life would be easier if it were more like whitewater rafting


It’s my Year of Yes, and I’m working my way through my bucket list.  Easter weekend, I checked zip lining and whitewater rafting off the list.  I found out zip lining is a lot like dating and life would be easier if it were more like whitewater rafting.

The preparation for zip lining consisted of employees helping me into my harness and helmet and another employee sharing the rules of zip lining.  (Advice which boiled down to don’t touch anything metal, hold on to your harness, tuck your knees and enjoy the ride.)

Whitewater rafting started with a safety talk from Captain Dan.  Despite the Keanu Reeves stoner-dude delivery, he gave us practical advice about what to do on the water.  Most of the advice covered what to do if you fall out of the raft.

If we fall out, the first thing we should do is look for our raft.  If it’s close enough, swim to it and get hauled back in by your fellow rafters.

If we fall out of the raft and end up under it, Captain Dan demonstrated how to use a spider crawl to get to safety.  Put your hands and feet on the bottom of the boat.  Then crawl whichever direction your head is pointing.  The way your head is pointing is always the right way when you’re stuck under a raft.  Stopping and turning around or trying to find another right direction can be deadly.

Sometimes you fall out of the raft and pop up too far away to get back in.  In that case, he showed us how to assume the position: face up, head resting on the PFD, toes pointing to the sky, feet heading downriver.  At that point, you’re on a one-woman rafting trip down the rapids.

Captain Dan taught us about eddies – calm spots on the downriver side of an obstacle.

Each raft gets a trained guide.  Captain Dan told us to look for our guides if we end up in the water.  If we see a guide gesticulating frantically, it means we’re heading toward a danger zone.  The guide always points to the safest route.

The rapids are dotted with spotters who rescue troubled rafters. Captain Dan demonstrated the safety line that the spotters use.  It’s fifty feet of rope in a burlap bag.  The spotters hold one end of the line and throw the burlap bag to any rafter who is pursuing their own personal whitewater rafting experience.  If the bag is thrown at you, grab the rope. If you grab the burlap bag, you’ll end up fifty feet away from safety.

During the course of our runs over Class II, III and IV rapids, we got to see a few of these scenarios acted out in front of our eyes.

Our raft had five rafters and our guide, Reid.  One of us didn’t hear Reid’s instruction to “get down”.  While the rest of us were busy getting down, he was busy bouncing out of the raft.

When our wayward rafter’s head popped up above the water, I was relieved to see him assume the position.  Luckily, he was close enough to the raft to swim to us and get hauled aboard.

Our first time over the Class III rapids, we watched a spotter throw the burlap bag to another rafter and pull him to safety, up and out of the water.  Later in the day, I watched an entire party getting pulled to safety at this same location.

Life would be easier if it were more like whitewater rafting.

Everyone needs a spotter ready to throw a safety line when we fall out of life’s raft.  Someone to pull us from the rapids if we get in over our heads.

Who are your spotters?  Do you have a close friend or mentor who can see when you are stuck in the rapids?  Someone to pull you to safety?  I have a few people like this.  Friends who know me well enough to see when there’s a problem.  Friends who are honest enough to pull me away from the problem.

Throughout the trip, Reid told us how many times to paddle and in which direction in clear, concise language.  Two forward.  Three back.

He rarely told us to paddle more than three strokes at a time.  He broke bigger obligations down into smaller tasks.  We only had to focus on each small task without worrying about what comes next. 

Sometimes life is easier if you break it down into smaller bite-sized pieces.  Focus on the next little step you need to take to get to the goal.

Reid also told us when to rest.

Whitewater rafting is a balance between paddling furiously to get over the rapids and resting in the eddies.  A life of balance consists of working and playing hard and resting often.

Have you ever been so overwhelmed by your life you feel like you’re under water?  I have.  Some days it’s hard to figure out which direction to go.

When that happens, maybe we should follow Captain Dan’s advice.  Keep going whichever direction our head is pointing. When we’re stuck under an obstacle, the direction our head is pointed is always the right direction.  After our head is above water, look around, take stock and figure out which direction to go next.

Life should come with guides to point toward the safe areas.  How do we tell the safe areas from the dangerous ones?  Scripture provides guidance toward safe areas.  The Psalmist said, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.”  Psalm 119:105 KJV 

I’m working on incorporating the lessons I learned on the rapids.

When I’m in over my head, keep going in one direction until I get above water.

Once I’m above water, keep my eyes open for the guides pointing me toward the safe eddies.

Be willing to let someone pull me back into the raft.

Grab the rope when I’m too far away from the raft to crawl back in.

Take life one step at a time.

Question:  Does your life feel like you’re riding the rapids?  Who do you look to for direction and advice?

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