As a writer, I am very good at theory and not so versed in practice. After all, if you use up all your time writing about your dreams, hopes, goals and aspirations, unless you are mighty fast on the keyboard, that doesn’t leave a lot of time for implementation…the doing part of the equation…especially when it comes to spending time with my husband! Hmm….
Unfortunately, we didn’t get a photo of Geoff and I kayaking together but Geoff is behind the camera in this shot. Hopefully, I’ll update it next weekend when the kids are here to take the shot.
Monday 20th January, 2014
Well, as usual I was in prime form yesterday morning. Despite desperately wanting to go out in the kayak with Geoff for some couple time and to also show him the mangroves which I’d explored with Mister on Friday, I spent at least an hour writing about Geoff’s tips on kayaking…writing about how to kayak instead of kayaking itself. We live in a tidal area and you have to take the kayaks out at high tide or you can’t get back. There is some leeway but to some extent it is a case of act now or you’ll miss out. You can’t really procrastinate, defer or delay. You just have to go. As I was philosophising away on my theories, the water was literally ticking away…tick tock, tick tock…dong!
My justification of course was that I wanted to “seize the advice” before it drifted through one ear and paddled downstream straight out the other ear.
Yesterday morning, Geoff and I set out on a kayaking adventure together… an opportunity to put some of my new found paddling expertise into practice. As it turned out, Geoff had many more tips hidden up his sleeve and kayaking also had a lot to teach me about how to achieve my goals.
As I mentioned in my previous post, Geoff is an experienced white-water kayaker. He’s traversed the infamous Corra Linn Rapids in the South Esk River in Tasmania where the original Solo Man commercial was filmed back in 1986. Geoff knows how to operate a paddle and keep a kayak afloat under very adverse conditions so paddling up to the mangroves and back was very elementary. (Geoff also pointed out that the original Solo Man Iron Man Grant Kenny went through the rapids in a “bus” not a real kayak. You see, he might have been the original Solo Man but he wasn’t a Tasmanian!)
I was really looking forward to spending time together and being in our own small couple bubble as we ventured among the mangroves exploring new worlds. We both really love being at one with nature and a million miles away from care, almost melting into the landscape.
Due to my muscle weakness, I find it quite awkward actually climbing on board the kayak. I seem to have two left feet and it’s a bit like trying to do a reverse park with a hill start in a manual. There’s a lot of manoeuvring back and forwards and glancing around between the kayak and my feet to work out what goes where first without tipping the whole thing over. Given the unstable nature of the kayak as well, it is a little daunting but once I’m seated, I’m quite fine and good to go.
Finally, we were out on the water and my kayaking lessons began in earnest.
Geoff had already worked out which way the wind and the current were flowing. This is almost innate to him. He just knows. He reminds me that you start out against the wind and current so you return back with the current behind you when you’re tired on the way home. Energy conservation is a jolly good strategy.
Next, Geoff starts working on improving my stroke to get more power. While I thought I was paddling along okay, Geoff advised me to hold my paddle more vertically. I also needed to sit up straight. We were using the Power Stroke. This was a bit of a struggle with my limited arm strength as well as being a new, uncomfortable position but I persevered. I wanted to learn how to paddle properly and become a Solo Woman myself. Building on the Power Stroke, Geoff then advised me how to use my feet and push with the foot on the side of the paddle so that I was using my entire body to move the kayak forward instead of just my arms. This would really give us more momentum.
While we are paddling along, Geoff is “reading the water”: looking out for obstacles such as shallow water where we could get stuck and tracking the strong headwind. He is enjoying the ride and also looking out for fish. A guy on a windsurfer shoots past and that looks pretty fun too.
As the more experienced and stronger paddler, Geoff compensated for my weakness and there were times where I had to stop paddling and rest and he carried my load. This was much appreciated because reaching the mangroves was beyond my capabilities but we pulled it off because he compensated for me and we worked as a team.
Such detailed advice isn’t always appreciated between husbands and wives. Just consider a parallel situation of a husband telling his wife how to drive a car. You can really feel the sparks fly. Yet, a bit of constructive criticism really should be welcomed on board, acted on and seen as an opportunity for growth, not viewed as an attack, put down or condemnation. I really appreciated Geoff’s input which came from his much greater experience of kayaking. I had the opportunity to learn, grow and improve from my husband and it didn’t cost me a cent. Moreover, we had the opportunity to spend some time together on our own doing something together which we both enjoyed.
From this experience, I could definitely appreciate the value of having a coach to help you reach your goals. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel and you can fast track your progress by coasting through on the wake of their experience.
There is also greater strength in numbers and while there are times where it’s great to be the quintessential Renaissance man or woman…the all-conquering individual…there are also times where you don’t want to go it alone. That is a tremendous relief to have a problem shared and such pleasure in sharing the experience and having your horizons broadened through someone else’s eyes and vision. We all see something unique and different even looking at the very same spot. This is the exciting and challenging thing of being a living, breathing, flexible and integral part of community.
However, for the full benefits of a coach to be fully appreciated, you also need to be coachable. Willing not only to listen and act on that advice but know how to handle constructive criticism and use it as an opportunity for growth instead of a perceiving advice as a personal attack. I have experienced fairly intensive advice and criticism in my violin lessons and it has made such a difference. Remember, I received that A in my preliminary exam…a result I achieved because I listened and acted on advice instead of being “precious”.
