The lesson I almost died while learning it – Turn and Face itJul 22, 2019
Last week I was walking along the Pacific coast of Oregon. The Oregon coast is rocky, filled with beautiful old growth trees and white sandy beaches. It’s famous for being the scene of countless movies, my favorite of which is The Goonies, filmed in Astoria.
We were in the tiny coastal village of Pacific City staying in a gated community with private beach access. That sounds fancy, but it’s a public beach, we just happened to have a really nice way to get to the beach.
We were so close to the ocean that you could hear it and walk to it within about 5 minutes. I spent literally hours walking along the beach with the sound of crashing waves in my ears, the splash of the surf on my legs and feet and the salt air in my nose. It’s a place where I recharge and it’s easy for me to think. It was there I realized that I’d just learned a very important lesson. The lesson is… “turn and face it”. Let me tell you how I came to this lesson.
In the past two weeks I have had multiple experiences with different kinds of bodies of water. Just a few days before I was on the Oregon Coast, I was in the Boise river on my hard paddle board. Before I continue my story, please know… you shouldn’t take your hard paddle board on a river, it’s not safe. I didn’t know that, but I do now!! Anyway…
Floating down the Boise River
I love paddle boarding. I’ve paddle boarded on Oahu in the Pacific, on Sister Bay of Lake Michigan, Quinn’s Pond in Boise, Lake Wingra in Madison, Wisconsin and finally decided it was time to buy a board of my own. I bought it last fall and have been itching to use it. I’ve taken it out a few times around town in the two “hot spots”… Discovery State Park and Quinn’s Pond.
I knew my board was for smooth water like lakes or ponds, but I didn’t realize that meant it wasn’t safe for rivers. Or… to be more accurate… it wasn’t safe for someone with my level of skills on the river. (The people I was with had very side, short and inflatable boards and did quite well.)
The river JUST opened up for the season. It’s flow was “slow enough” to be safe. Not slow by any means, by “slow enough”. We were predicting a 1.5 hour float.
There are three diversion dams as you float down the Boise River. I hate them. I’ll just say it. They scare me and I don’t like them even in a raft. But there I was, “floating” the river on my board preparing to go down the diversion dams.
Diversion Dam Number 1
The first diversion dam came up. I was very scared but was listening to my expert friends and taking in their coaching. I positioned myself directly behind someone in a kayak. My friends were encouraging me and one actually stood up on his board while he drifted effortlessly over the dam. I slide into a wave behind the kayaker and swooped down the dam. I was relieved and a little surprised I’d made it in one piece. Two more to go.
I should probably tell you at this point, I didn’t know my friends very well. I’d been set up on a “play date” by my 17 year old daughter to hang out with the parents of her friend. I really liked them and was excited to get to know them better. They are experienced paddle boarders and frequently go down much larger rapids than the Boise River. I kept telling them I was inexperienced on the river, and they kept assuring me I was fine.
Diversion Dam Number 2
The second diversion dam loomed ahead. I had a bit more confidence having survived one but still felt my adrenaline rise. I did everything I’d been told. I tried to put the board into the right part of the wave and swoop down again. I did…except…. there was a raft high centered on the rocks. My board hit the raft and my board tipped over sideways and bumped me off, dropping me on my knees onto the rocks of the diversion dam. A wave or perhaps it was the dislodged raft, I don’t really know, came from behind me and took me down the dam and plunged me into the cold water. My life jacket lifted me up and I emerged to the surface gasping for breath with no idea where my board or paddle had gone.
People, strangers and my new friends, helped me get back to the board, collected the paddle and steadied the board while I climbed back on. I was bleeding, hurt, scared, shaking, and wanted off the river more than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life. But I just kept riding my damn board. Seated.
Is there even such thing as Diversion Dam Number 3?
I have no idea what happened on the third dam. Maybe I blacked it out. Maybe there isn’t three. Who knows?! Quite frankly, that’s not the point.
But the story doesn’t end there. At one point in the “float”, there are significant white cap waves. I was still shaken but functional by this point. I still was sitting on the board and have long given up any thought of standing up. I saw the white rapids and tried to brace, to figure out what to do… and then I was in them. I’d gotten turned so that I was parallel to the white caps and they had dumped me off of the paddle board. Again.
This time, the force of the current and the waves pushed me under the water. Hard. I have no idea how long, probably one or two seconds but it could have been longer. My life jacket literally saved me. Again. I surfaced literally gasping, unable to speak, coughing, and in a blind panic. My new friends helped me, again, to get back on my board, locate my paddle, etc. The good news is some of the blood on my legs had gotten washed off.
I’ll save you the rest of the adventure for another day because that’s not the end of the story. But the part you just read is important to the lesson, the lesson that crystalized for me while walking along the Oregon coast.
Along the Oregon Coast
About four days after the Boise River adventure, I found myself on the Oregon Coast walking along the shore of the mighty Pacific. While walking along the shore, it’s fun to come up and let the waves swirl around your legs with its cold Pacific Waters. It was here that I figured it out!
See, I grew up in Nebraska and now I live in Idaho. While I’ve spent lots of time on rivers, lakes, streams and ponds, I’ve haven’t spent as much time on the ocean. I’m absolutely mesmerized by it. I will just sit and stare at it for hours. What some of you probably have known for most of your life, I just figured out. Here it is.
If you’re walking parallel to the waves and a bigger wave comes in as it begins to flow out you can feel a little off balance. As the tide comes in, this is particularly true. But there is a trick.
Turning straight on to face the incoming wave as it crashes onto the shore and then pulls back out to sea, you have the sense that your balance is more stable. You stop wobbling and can feel yourself begin to stabilize. This same lesson was part of what I learned on the Boise River, if you turn to face the waves, things go much better than trying to ride along side them or trying to go around them.
Turn and Face It
The same is true in our lives, turning to face what’s going on in our lives requires significantly less energy than trying to stay stable without actually facing what’s going on. It’s not always easy and is sometimes still dangerous. But our chances are SOOO much better when we take things face on. What is in your life that you can turn to face?
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Along with this mission to spread love and light, I’ve re-edited my new book “Know Yourself” to include the prologue, introduction and first chapter of “Inner Peace Prescription” which I’m anticipating having out this fall of 2019.
If you purchased the Kindle version, simply update your copy to have these pages added to your copy. If you purchased the paperback version, simply email me with your receipt and I’ll have a new copy mailed to you FOR FREE. I want you to have these pages.
All my love to you.