Have you ever spent literally hours on Facebook, stalking people you used to know, only to find out everyone is doing life better than you? She has a better job. She is prettier. She’s a better mother. She’s a better wife. She can climb mountains. She is fearless. Sure there is the occasional epic failure, and you breathe a sigh of relief because you have it so much more together. But for the most part, social media just makes you feel less.
Since we landed upon this mountain, I have desperately been trying to find myself and reinvent myself. So when I lost an afternoon scrolling through other people’s lives and feeling inferior to literally everyone, I decided, “Hey, if she can do it, I can too.” I should have known better.
Typically I’m a creature of habit, I find comfort in familiarity. I like to visit the same restaurants, order the same food, I watch the same shows. So boring.
I do love the idea of adventure, but I panic when I think of the details of the unknown. What if I get lost? What if I can’t find parking? What if everyone knows I don’t belong? What if I die? Seriously, what if I die?
Unfortunately, when you move to a far away land, there is no familiarity, there is only the unknown. When you move to the mountains, there is nothing but adventure. Hiking, fishing, tubing, kayaking, horse back riding, all in your backyard. So whats a girl to do? Everyone else can hike, I should hike. Everyone else loves the river, I should love it too. If she can, I can, right?
The first time my husband convinced me to hit the river, it was the week of our anniversary. He walked into the house with life vests, an inflatable boat, and snorkels and informed me of his plans for our special day. He wanted us to get back to our roots as a couple, have fun together, try new things. But I didn’t want to just try new things. I want to safely explore new things with someone who is an expert in the new things we are exploring.
So as to not spoil his plans and just hide in our room all day, I spoke with some locals and found out exactly where to put in and exactly where to get out and exactly what to expect. The day of, I still required a Xanax.
It took another month and a half for me to feel comfortable enough to take all the kids out on the river. Honestly, I would have dragged my feet for even longer except my daughters friend was staying with us for a few days and I refused to not do anything fun with them. After talking to some more locals, we decided to put in further down the river this time for a more relaxing and easy float. We drove separately so that we could park the truck down river and then drive back up river and park the car. After that, we spent about a half an hour blowing everything up, two tubes, a boat, and a kayak.
By the time we were headed for the water it was 2:30 in the afternoon. My daughter and her friend jumped in their boat and took to the water seamlessly. Next my husband and youngest daughter headed down river in the kayak and my son and I prepared to put in last. My son jumped in his tube with ease, and I stepped directly into a snake pit and screamed. OK, so it wasn’t actually a snake pit, it was just some muck that my foot got stuck in, but still. I did scream. I could just picture about a hundred baby snakes latching onto my ankle and a big momma snake chasing me all the way down river.
Once we were safely floating away from the venomous, slithering river reptiles, I was quite content. We were surrounded by beauty. It was quiet and peaceful. Actually, my son doesn’t really appreciate silence the way I do, so he insisted on talking the entire time. But I didn’t mind, it was just us, talking the way we don’t often get to talk anymore, laughing and being silly and enjoying each others company. It wasn’t long before we were completely out of sight from everyone else.
The rapids were kind to us, they just gave us a gentle push and a friendly splash and we continued in bliss for a good hour or so. Around the time I was wondering if my husband would ever decide to pull off to the side and wait for us, I had a thought, “I wonder if he remembered to grab his truck key.” This is normally something that would ruin everything for me, but I was pretending to be one of those easy-going, whatever happens happens, kind of girls, so I just let it go. Whats the worst that could happen? We could hitchhike, it would be an adventure. Sigh.
He did indeed pull to the side with the girls and wait for us and when we caught up to them, we discovered, he did indeed not grab his truck key. To be fair, he did put it on my key ring, but I took off my key and put it in my water proof phone case leaving his key safely locked inside the car. We decided to both have a good attitude about it since there was no solution to the problem and we were enjoying our time so much.
To not get separated from everyone again, we attached the tubes to the kayak and tried to keep up with the girls in the boat. The last hour was perfection. I told the girls what to look out for and when to get out of the river and then I basically closed my eyes and enjoyed the bliss.
Heres what happens when you are me and you just sit back and enjoy the bliss? Everything turns to shit.
My daughter and her friend completely missed the ramp where they were supposed to get out. It came out of nowhere. By the time we caught up to them they were caught in some trees and a stranger was swimming out to help them. Their boat was almost completely deflated and they were on the outside of it, hanging on. Upon seeing them, I threw myself out of the tube, thinking that I would help get the kids and the kayak out of the river quickly so that my husband and I could get to the girls and help. The river was so deep at the point I jumped in, my feet couldn’t touch and the current was so strong I was immediately being swept away. Panic set in. I was no longer just worried about the girls but myself as well. My husband managed to wedge the kayak and tubes in the area where the girls had been but by the time he got there, they were further down river and out of sight. I swam to a more shallow area and struggled to find my footing. Eventually, I made it over to the kayak and my husband ordered me inside. I only agreed if he jumped out immediately to get to the girls.
To be honest, sometimes I’m a judgy asshole. I hear of terrible things happening to people and I think, “How does that happen? Weren’t they prepared? How did they possibly end up in that situation?” And then God laughs at me and says, “I’ll show you, you judgmental brat!”
I had no idea what was going to happen. I held on to the ropes that had us safely tucked into the trees and prayed that this wouldn’t be the worst day of my life.We waited there for what seemed like forever. Long enough for my kids to fight with each other, long enough for a fist sized spider to terrorize us. Long enough for regret. Long enough for fear.
Finally, we heard them. They were safe on land, the girls were fine and my husband and this good Samaritan were trying to figure out how to rescue us. They quickly learned that they would have to get back in the river, unlatch us from the tangled mess we were in and guide us to a calmer spot downriver where they were able to pull the girls out.
We were smacked in the head by tree branches, scraped and covered in bruises by the time we were all on dry land. As I was catching my breath, I learned that my girls were rescued by a stranger, who was in fact in a van, down by the river, freshly out of the hospital with diverticulitis. Seriously.
I was so humbled and grateful for his willingness to help regardless of whether or not it was in his best interest. He simply said, “When someone calls for help, you help.”
Once our adrenaline levels balanced out again, the girls assured me that they had a great time and that they weren’t traumatized for the rest of their lives. My husband hitched a ride with the park ranger to pick up our car and we met some friendly locals while we waited for him.
If I could, I would change a lot about that day. I skipped over so many important details because my main focus was, if she can, I can too.
But, I am cautious. I check things twice. I try things before I let my kids do them. And maybe she does too, but that’s not what she posts on Facebook, now is it?
So, while I will continue to find myself, and reinvent myself, I have also realized, I need to be true to myself. If she can, I can…but in my own way.