Unless you are open to criticism, correction and inhaling and implementing advice, you’ll never grow. While it may be less confronting to read a book of life lessons and apply them to your life, it is far more effective to heed the advice of someone who knows us well and loves us and applies that personal but probably more painful touch. This is probably the greatest gift we could ever receive. Yet, rather than being thankful and appreciating the inherent risks of speaking out, we’re more likely to beat our loved ones over the head with a stick or go off and sulk. Somehow, we need to learn to be more gracious and listening, accepting feedback and find ways of implementing the required changes to grow. Become the very best person we can be.
I am now coming to appreciate that personal growth and change is an ongoing life-long process. We are constantly refining and refining ourselves in a never-ending process of growth. Growth which isn’t a striving towards an oppressive perfectionism but rather the joy of feeling yourself extend beyond what you thought was possible and to enjoy fresh green buds and emerging flowers and feel your entire being come alive and you step out of the chains of bondage. For me, this means being able to love and give more freely because despite what’s going on in my life, I am fine. I might not understand what is happening in my life or why but somewhere it is all integrated into a larger whole and God is walking with me guiding my path taking me on an exhilarating journey.
After all, none of us is set in stone.
Rather, we are a seed.
The funny thing about seeds is that they usually don’t just fall straight out of the tree and instantly start to grow. Rather, there is usually some kind of journey involved and these adventures usually aren’t very glamorous at all! An animal eats the seed transporting it a very long way from home and it takes time before the seed can sprout. Many seeds go astray. Just think about how many kids find an acorn and stick it in their pocket? Of course, the child doesn’t know what they’ve done. That they’ve taken all that awesome potential and stuck it on hold. The acorn simply can’t grow into an oak while it’s sitting on the shelf. Of course, the acorn probably gives up and thinks it is the end of the road but there is always hope. The acorn is still a seed and perhaps it is just a matter of time.
We need to embrace our own journey and then plant ourselves, our goals and our dreams in fertile soil and nurture them with sun and rain. Then we can become oaks with soaring branches deeply rooted in love.
I should also point out that the ultimate purpose of all this personal growth and refinement isn’t about the self-indulgent pursuit of personal happiness and fulfilment. It is actually geared towards being a fully functional, giving part of our community with a body, heart and soul which is able to give and give abundantly. Becoming the wondrous oak tree in the park providing shade and shelter to birds, insects, children with its strong and sturdy branches stretching up to the sky and absorbing the sun.
Finally, Geoff and I had a really lovely paddle together. Geoff seemed to be focused on looking for fish while I loved looking at the reflections of the mangrove trees on the water. Geoff always seems to see so many little things which I miss like the oysters growing on the trunks of the mangroves. I did see many, many little fish among the mangroves. That was very encouraging because I do wonder just how many fish are in the ocean these days and whether they are running out.
Unfortunately, I can’t share any photos with you because I didn’t want to risk the camera getting wet. It hasn’t learned how to swim yet.
We are a living breathing work-in-progress constantly changing and never standing still.
PS Tuesday 21st January, 2014
I would like to remind you that I am currently going through chemotherapy and also having high dose infusions of prednisone. These are drugs just like any other kind of drug and I know they are very definitely influencing and shaping not only my writing but also my vision…what I see. A lot of my friends who have been on high doses of prednisone talk about going on cleaning frenzies and I am starting to wonder whether that is as much about seeing what’s around them more clearly as much as having the added steroid energy boost.
I have definitely found a level of clarity and insight that has been quite staggering and intense. At times, it’s been like a thunder bolt has hit. I see something so clearly. I can see something in someone else so clearly that it is mind blowing. Now, I can’t always test these insights out and know if they are real or just the drugs talking but it is certainly interesting and you see those kids with cancer on TV and they get very profound and it is profound when you are facing your own mortality but there are also the effects of the chemo and I don’t know what they are.
As a bloggers, I think most of us are seekers. We are looking out there for insights into life and hopefully how we can become better people and collectively make the world a better place. We can’t experience everything in life and face it, who really wants to go through the chemo experience. However, this has been my lot, my journey and I am trying to share it with you as earnestly as I can. Putting you in my shoes. You can come to chemo with me and the good news is that neither of us are going to lose our hair!
Another PS: I just chose the title for today’s post and thought it deserved a bit more attention. I chose to continue the staying on course theme from my previous post and it is about kayaking and goal setting but staying on course is a serious difficulty in any relationship. When I was a kid, you’d hear stories of couples having another baby when their marriage was on the rocks to bridge the gap. I don’t know if that happens anymore because I most of us realise that as much as having kids draws you together as a couple, it also divides. Add years of living with a chronic, life-threatening with all it’s inherent medical emergencies and it is very difficult to invest enough time, energy and nurturing into that relationship to keep it fuelled. Fortunately, my parents took the kids for yet another night while Geoff was still on leave and we were able to get out there on the water kayaking together despite my incessant writing and we were able to go out for dinner just the two of us two nights in a row. We were about to feed our relationship and help some of those ragged nerve endings grow back. Our relationship needed to rebuild its neuro pathways as well and reconnect.