To say it has been an upside-down and backwards kind of year may be an under-statement. COVID has created many challenges that, at some points, seemed almost impossible to overcome, however, it has also created some amazing moments for me and my family.
We are fortunate to have the ability for one parent to stay home and one parent work which has allowed us to become closer and more connected with each other. Not every moment was filled with sunshine and roses, that would be naive and forgetful to say that, but it has allowed us time to witness our children grow as people and discover their abilities to push past their perceived limits. Our most recent family paddling trip and vacation presented us with moments where we were able to witness this first hand. We had chosen to go back to northern Saskatchewan to a wonderful hamlet called Missinnipe (which we absolutely love) and began our five night/six day paddling trip from there. The heat was intense but the lake swimming was perfect. On one of the hottest days, we had decided to pull over for a swim to cool off. My husband (who is fearless) saw the perfect cliff to jump from. We assessed the depth of the water and saw that it was the straight down and just right for jumping into. Now I must add here that I have lots of fears that can sometimes take control and prevent me from trying new experiences but I decided after our daughter was born that I didn’t want my kids to grown up to have fear like me; so, when he suggested cliff jumping, as much as my head was screaming NO!!!, I gave him a look and assured myself it was fine, and we off loaded ourselves onto the rocks. Our son (who is the youngest) is more fearless than his dad. He genuinely believes that “if Dad can then he can”, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. On this occasion it was amazing. There were multiple levels for us to jump from and of course my husband goes for the top one (about 12 to 15 feet high and straight down) with my son, who is 7, close behind him. Without any hesitation my husband jumps first popping up with a great big smile. Next our son walks to the edge, listens to his dads’ instructions on how to jump out and not bellyflop and he pushes off, he also returns to the surface with hoops and hollers of joy and accomplishment.
Our daughter (who is like me in so many ways) is nervous. You can tell she really wants to but is scared. We gently encourage let her know she’ll be fine. She looks at me and I tell her that Dad would never do anything to hurt her and that she is so much braver than mom and that she can do it, but I also remind her that it is her choice. She looks at me than at the boys in the water and with shaky legs steps up to the edge. It takes a few moments and deep breaths but she finally decided to jump, and it was magnificent. My baby girl took the big step, the leap of faith, the jump forward, into a world where she can be more courageous and fearless and believe in herself to overcome things that scare her and prove to herself that she will come out the other side just fine.
She bobs backup to the surface and (just like her mom) is crying, but not because she is sad or scared anymore, but because she did something that pushed her comfort level and the emotions from doing it were so much and so intense that she needed to release them.
Throughout our trips we always ask what our favorite moments or funniest moments are and I have so many with this trip, but this moment in particular is my favorite. Not just because my daughter pushed herself and tested her limits but because I couldn’t, I was too scared, and I realized when I watched her and her reaction that even though she is almost a carbon copy of me, she will never have my level of fear and for that I am so grateful and so proud.
There seems to be a trend in fitness right now that I don’t quite get; that pushing your limits means extreme, puking, high intensity where you’re sore for days, unsustainable habits. I think when some people attempt these “limit pushing” activities they realize it is way more than a physical limit, it can also be a mental and emotional limit. Training to push those mental limits is important but we have to be gentle, forgiving and patient, especially if you want them to be a positive and long-term changes. My recent vacation with my family has inspired me to think about my own perceived limits. On that particular trip both of our children were able to push themselves beyond comfort and discovered what they can achieve. I often wish that I could be more fearless. I often find myself thinking about the “what if” scenarios and it is usually them that holds me back from enjoying some activities that my family enjoys, and mom just ends up being the “scared” one, and I hate it. After watching my kids in the first half of our vacation conquer their first cliff jumping experience, I told myself that the next cliff I would jump too. We had another opportunity and of course I couldn’t bring myself to do it, instead I pushed myself from the edge of the much lower level, but you know what…that’s ok because that is where I needed to start, and that is where I need patience.
As we continued through our trip, I realized that I was pushing my limits, physically, mentally and emotionally. I have never carried our canoe when portaging because we only ever had one that everyone fit in. Now that the kids are bigger, we have two which means both of us parents carry one. The second canoe (a rental and much heavier than the second we purchased) was mine to carry. The portages were short and I managed them with heavy breathing but on our longest portage, the 70lbs canoe seemed to be gaining weight with every step as the padded carrying thwart pressed on knots in shoulders and neck. The sensation was intense to say the least. I had to take a few rests and alleviate the weight and was very frustrated, I back squat much more than that, but this, this was different. It was day 3 of 6 and I had already carried the food barrel on our first pass (each portage took three trips because the gear was too heavy and big for the kids to carry). I started to recall somethings I had learned when studying Corrective Exercise and pressure points about how a pressure point not only triggers physical sensations but can also trigger emotional reactions and let me tell you, there were a lot of emotions. But in the end, I did it and didn’t give up. I very much wanted too, it was more intense than any triathlon I have completed, and I was so happy and proud that I did it. I know I am strong but this reminded me that I am still able to push my physical limit to the point where it can be emotional and uncomfortable. With that realization I knew it was time to push my emotional limits in order to push my physical limits, it was time to try some real rapids in our canoe.
Our second half of our vacation we paddled the North Saskatchewan River with our dearest friends and had an incredible time. Our campsite for the last night was at a section called the Devils Elbow. The water levels were lower than normal so the rapids were a little more tame but I was still nervous. I really didn’t want to tip my first time running “real” rapids because I knew that would make me afraid for the next time. I wanted my husband and I to stay upright, I NEEDED us to stay upright. So, after we off-loaded the gear, made sure the kids were good with our friends and walked the canoe back upstream back to the start of the rapids. I have never used a spray skirt fully done up (all the way up to the arm pits) but with the amount of water we could take on we had too. More water equals a very unstable boat and a possible “swamping”. My husband asked if I was ready, I took a breath and said “I guess so” and we turned into the top of the rapids. The stretch isn’t long or super intense but it was my limit, I was very nervous and therefore very focused. We started paddling with my husband keeping us straight and me listening for any steering cues from him.
We hit the first couple of big waves and took on a bunch of water that it pushed the skirt back down to my waist but still managed to keep most of it out of the boat. The next bit he calls for a draw and I start to cross-draw then correct myself, another big wave and more water now pushing past my waist and into the boat (but still stable). The last section one more steering cue and a cue to paddle hard. I pull my paddle as hard as I can as we plow through the last section and eddie out on our left. I sit there with my paddle across me panting heavy. I feel like I just sprinted the 100m dash. As I catch my breath my husband asks “how was that?” and in the words of our son “That was awesome!!”
I did it and enjoyed it!! I am so happy I did it and trusted that I would be ok. The next day we had a lot more bumps and waves and tried to avoid a ledge which we couldn’t and almost swamped the boat. Last year I would have been terrified of that but now, all I can say is “that was f@$%ing awesome!!” My confidence on the river and my ability to multiday trip without my husband has skyrocketed as a result of pushing my mental and emotional limits on this past trip. I feel incredible and am feeling ready for new goals and limits to push past. I may be in my
forties but that doesn’t mean my time has come and gone for these experiences. In fact, I would say that my time is just beginning. I know I can push my limits and be ok. There may be bumps and bruises and God forbid maybe even broken bones but that doesn’t mean I have to stop. We are never too old to grow. We have opportunities that can help us each day and as adults we sometimes choose to ignore them or avoid them because of fear of failure. But I learned a valuable lesson this past trip, that even though as parents and adults we try to be role models and inspire our children, we should sometime look to our children and other children as role models and inspiration on how to live our lives to the fullest and always pushing our limits.