I went on my first float trip a few weeks ago. Growing up in MO it’s shocking I’ve not been on a float trip until now. When people say float trip, I automatically think of inner tubes and beer, and that didn’t sound awfully appealing. When the idea of camping, floating, fishing, going in a canoe, spending the day on the river came up, that sounded lovely.

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While in Florida we rented a kayak and took it out in the ocean several times a day. We found ourselves in the middle of a dolphin pod more than once. I had never kayaked before and I loved it. I loved the hard paddle to get over the waves and out to calmer water. I loved the rocking of the boat while you sat on top of the water and listened to the silence around you. I loved the spray of the water.

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I eagerly crawled into the canoe that Saturday afternoon, ready to take on the river, the fish, paddle in hand. We started off. The canoe rocked, swayed, coasted on the river’s current. My best friend told me I didn’t need to paddle at the moment as she steered us away from shore and other floaters. I laid the paddle across my lap and clutched the sides of the boat. I could look down through the clear water of the river and see the rocks under us. If we tipped the only injury incurred would be to the phones we’d forgotten our dry case for. Instead of my hands loosening on the sides, I felt my knuckles grow white, my grip tightening, the thought of tipping making me feeling anxious.

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Rocking.

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Swaying.

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Floating on the top of the river.

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Sun beating down.

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Breeze catching my hair.

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Rock.

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Sway.

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Grip tighter and tighter.

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“Are you alright?” my friend asked me. I knew I couldn’t lie. She could see how tense I sat in front of her. I also knew how excited she was for the day. I knew how much she loved the river, fishing, being in a boat. I wasn’t about to say I wanted to quit.
“I’m not used to the feel of the canoe. I’ll be fine.”

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I envisioned myself in that kayak, paddling full force through the waves, surrounded by dolphins, no bottom in sight, loving every minute. The canoe rocked, I gripped tighter. What was wrong with me? I felt a lump in my throat. I wanted to cry. I wanted out. I felt stuck. We were floating down the river gently, calmly, we had to keep going to get to our out point. I had to deal with it. Why did I hate it so much?

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We pulled over to a sandbar, my friend prepared her hooks, gave me a moment to arrange myself in the boat. I hadn’t helped with paddling since the first few moments. She told me I really didn’t need to paddle, the current would take us where we needed to go, she was fine just steering. I said I was going to turn around and face her, perhaps having more boat in front of me would help ease my anxiety. We pushed off.

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Nothing about the canoe changed. We still rocked and swayed on the water. Nothing about the river changed. It still moved at a calm swift pace, carrying us and other rafters down the river. My spirit changed. My focal point changed. I was no longer looking straight at the river, watching where it would take us, wondering about each ripple in the water. Instead, I was looking at my friend, watching her guide us confidently down our path, making me laugh to ease my anxious spirit. I began to loosen.

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It still took me half the trip to get used to the canoe. I stopped hating it. The feeling of wanting to cry ceased. It helped when I changed my perspective. It didn’t cure me though. I had to embrace that the river would take us where it pleased. We were capable of steering, paddling, fighting the water, but ultimately the water was in control. I had to accept my fate lay in her hands.

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I’ve been fighting for almost a decade and a half of my life. Fighting for a relationship that just didn’t fit right. First, fighting those around me that it was ok. Then fighting that person. Trying to make it fit right. I’ve been fighting with doctors and medical professionals trying to find answers for my sons. I’ve fought silent and seemingly invisible ailments that plague them. I’ve fought. And fought. And fought. I know how to fight. I know how to fight low and I know how to fight to win.

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I don’t know how to rest. I don’t know how to let go.

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I think I’ve been trying to learn this for a long time. Perhaps, I’ve been trying to relearn it. I remember being anxious as a child, wanting to do the right thing, not do the wrong thing, doing the wrong thing felt like the worst thing in the world. Getting a scolding was spirit-crushing. I also remember how calm I was. I remember that feeling of moving through a day in peace. I remembering spending time outside and feeling connected to the outdoors. I remember spending hours and hours in my room reading and writing stories. I remember never feeling happier than stealing away and being alone and writing down my thoughts. I remember being lonely.

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I don’t feel as if I need to fight so much anymore. I don’t want to fight. I’m ready to lay the boxing gloves aside. The thrill of fighting the ocean waves is exciting and adrenaline pumping. It’s also exhausting. I’d like to grow used to sitting in a canoe and letting the water do the work. I’d like to enjoy the world around me as I slowly pass through it, my friend by my side, the things I love most giving me life. I’d like to find that inner calm and live there for more than a brief moment. I’d like for my inner critic to quiet for more than a day. I’d like to learn to lean into the knowledge that not all things are right or wrong, black or white, this or that. There are also both and ands. There’s a kaleidoscope of gray for me to discover and cherish.