My husband is an ardent paddler – we own kayaks, a canoe, and all the associated gear. He loves lakes and rivers – and everything he learns from them. When I’m lucky (although I slow him down a bit), I go along for the ride, and I’ve learned a lot as well. Rivers are wonderful microcosms of our world. In the burbling erratic flow that constitutes my crazy life, I’ve encountered rapids and rocks, quiet and noise, chaos and peace.
When I was in my twenties and recently buffeted by bouts of fatigue and postpartum depression, my mother-in-law passed away. She missed doing some of the big things she’d planned – most notably a long-anticipated trip to Europe with my father-in-law. Thus confronted with mortality, my little inner voice encouraged me that perhaps I would find it helpful to start actually doing something with my own life.
In my thirties, while working and raising three amazing children, I was carried along in a swirl of church, school, and other activities. That eddy carried me into my forties – when I learned that my earlier depression had likely been part of my first noticeable episode of mild relapsing-remitting MS. At that point my little inner voice began to suggest moderation.
In my fifties, when my nest was recently empty and my beloved and I had moved to a new state, we tackled new jobs (but fewer other activities), and were confronted with my mortality in a maelstrom of stage 2 breast cancer and the resulting treatments. This time, my little inner voice suggested getting to all those things I hadn’t done yet, lest I meet my mother-in law’s fate.
Now in my sixties, when my career has stopped being a source of gratification and accomplishment for me, my children no longer need my regular attention (and even my grandkids are becoming independent), I am embarking on a daunting new adventure – retirement.
I no longer need to paddle hard upstream every day. I have plenty of treks ahead of me, and a delightful companion on the journey, but the urgency now is to make the time meaningful – not just in good works or a legacy, but also in savoring the days and their many blessings for their own sake.
Every day on a river is different from the one before – each sunrise has its own character, the rains vary the depth and the speed of the water, and the seasons bring constant reinvention of the surrounding landscape. There are always hazards ahead in the whimsical currents, but there are also wonder, beauty, and opportunity.
Paddling through… every day is an adventure and a gift.