Paddlers have an additional gene. I wasn’t really aware of it growing up. I paddled at camp, but horses were my passion so I didn’t learn about this amazing phenomena. In November David and I were invited to join a fantastic group of people on a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon. A bunch of these folks were former paddlers or heads of paddling at camp. All of us were excited to be together and ready for our big adventure. November is chilly in Arizona, but we had been carefully schooled (by Adam and Jeffrey) on what to bring, and packed it all into our oar boats. As we got on the river, I was very aware that the water was FREEZING, and it was then that I discovered this extra gene in paddlers. The definition of white water is “turbulent, frothy water.” They forgot to add the word “glacial” to the definition! At any rate, this extra gene has to do with LIKING glacial, turbulent, frothy water. And not only liking it, liking it all over your body, and not shrinking back from giant, people-chomping waves that want to eat you! I was told that cold water would be handled by this space suit looking item called a “dry suit.” As you can tell from the name, its only job is to keep you dry.
I thought that was a fabulous concept but there is a hitch. We would have had a zillion followers on social media if they’d filmed us getting IN and OUT of these suits. It was hilarious. It was impossible not to laugh watching the gymnastics show. It took many of us a good 15 minutes to wriggle ourselves in and out of them. It was not a huge deal unless you were female and racing to get to the bathroom. I am pretty sure that a male human designed this fine piece of equipment! And there was another important piece to the effectiveness of the outfit. One must actually zip all the zippers. It was easy to spot someone who forgot this key component. There was no mistaking the look on someone’s face when the “turbulent, frothy” water found its way inside their not so dry suit. So many ridiculous moments to choose from. Will I laugh or will I whine!??
After several days, those of us who were “newbees” settled in and got the hang of it. The scenery was spectacular, and the company was outstanding and there was no shortage of good food and great singing and stories around the fire. Every morning we would have a “river wrap.” The intention was to let the group know what to expect of the day, and to talk about any significant rapids that were on the agenda. As we approached any big rapid we would pull off to scout it. After my first time scouting, I decided that I would stay in the boat and pray. Apparently SOMEONE needed to pray for these people! I liked that idea better than seeing the giant people-eating waves that were in my future. It was really funny to watch the difference in the experienced boaters and us “newbees.” They were chomping at the bit to tackle the rapids, (remember that extra gene!?) and I was having solid, ongoing conversations with God about how cute I was and how important it was to keep me alive! Again, will I laugh or will I whine!?!? (This trip was GREAT for my prayer life!)
But here’s the real deal. I had a blast, I had a once in a life time experience, I stood in awe of the beauty, I tackled some big things, played a lot, learned some things, conquered some fears, wrestled my attitude when needed, loved hard and laughed harder, and I did in fact live and love it!
This trip is much like life. It’s easy to laugh and find the good when we are warm and cozy. It’s easy to be filled with joy when we are not being pushed to move beyond our comfort zones. I remember a tee shirt we made for camp several years ago. “I can do hard things.” I thought about it several times on the Grand Canyon trip. And you know what else I thought about? The infamous Jerry. You know the story. “Jerry was the kind of guy you love to hate. He’s always in a good mood and always has something positive to say. When someone would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, ‘If I were any better I’d be twins!” It’s true, you know. Our attitude determines how we see everything. We can stay comfortable and never venture past our comfort zones. But we’ll miss some of the richest experiences in life, AND those challenges are what sharpens us and stretches us and helps us grow in incredible ways. Even this old lady needs to keep growing! So let’s challenge ourselves a bit. Next time you’re in a situation where you are challenged or out of your comfort zone or just plain ornery (!) let’s just laugh at that! Jerry would be proud.