When it comes to life on the water, I’m down with the idea of it. I mean, I understand the appeal. But the reality of it is something that I struggle with on a continuous basis. Swimming through it, jumping into it, submerging myself under it…I don’t like the way my hair feels after, I don’t enjoy the inability to inhale when necessary, and I sure as heck don’t like wearing a swimsuit.
That’s why, while the idea of floating down the Chattahoochie River this Labor Day weekend sounded like a good theory in concept, I wasn’t very excited once the day rolled around. The plan was to drive our truck about 6 miles down the road, unload, and float our way down to the dock at our friends apartment complex. 6 miles. It doesn’t sound too bad, until you realize the water is only kinda moving, it’s rather cold, and it could take anywhere from 3-9 hours to traverse. That’s why, as intelligent females do, the ladies in our group opted to park a second back-up vehicle about a mile from our intended destination. Jussstttt in case things got dodgy.
Because it was Sunday, we couldn’t hit the water until the beer went on sale at 12:30. And because it’s already September (whaaaaaat?) we knew it would start getting dark by 8 or so. I am all for being outdoors, soaking up the sunshine and getting my last tan of the summer on….but once it gets cold, and dark, and all you’ve got to wear is a wet one-piece? All I could see in my future was an emotional breakdown.
So I know you wanna know what happened.
Well, we got down to the riverfront with 5 huge river tubes and a giant inflatable cooler filled with drinks, strapped them all together in a circle, and gracefully plunged into the netted cushions we’d be riding all the way down. We were in it together until we reached the end. And in the meantime, we had music, conversation, alcohol and sunshine to pull us through. It took us almost 6 hours to get to our first car, just as the shade began to encapsulate the waters and all of us got a little too uncomfortable to function. We had defeated an obstacle. And we’d had the best time doing it. Myself included.
The thing is, when you’re “stranded” on a river, you have no choice but to let go and be in that moment. You find a new part of yourself, one that is okay with not knowing exactly where you’re going, one that is willing to pee in the river because it’s the only option and everyone else has already done it too. One that can carry on conversations with anybody, even if she’s a self-proclaimed introvert. One that can laugh until it hurts, and forget what waits at home or work. You realize that change in self and mindset is incredibly possible. Especially when you’ve got a bunch of other shoulders to lean on. In a situation like that, you have binding, physical proof that you are not alone. Sure, 6 hours got to feeling a little long…and by the time I got off that tube onto dry land, traipsing up to the car was the last thing I wanted to do. But I felt so accomplished. I felt so different. I felt so connected to the people I had just made all of those memories with. And I would do it again – water and all.
Coming home, I realize just how rare those feelings are for me. I am too easily burdened by things I feel like I cannot change. I can dwell on the tiniest little stressor until it becomes the biggest, most defeating stress ball I have ever known, seeping into the parts of my day where it shouldn’t belong.
But finding happiness is not impossible. I know I can get to that place where all of my worries cease to exist. I think sometimes, I just have to challenge myself to go to a new place – mentally, physically, emotionally – whether I do it myself or bring some folks along with me. Over the coming weeks, I am personally challenging myself to find the good, to find the escape. I may not find myself exactly where I want to be right now, but everything in life is fluid – I have the power to change it. And while it may not all happen at once, it will eventually. I don’t have to feel stuck on the Chattahoochie. Dry land is still in sight.
……And so is wine.