Today I relearned something that I seemed to have forgotten at some point in my life. However, this time I learned it in the literal sense; and that literal sense made me realize why it holds true for the figurative as well. It’s amazing how if you’re truly in tune with your body and mind, you see, hear and notice profound things at certain moments in your life that others who aren’t, might just overlook. This was one of those moments.
I woke up this morning with the intentions of doing something I had done only once before with my mother at the age of 20 while vacationing in Ireland. I rented a row boat to take my daughter out onto the lake and have a picnic.
We got to the docks around 12 o’clock and the young “instructor” handed me the oars and pointed to the boat without any actual instruction. I looked down at the big aluminum vessel and shrugged, figuring it’s pretty self explanatory. We both climbed in and he gave us a push. Off we went into the open waters with 2 paddles, a thermos of tea, small sandwiches and chowder tucked away in our back pack.
I picked up the oars, attached them to the side of the boat and looked ahead. It was a gloriously cool September day, with the sun playing hide and seek behind a cumulus cloud. I was determined only to go a few hundred feet out, somewhere in the middle so that we could just float about and enjoy some food and conversation. Well, that few hundred feet worked my back like I was in the Regatta Races without any formal training. (I’m in pretty decent shape but I was struggling to say the least). However, with the help of some very friendly wind gusts we got to right about where I wanted to be…..and then with the help of some other big, yet not so friendly wind gusts, we got much further than I wanted to be!
It was fine, the day was beautiful and our on-board picnic was splendid. After lounging about for a while I realized that we had to be back at the docks in 20 min. Remembering the struggle to get out to where I currently was, I decided it best to start rowing……and rowing I did (or maybe that’s not really the term that describes oars going every which way in a frantic frenzy pushing the boat forward and backward at the same time).
Trying to make good time ( I really didn’t want to have to pay the extra $75 for being late) I picked up the pace, kind of. I was truly expelling all of my energy trying to fight against the light, but seemingly stronger than me, current of water; my little one laughing at what could only be the ridiculous faces I must have been making as I pushed and pulled as fast as I could on those two oars.
I could see the dock ahead but no matter how much strength and speed I put into it I didn’t see it getting any closer. I asked her “How are we doing back there?” She was facing the rear of the boat and the island that we had come away from. “Looks like we’re getting closer” (she meant to the island) This was not the plan! I was literally moving backwards somehow, despite the correct motion in which I was propelling the oars. I felt like a cartoon character trying to run yet standing in place with my legs spinning and no forward movement.
What the heck was I doing wrong? Then it hit me. I forgot to breathe. I took a deep breath in, plunged the blades of the oars down into the water, and with my out breath I leaned forward and pulled back on the handles in one smooth, balanced, slow and controlled motion. Then I did it again.
She looked at me and said “There you go Mom”, and there I went. Making headway. Working smarter, not harder. Putting my mind, my breath and my muscles to work all in synchrony to reach my destination without:
a.) looking like a fool
b.) exhausting all of my energy too soon
c.) getting nowhere fast
My body moved in fluid motion, agreeing with the water as we worked in harmony with one another instead of against each other. The water was there, my destination in sight, the oars were my trusty mates and my mind was focused. With my newfound mastery we made it to the docks with time to spare and a calmness about me; no huffing, no puffing and feeling energized instead of exhausted.
This day on the water relates in many ways to every day life. People often resist their situation or react irrationally to it if it is not suiting or requires effort to overcome. Without putting any real thought into how to deal with the circumstance, they just barge ahead, thinking quick or brute force will get them closer to their goal or further away from their “less than ideal” situation.
Stopping or slowing down to take stock of all of the elements of a circumstance and recognizing that a more balanced and calm approach to overcoming an obstacle can be way more productive than just flailing your oars aimlessly and erratically, so to speak.
Resisting the urge to fight everything because not everything needs to be fought, is something to think about as well. Sometimes going with the natural flow of something is the best direction in which to travel. However, if you know in your heart that this particular flow is not heading towards where you need to be don’t go beating it over the head with a paddle. Just accept that it’s there, turn your eyes to your horizon, lower your oars, take a deep breath and move on as calm and collected as you can.
As one of the greatest and wisest men I have ever known used to say to me when I would get overwhelmed ……”Go easy”. I remember just hearing him say this would stop me in my tracks and force me to slow down and be deliberate with my actions or words. It’s a great mantra actually.
So to you, my loyal readers, if you must go against the current, like the well trained and instinctive thoroughbred that is sure to win the race, pace yourself, reserve and distribute your energy as needed and “Go easy”.