The Coolest Rapid Rider on the American River

By December 6, 2016Mindy

It’ll never be quite the right time, so it is always the right time.

Shortly after I got married – a very long time ago – my husband and I gave my mom a very special birthday gift. A river-rafting trip down the American river. I had experienced this trip before and tackling these rapids had been a highlight of my life. I wanted my mom to feel the same exhilaration that I had. I knew that once she got going she would embrace the adventure, but I knew that she would feel much trepidation before hand.

Driving to the starting point, I could sense her hesitation. My mom wasn’t in fighting shape. She was about 40 pounds over weight and fitness wasn’t a top priority for her. She always put others needs in front of her own; Fitness and healthy eating took a back seat. Like many of our parents and grandparents, my mom grew up in a very different era. She did not grow up with kale shakes and HIIT classes to shape her lifestyle. So a trek down some pretty gnarly rapids didn’t quite resonate as a perfect birthday gift to her. But I knew her better at times then she knew herself. All I needed to do was to get her in the boat. The rest would take care of itself.

First stage: lesson from our guide. How to paddle, How to leverage side to side and front to back, how to survive if the boat tips over or you fall out. Hold on. Wait a minute. That was all my mom needed to hear. She was outta there. She assured us that she wasn’t in any kind of shape to be doing anything remotely resembling a river rafting ride. She suggested – well she actually proclaimed – that she would drive the car to the finish and wait for us there.img_2177

I had to pull out all my best “talking off the ledge” speech to turn this boat around. After about 10 minutes, I won her over by letting her know the cost of this trip. Yes, I guilt tripped her but what else was I suppose to do? The rafts were leaving. And I wasn’t going to let my mom get in her own way from an experience of a lifetime.

Our boat held 9 people: our guide, 2 couples, one family, and the 3 of us. With life vests on, paddle in hand, we were on our way. The river started out quite tame. I want to think this is on purpose so that acclimation and then arrogance can set in. Mom was settling in quite nicely. A smile lit up her face and she was paddling with vim and vigor. First rapid ahead. Mom’s face changed to fear and desperation. Just hang on, do what the guide instructs and all will be well. Down the rapid we went with much jostling, twisting, bashing and crashing. All the while holding tightly on to my mom as if I could save her, if she happened overboard. At the bottom, we pull ourselves back up to our original seats and all erupt with laughter. What a blast. Talk about being in the moment.

Rapid after rapid, we rode in the same fashion getting whipping around like popcorn in an air popper. And all wanting more. We reach our last rapid and our guide asks if anyone would like to jump out of the raft and ride down solo – feet first – no raft. Well guess who was the first person to jump out of the raft. Yup. My mom. It all happened so fast that all I can remember is seeing the back of her head and hearing pure laughter, pure joy. She wasn’t thinking at that moment of any limitation she had. She was experiencing limitlessness.

That day proved something pretty huge to my mom. She was the only one who could stand in her own way. She had almost talked herself out of an experience of a lifetime because she though she didn’t have the skill or the stamina. She almost missed out because of perception.

We are only limited by our perceptions. We talk ourselves in or out of experiences everyday because it isn’t the right time perhaps tomorrow, or I don’t have enough skill yet, or I need to have more money before I do that, or I need to be in the right relationship first, or I need to lose that last 20 pounds first, or, or, or.

Get out of your own way. When I hesitate and hold back I always think of my mom jumping out of that raft. She didn’t care what others thought of her or for that matter what perception she had of herself. None of that mattered because at that moment, she was the coolest rapid rider on the American river.

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