I don't particularly like white chocolate alone, but I love it when it is used as part of a dessert. Similarly, I don't particularly like whitewater either, but what I do like is what I learned from whitewater. I should probably start from the beginning.
I am not an adventurous person. But for some inexplicable reason, I decided that our entire family should try whitewater rafting during our trip to Yosemite National Park in California. It sounded like fun. It was definitely something we had not done before. My children, who were 13, 11, and 9 at the time, were all very excited to try whitewater rafting.
We arrived at the river, got suited up for the ride, and began our orientation. As the guide instructed us in rowing techniques, defensive positions should we fall into the rapids, safety on the raft, and other pertinent information, I looked around and thought, ok, maybe just wearing these life vests is enough of an adventure. Maybe we should leave now and tell the kids that this was our fun for the day. I may even have suggested this to my husband. But there we were, climbing into a raft with our guide, and setting off on our rafting trip.
The first rapid was very exciting. It was a thrill to all work together, all five of us plus our guide, to paddle through a wall of whitewater. I remember the exhilaration as we made it through, and all of us tapping our oars in celebration. We were having a ball. The kids were thrilled. Look what I am capable of, I thought! And then, we got to our next rapid.
It was a Class 3. I dug in with my oar, listening to the guide calling out instructions. But I wasn't hitting any water, I was just hitting air. And in a split second, I was airborn.
I crashed into the water and all I remember was water, water, rushing everywhere. And the thought, I cannot believe I fell in. I flailed wildly and found something to hold onto. The water stopped crashing for a brief moment and I could finally see; I looked around to find out what I was using as a flotation device. It was my eleven year old daughter, who was bobbing in her life jacket and smiling at me with a beautiful smile. And I remember thinking, Oh my God. She's in the water. I'm holding onto her and I'm going to drown her. And so I let go.
The water took me, threw me. Just water, water, water. I kept swallowing water. I felt hard edges as I crashed into rocks. From the back of my brain I heard someone screaming about some sort of position. It was our guide, and somehow I registered that I was supposed to be on my back. I managed to get into the right position but the water kept taking me, kept crashing me into things. I'm not sure how long this went on for. It felt like forever, and I remember thinking that I might not ever make it back to the raft. Like, ever.
At some point I heard the guide screaming swim, swim. I realized the rapids had stopped crashing me and it was time to swim. I looked around, saw the raft in the distance, and swam as hard as I could toward it. When I was almost there my husband reached into the water and scooped me onto the raft.
I remember being very thankful that I was back in the raft, and I remember feeling like it was incredibly difficult to breathe. I registered that my daughter was back in the raft too, and found out later that she had been scooped up by our guide as soon as she had fallen in, and she thought it had been fun to be in the water. I was incredibly thankful for that.
It was hard to recover from my fall into the rapids. I found it very difficult to calm down. I had bruises and bleeding cuts on my legs from being thrown into rocks. The kids were asking if I was okay, and I kept saying I was fine. I covered up the biggest cut with my hand and I kept trying to smile. "You keep saying you're fine, but you don't look fine," said my youngest, my son. I repeated that I was just fine. I half-heartedly asked the guide if we were almost done. He looked at me and said, "No, we have about two hours left, and a lot more rapids."
That was quite a sobering moment. I still felt like I couldn't breathe well. I could not imagine two more hours of rowing, rapids, and more water, after what I had just experienced. As we began to paddle through some calm water, headed to our next rapid, I looked all around, thinking of ways I could potentially escape. Had it just been my husband and I, I would have asked the guide to drop me at the nearest embankment and I would have scampered up to the road. I would have scaled rocks, walked for hours, camped out on the pavement, I would have done just about anything to get out of that river. But I was determined not to ruin things for the kids. I did not want their big adventure, and our vacation, to turn into some sort of drama, ending in a rescue for mom. So I kept rowing.
We hit more rapids and I was determined not to leave that raft again. And I didn't. It was exhausting and extremely scary and I don't think I really took a deep breath for quite a long time. But I dug deep and stayed in that raft and I finished the trip. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done and I'm not sure how I did it. I think prayer played a large part in getting me through. I was simply determined not to ruin things for my kids. Sometimes you do crazy things when you're a mom.
The kids all loved whitewater rafting. My husband loved whitewater rafting. The pictures of our raft trip show four faces of joy and one face of cowered terror. But, I stayed in the raft. And my kids counted whitewater rafting as one of the best things they did during that vacation.
These days, I prefer to look at whitewater from the road, or a nice viewing platform, rather than experience it. And yes, I most definitely prefer white chocolate to white water. But my whitewater adventure taught me some important things. Like the fact that perhaps someone who was born in the Bronx and doesn't like to be out of breath should not be whitewater rafting.
More seriously, I'm a little bit different now, because of white water. What I did actually learn is that we are stronger than we think we are. And that choosing the more difficult path can truly lead to triumph.
Have a sweet week!