Life Is Like...

I happen to be one of those people who questions everything. You probably wouldn’t suspect that of me because I may appear meek and accepting. Believe it, though: The folks who know me best know this about me. I scrutinize most everything. I’m pretty critical, actually. "Life is like a bowl of cherries." Oh, is it really? Is it, perhaps, more like a mango? Or a box of chocolates? Or a banana? Or a five-course meal at my favorite restaurant? (I probably should have eaten before writing this; now I’m getting hungry.)

Can life really be like any other thing? As I write this, I see that I am coming off as rather concrete, and I don’t think I’m really like that. I get metaphors, similes, and aphorisms, and I use them all the time. I just like to examine them and question them and handily reject them if they don’t hold water. (I’m quite fond of idioms, too, you may have noticed.)

Having said all that, I have noticed that life is like a river. Or, better yet, life is like kayaking down a river. The more I test this particular pithy observation, the more it holds up. Here, if you are interested, is the genesis of my nugget.

Some years ago, my sweet friend Nancy invited me to spend the day kayaking with her down the Delaware River.  Sounded wonderful to me in theory, but I knew how that river was. It had its calm spots and it has its fast spots. And, let’s just say I have never been a thrill seeker. I avoid carnival rides that are much faster than a merry-go-round, and cross-country skiing is fine, but downhill?, thanks. Kayaking on a lake? When can we go?! White-water kayaking? Ummmm…  

But, I am also a person who does not like to say no to things. You’ll know this about me if you’ve ever sat on the sidewalk of 8th Avenue with your hand out. Especially if you have a dog sitting with you.

So, I said yes.

In the beautiful Delaware River....

In the beautiful Delaware River....

As the day drew near, I became a little agitated and uneasy. Why had I said yes, I inwardly moaned. But, I had said yes, and it would be completely uncool of me to back out. I could only pray for a snowstorm. In July.

The day dawned predictably summer-like and beautiful, and Nancy picked me up and we headed west to the river. Nancy, loving and sensitive, must have picked up on my apprehension, maybe because I told her I was scared shitless. She patiently and gently explained to me some wonderful principles about kayaking down a river.

First, she poignantly stated that the kayak does not want to capsize, and it does not want to smash into rocks. It is designed, in fact, to stay afloat and follow the flow of the water. And, if you don’t do something against the craft’s nature, it will stay afloat and won’t crash into a rock. So, the underlying principle of successful white-water kayaking is that One Must Trust the Kayak. Trust. Without trust, you are liable to over-steer thereby causing the kayak to move in a way it was not designed to, and then into the water you go (a theory I would later test). She advised me to actually lift my paddle right out of the water during the whitest parts of the white water and just trust the kayak.

How is this not like life, I ask you.

So, we get our kayaks, paddles, and life jackets at the kayak rental joint in Matamoras, and get driven upriver to our launch point however many miles away.  We put in and start our journey. At first, the water is calm and lake-like.  Yes, there’s a current, but no churning water and nothing to quicken the pulse just yet. But, as we roll along, we can hear something ahead, like the foreshadowing in a Stephen King novel!

Into the rapids we go, and following Nancy’s sage advice, I hoist my paddle completely out of the water, trusting that the kayak will flow with the current around the obstructions. And, it works! In fact, it works that way for each set of frightening rapids. It is all still pretty scary to me, but as long as I trust the kayak and the river, I sail through each challenge fine, a little wet from the spray and the sweat, but wholly unscathed.

The one time I didn’t was when I attempted to coerce the kayak to do something that was against its nature. I attempted to over-steer, and the kayak promptly flipped. That was a bummer, but, as you can tell, I lived, since I am not writing this posthumously.

So…why am I writing this now? Well, the truth is that I woke up this morning with this story writing itself, and I figured I’d better get on the computer and capture it before it all faded away into the ether, as uncaptured early morning inspiration often does. But, if I listen closely, I can hear a set of rapids up ahead in  my own life right now. And, as my pulse quickens with the anticipation and, yes, apprehension, that’s cool. I’ve done this enough times to know I can trust the boat, and I trust the river. I may have to portage the kayak for a little distance if the water gets a little too low, and I believe I am up to that task. I also know that I have the support I may need to do that, should it become necessary. I’m also ready to give a hand to my loved ones who may need to portage their kayaks.

Yes, I could stay on the lake where there are no rapids and very little chance of capsizing. It is beautiful on the lake and interesting, too, and peaceful. With the lake, however, you don’t take risks and you don’t go anywhere. The river may be risky and scary, but, if you’re willing to trust the kayak and the river, you can go pretty far.

Just like life.

Thank you for reading! I hope this little exploration is helpful to you. Please feel free to share it with anyone you feel might benefit from this. And, also feel free to contact me if you hear some rapids downriver and you’re not sure you trust your kayak. I’ve been there, and I can help!

Be well and be kind,

telephone: 845.657.3111

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