Through a comedy of circumstances (read more cancellations than appointments) today, I found myself with a big block of unspoken for time in the middle of the day. Time is a precious resource. Didn’t want to waste it. Going rafting tomorrow…always stuff that can be done. I managed to get the trailer hooked up and pulled forward, the electrical checked, and the thwarts in….all by myself. Nothing left to do until folks come over this evening to help me un-stack, remove the frame, and then re-stack. Messing with boats is always an emotional wave train for me.
First, I am mad. I am mad at the universe for taking away my best boating partner and the man who always dealt with all the gear. I am mad at the man himself for leaving things in such a mess. I know his brain was affected, but he was kind of a slob even before cancer. Once I tap into the anger, it is easy for me to generalize and be pissed at life in general. Why does cancer kill otherwise healthy people who still have so much of their lives to live? Why do people shoot each other, and then themselves? Why do abusive relationships last, and other sweet caring people end up alone? I don’t think the universe owes me anything, but I wouldn’t mind a little justice. Life is not fair…and it makes me mad.
Once I get over the anger sufficiently to get my butt out the door, I am then proud. Proud of myself because I can do most tasks set before me. This is boating gear…not rocket science. I’m not as big or as strong as Jim was, so things get done differently. Sometimes they are actually done better. At the beginning of the season, I wondered if I would ever raft again. Not really an option in this family. We pulled off a week-long trip on the Main Salmon, and tomorrow Jasper and I head down to Riggins with Jim’s old science geeks. My kids are both elegant boaters and wonderful people to have in camp. I am proud of them, and proud of me. Not only am I still alive, I am still living.
Thirdly, I just get sad. Seeing the boats stacked in the driveway makes me miss Jim. He loved boating. He loved all of it. Messing with the gear, figuring out a new tie-down system, pulling people together for trips, and the dance of the whitewater. He loved shopping at NRS, meeting new boaters at the put in, taking old friends on the water, and teaching his kids to row. He didn’t like cooking on the river, packing food, or doing all the driving. So…he married me. I miss him, and I miss having a partner in this life. I know as I go forward, I will either have to come to peace with doing things for and by myself, or morph my passions to meld with another’s. I’m sad. I miss the life we had.
I know that tomorrow there will be joy. Spending a hot day on the river with old friends. There will be sunshine, there will be good food and bad jokes, and there will be an endless supply of water, water, water. I love water. I love being on it, in it, beside it. I love the way a river looks, how it sounds, its smell. It’s impossible to be grumpy when I am on a river. I am haunted, in a very positive way, by waters.
I like class III water. Set it up right, and ride the waves. Little decision-making once you are in it. Class IV water scares me. If you miss the set up or miss a move in the middle of the rapid, there are consequences. It is easy to look at my emotions in hindsight, recognize, and even name them. Just like seeing the perfect line in a rapid from the calm in the pool down below. Harder is knowing what to do when I am in the middle of the emotions. What will help? Should I share my joy, or my sorrow? Invite someone into that bottomless hole that still sometimes consumes me, or ride it out alone? Staying alive now is a class III wave train, predictable emotions. Really living requires me to tackle the class IV rapids, to stay clear-headed and think while I am feeling. It’s scary.