We’d been in the water for all of 90 seconds.
“Wait,” I spit out, “you’re paddling the wrong way.” And then boom-before I knew it, before my muscle memory could recall how to navigate us out of the situation, my daughter and I found our canoe stuck in the reeds. Seconds later, two kayaks crashed into us.
Luckily, as soon as our canoe started to tip, it all came back to me. I quickly re-balanced our boat, used my oar to push us out, and paddled furiously until we reached a clear path in deeper waters.
With a three-hour ride ahead of us, I realized it was going to be an interesting afternoon.
And it was. Only not in the way I’d originally thought. This trip wasn’t just about teaching my daughter how to paddle a canoe; it was also about me remembering the best way to steer through life.
It all started back in May. “Oh we’ll come with you,” I’d said with a laugh, “I mean if you’re looking for some company…” And with that I’d invited my daughter and I to accompany my neighbor on a canoe trip she’d won at our elementary school carnival. But at the time, it was just talk. I often talk about all the fun things I’d like to do, but let’s face it: I don’t always follow through.
Instead, I get busy with my days, work through my to-do list. I finish up writing assignments and shuffle my kids to the dentist, the doctor, the next social activity. All plans for memory-making activities are forgotten, never make it onto my calendar.
But my neighbor didn’t forget. So when she called a week ago and asked if we were ready to go canoeing, I said yes without hesitation. I said yes without even asking my daughter. Yet when the day arrived, I felt a bit…nervous.
Nervous? About canoeing? I know, I know, what is happening to me in my old age? Somehow I find now that I’m in my forties, the old lady in me keeps coming out. She is ridiculously practical and boring.
She thinks about how tipped canoes and wet clothes and chasing coolers down a river are not really fun.
She loves music, but worries over how expensive concerts are. She also knows if she’s up late, then she’ll be too wound up to sleep afterwards.
The old lady gets so stuck in her daily routine. She is so busy getting through life, that she sometimes forgets how to live.
Wow, I can’t stand this lady. But here’s the good news: This woman has friends and family around her who push her out of her turtle-like shell. Thank God these people invite her along for their ride. Because left to her own devices, she’d likely never get around to doing anything.
And then she’d forget how much fun it is to spend an afternoon on the water with friends. How great it is to teach her daughter how to canoe and skip rocks in the river, observing turtles and blue herons all the way.
She’d never stay up late at a cookout with old friends, would miss out on recounting old stories, discussing life and impulsively deciding to purchase concert tickets. (Yes, we are going to Kiss/Def Leopard; I can’t believe it myself).
Without prodding, she’d give in to her to-do list, and then miss the great conversation around the fire pit with her oldest child, the one so busy living that she’s rarely home.
The most important things in life are often the things I put off doing.
In True at First Light Hemingway wrote, “When you stop doing things for fun you might as well be dead.” Granted Hemingway had a slew of problems in the end (leading him to commit suicide at age 61), but the man had this one right. Fun is always worth it, even when you risk tipping your canoe, being tired and getting behind on your to-do list. The dishes can wait.