Bargell: Letting go of the negative
August 23, 2011
As I ran down the highway, bloodied and battered, the passing stares of the motorists prompted the local police to try to stop my sprint, asking (nicely) whether I was OK. Luckily, there was nothing more than a split lip and sprained ankle to complain of, so I ran right by the squad car.
My husband has since assured me that there likely was only one “hole” of that size through the particular stretch of the Arkansas River we were running that fateful morning three years ago. Problem was, we parked our duckie – a small inflatable kayak – smack-dab in the middle of it. Experienced rafters know parallel parking in a hole carries with it a high probability of swimming, and that day was no exception. While I pondered my fate in the frigid water, my thoughts were far more focused downstream, on our kids in the larger raft just ahead of us.
That’s why when the police car came upon me I kept running, and did not stop until I glimpsed the girls safely ashore with the rest of the folks in our little group. Our friend piloting the big boat not only navigated the rapid, he also managed to fish out the duckie. At the time I remember wishing he would have let her swim on downstream. Only later did I come to appreciate the presence of mind he must have had to watch us dump and still calmly guide the group to shore unscathed.
The duckie never did make it back to our home. Instead, she was adopted by some kind friends who periodically made sure she got out to play. Often, we were encouraged to come and join her in the fun, but my memory was stuck – smack dab in the middle of the hole that turned us over so easily.
Last weekend a friend let me know in no uncertain terms that it was time to saddle up and get back on that duck. Still, it was with great trepidation that I approached the boat. Sure, it looked harmless enough, and who can’t love something named a duckie?
But I had seen the duckie’s dark side.
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The first stretch of the river was calm, and it wasn’t until we could hear the distant roar of water tumbling over rocks that my stomach decided to do a double gainer. Another friend then offered to steer me through the rapids – on the duck.
You know they’re rapids when they have a name. Some, I instinctively would know to avoid, like Satan’s Gut (doesn’t that sound like fun?). In this case, the rapid was Yarmony, seemingly serene, and rhyming with harmony, so how bad could it be? My friend smiled sweetly and told me she recently had steered her mother down the same stretch of the river. After doing some quick math to determine if I should find this comforting, I recognized my window to reformulate my view of the duckie would pass if I did not act swiftly.
I then looked at the duckie, and the duckie stared right back at me (sort of). I climbed aboard and it did not immediately buck me out. My friend then calmly assured me I would be just fine, confidently taking the helm just like Xena, the warrior princess. She alternated instructions to “paddle” with exclamations of how great the run would be.
And it was. In those brief moments, my perception of rafting changed.
Since Saturday, I have been thinking about how many times I have let a single bad experience, or unsavory incident sour my view of a person, place or event – leaving me stuck in a hole. Moving back out onto the water, even after several years of letting my fears settle in, reminded me that letting go of the negative is liberating. It took some time, and required me to be open-minded, but in the end something exceptional occurred.
I’ll have to admit however it didn’t hurt to have Xena the warrior princess covering my backside.
Cindy Bargell lives outside of Silverthorne with her husband and two daughters. She is a card-carrying PTSA member, real estate and natural resources lawyer and part-time gymnastics coach. She welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.