Rough Waters

I have not been writing regularly because I have been in the throws of the third edit of my book.  I have been learning a great deal through this process.  However, something happened that I feel like I have to write down in order to process it properly, so I figured I would share it here.

My spoose and I spent last week in one of our favorite places: Angel Fire, New Mexico.  It was our first trip up there without kids in over 25 years.  It was a great break from the brutal heat here in Texas and a lovely change of pace.  Poor spoose had to work every morning but it was fine.  We did the same thing we did during our week off at the beginning of the summer at the beach and chose an activity we wanted to do.  The activity came down to a choice between horse back riding or white water rafting in the Rio Grande between Taos and Santa Fe.  Of course, I love horses and horse back riding.  But, I was trying to step out of the box and challenge myself so I agreed to the rafting.

We had gone rafting one other time with the kids and it had been on a fairly easy stretch of the river.  I knew this trip would be a little more difficult but when I asked the lady on the phone exactly ‘how’ difficult she pointed out that they take children as young as 5 and that the rapids only go up to a grade 3 out of 7.  So, I decided to try and swallow the lump in my throat and go for it.

We got to the place and were fitted for the proper gear: life vests and helmets.  After that we were lectured to on the proper way to save yourself if you fall out and how to save others.  This made me a tad nervous but I figured it was just a precaution.  The guides kept saying that the recent rains had made the river run higher and that this actually made rafting a bit easier so probably no one would fall out.

We were assigned to groups of four people per one raft and one guide.  Our raft was the two of us and a newy married couple in their early forties and our guide who was a small, 90 lbs wet, young lady from New York City.  So we took off and she told us all of the basic commands for how to row together and so forth.  The first few rapids went OK.  I thought it was fine and maybe we were all getting the hang of it.  The guide mentioned we would be going through a total of 10 rapids of varying difficulty and I sort of shuddered internally but decided to hunker down and not count them but just take it one minute at a time.

Then it happened:  We got wedged between another raft and a large boulder as we were going through one of the rapids.  Our raft went up on its side and three of the four of us fell out.  My husband and the guide were the only ones who stayed in.  It was shocking and I took on a lot of water but I grabbed onto the outer line of the raft as I had been told and I was pulled back in like a large land mammal.  At first I was panting and shaking so hard I couldn’t imagine sitting up again so we headed for a little side beach.  It was there that I got straightened out and back in position.  I asked the guide how many more rapids there would be and what was the serverity and she said, “I think that was the longest and worst one. The rest will be smaller but some will be rough.” Well, what choice did I have?  I nodded and we took off again.

So, I thought we were all good.  Then, it happened again and it was worse.  This time one whole half of the boat went vertical, my half of the boat! The other man and I fell back in.  I got sucked down between some rocks and luckily remembered years of swimming lessons and lifeguard training.  Well, ulitimately I heard my dad’s voice saying, “don’t fight it, you will pop back up to the suface.” So, I did pop up.  But, I got sucked right back down and tossed down several rocks. My head snapped back and I felt like I was being tumbled.  I tried to right myself by putting my legs downstream but it was too strong.  However, when I popped back up I swam, really hard, against the current.  The guide was quite a distance from me and hollered “swim to us!”  I was definitely not going to do that!  I would have to cross the worst of the rapids again.  I swam to a rock and hung on for dear life.  Another raft came up on the other side of the rock and told me to swim to them.  I really didn’t want to lose my hold on that rock but I did it.  I almost missed it but they caught me with a paddle and a man started to drag me in.  I laid on the floor of that raft shaking and gasping and saying, “I’m done. I am fucking done.”

This time we went to a beach area to put me into my own raft and the guides were all concerned I did not want to go anymore and was I broken anywhere.  I told them I didn’t know yet what was broken and what was just bruised.  I stood there shaking like a leaf and realized I would screw things up for everyone if I made them go get the bus for me and whatever.  I just said, “Tell me that was the worst of the rapids, please.”  They assured me that the rest of it was nothing compared to that and that I didn’t have to paddle anymore, I could just lean in all I wanted to.  So, I did.  I got back into the damned raft and hung on like a tick on a dog.

I realize that if I was twenty years younger that would have been a fun escapade.  But for me, at this point in my life, it was NOT FUN.  I am bruised as if I was in a car wreck.  I sucked down a lot of river water and that sort of thing often causes me to become infected.  So far, I think I have excaped that.  My husband kept saying how well I had done and the guides kept coming up and thanking me for being “so tough” and “hanging in.” I really don’t know what they thought I would do.  I have no intention of ever putting myself in that sort of situation again.  At first, I thought it was my fault for falling out.  It was only later, after my husband explained it to me, that I really computed that there was no way for me to hang on and not go in.

The rest of that day and the entire night after the whole incident I couldn’t sleep.  I was just shaken.  I kept thinking that if things had gone just a little differently, I would be dead.  I think I have used about three of my nine lives now.  At least I hope I get nine of them!

I don’t know what to think now.  Am I over dramatizing the whole thing?  I mean maybe it just felt more dramatic that it was.  I don’t know.  I go between being embarassed and being angry that our guide put us in that situation twice.  All I know is that I am grateful I didn’t end up in the hospital or worse.  I think my years of activity of that kind are behind me now.  I  realize I have been fighting my age and that this may be the source of my discomfort here.  I don’t like aging at all.  I thought I would be graceful about it but I am most definitely not! The lines around my mouth are making me look like I have jowls.  My neck is wrinkly.  I quit coloring my hair and it is salt and pepper looking… mainly salt.

How much of this are we supposed to put up with?

I want to fix it all!

However, I don’t think fixing it is really the point.  I think I am supposed to lean into it.  I am supposed to accept the fact that with age comes wisdom and  all that crap.  Yep, it’s crap.  I don’t like it.  My mother never liked it either.  I notice  that my sister, who is my senior by 18 years, is breaking some of her own vows.  She swore she wouldn’t undergo any proceedures but she has.  Hey she has the money, so why not?

I am devolving here.  I just want to say that I was frightened down to my core and it was a different kind of frightened than I have experienced in many, many years.  I guess you could say it sobered me up. I am not the girl who would go do these things, fall off the boat and just dust it off. That is all over now.  I am the girl who keeps swimming and exercising so she can haul herself back upstream and save herself but there is no fun in it anymore.  It is a chore.

But all taken together, I have found other things that grab my attention.  I can look out the window of the car at the passing scenery for a long time and occupy myself with my own thoughts.  That is a fairly new skill for me.  I can be quiet and alone and okay with that, and that is new for me as well.  So, change is a trade off I suppose.  I just need to remember that I don’t have to love the wrinkles and jowls and whatever.  And, if I can fix them, I most certainly will!