Over the past two weeks, we explored a lot. I have gotten outside as much as possible, save for some really smokey days.
I’ve had the pleasure of taking classes in studios + gyms and meeting some incredibly kind new friends in Bend, Oregon. We rented paddle boards and paddled on turquoise waters and in some of the most wild (literally!) lakes I’ve ever been to. We hiked up Tumalo Mountain early in the morning and hade sweeping views of the Cascades to ourselves. We floated around the Deschutes River in downtown Bend. We taste tested and ranked our favorite sour beers so far from all the breweries we could find, and shared some very memorable meals (shoutout plantain sliders at Barrio).
But as I sit in our little AirBnb to write, one moment stands out from our two weeks in the PNW.
This past Sunday, the day Stephen and I rented paddle boards for the day and took them around to various spots to drop in and explore the surrounding waters outside of Bend, our final stop was further north on the Deschutes River. The day was long, albeit gorgeous. We had to deflate and inflate our paddle boards each time we moved spots (holy biceps workout!) and at this final river stop, the goal was to paddle upstream from point A to point B and then relax and float back down.
We popped into the water and started paddling. I immediately felt a wave of exhaustion come over me.
The energy expenditure of the day was finally catching up. The heat of the afternoon sun beat down. I started paddling with all of my might and quite honestly, I don’t think I went anywhere at first. The wind and current made it so that every two paddle strokes forward, I felt myself moving one stroke back. Stephen moved rather effortlessly onward the path upstream; meanwhile, I was getting passed by a couple in their late 70s.
Sure, anytime I looked up and around to could see the beautiful views on either side of the river, I could appreciate where I was, but I still wanted desperately to accomplish the goal of getting from point A to B so that we could deserve the float back down.
I wanted to be able to soak in all the beauty of that relaxing float downstream for as long as possible, but that meant pushing HARD to make it as far upstream as I could, for as long as I could, until I could go no further.
For a moment there, I was almost in tears. Why was paddling in this moment so hard?!
Stephen said a few times, “why don’t we just stop here and float back down?” – an offer I stubbornly refused.
Eventually, I gave up. I caved. We pulled our paddles over to the river bank to recollect ourselves (read: so that I could collect myself and stop cursing out loud every 10 seconds) and then let our boards turn themselves around.
The float back down the river was magical. Ethereal, even. I noticed every bird overhead, every cloud in the sky, every turn of the river I didn’t notice before. Had it always been this serene? How did I miss it? How could I have been in battle mode just a moment ago when there was all this good to take in around me?
While some may argue that you can’t experience that joy of the relaxing ride downstream unless you maximize your effort to paddle upstream first (i.e. “nothing you want comes easy”) but I have a different takeaway. My dad reminded me of the Abraham Hicks lesson and once I re-listened to it, it almost brought me to tears again.
Abraham says in their material:
“Can you imagine taking your canoe to the river’s edge… and you come to the edge of the river, a fast-moving river, and you point it upstream deliberately and start paddling really hard.
And we say, why not turn and just go with the flow of the stream?
And our physical friends say, “Abraham that just seems lazy.”
And we say: “How long can you keep this up?”
And they say: “I don’t know but I’m going to find out because … this is what we humans do we paddle upstream… anybody measures themselves against others who are paddling upstream.”
I had a bit of a realization while listening to the above excerpt. I paddle upstream all the damn time. I muscle through because that’s how I’ve always operated, and I now don’t even realize when I’m doing it. All I know is that anything but what I’m currently doing must be laziness, right?
I’m not so sure. I don’t have the answers as to how to decide what is upstream and what is downstream in my life. It’s not as clear as the current of the river that flows so clearly north or south. Or maybe it is that clear, and I’m just still figuring out how to read the waters.
What I do know is this:
The float back down the river was the only option on that Sunday afternoon. My muscles could grip no longer. Something had to give. And for that moment in time that we were drifting, I didn’t feel lost. I didn’t feel like I didn’t accomplish my goal. I just felt peace.