. wow. You are such an inspiration, Vicky!!! Kudos for DOING stuff and not letting age, nor fear or worry stop you!!!!

  7. so sun! where on the delaware were you?? I live close to it and my dad purchased a house last year in PA on the delaware .... it is so pretty on the water .... i tried to kayak this year wasnt pretty!