One summer, my husband I bought a Kayak. I’d done a lot of research and found an inflatable one with excellent reviews that fit our budget and space constraints. We had both canoed before, and Jack had once owned a sailboat. A kayak is a little different, and an inflatable differs from a hard body. We spent much of the summer discovering coves and venturing into places we couldn’t reach on foot.
There was a northern portion of the reservoir we could not launch from because of it being the snowy egret breeding area. All the launch ramps had been closed and locked. No access for the summer. We looked for other lesser known ramps but they were all narrow footpaths and far too steep. The next nearest launch was a few miles away, in the midsection, a pretty long haul. After a few days deliberation, we decided to make it work. We planned to make a day of it, got up early and took a hefty lunch. We would travel farther than we ever had before.
My husband was always up for an adventure but due to age, his strength often flagged quickly which left the bulk of paddling up to me. I paddled for two and I didn’t mind it at all. I was excited to go on these adventures. He chipped in as he was able. I kept this in mind as we planned our excursion. I trusted that we had built up enough strength over the summer to reach the northernmost edge and also return.
The pass one way would be equal to the round trips we usually made. I had checked in with a person or two regarding this plan and when I thought we would return just in case. And then, we launched.
Halfway up to the norther pier, I realized we were in much deeper water, these currents were unfamiliar and there was no one else out on the water. Neither of us had a phone if our arms totally gave out. We rowed and paddled and paddled some more. My husband helped with paddling as much as he was able, chatting and remarking on the scenery. His arms had already given out and my arms began to burn but I so much wanted to see the northern coves that I focused on the bridge, then the island and finally the pier. I was ready for a rest and a nap to recover.
We made it to our destination—Yay us!—but now it was on my mind that we had to return. My arms were shaking tired from paddling but we were too far out to stop. The boat ramps were all locked and we couldn’t get out for the same reasons we couldn’t get in to begin with.
I could have easily slipped into negative self-talk, but I knew better. Even when my husband began voicing his doubts and concerns, I blew them off. “We’ve been doing this all summer and our arms are the strongest they’ve ever been,” I said. We ate our lunch and skimmed through the mud-colored water, it was a gorgeous bright day, and clouds offering brief respites from the baking August sun. I was glad we had made the trip.
“Are you sure we can make it back?” my husband asked. I could only surmise that his arms were now on fire and he didn’t have any more strength. I knew my arms would begin burning again pretty soon. What would we do if all my strength gave out too? I hoped with all my heart that the lunch we had would be enough fuel to keep me going. But mostly, I had to hang onto a positive attitude.
“Of course I’m sure.” I hoped I sounded convincing. I focused on a smooth consistent pattern , making a mantra to match the rhythm. I can do this, I can do this, I can do this… When you’re out on the water, if you look at the water around you, it’s hard to tell if you’re moving fast or slow. It seems like you’re not really getting anywhere. Thinking that you aren’t making progress is psychologically draining and can be demotivating. Like many undertakings, this must be broken down into manageable chunks. This trip—as overwhelming as it seemed in the moment—was no different.
This is the point where it’s so easy to quit. When those moments come, we have another choice: Power through. What does that look like? From a kayak, it meant finding point on land, and paddling toward it. Once I got close to that landmark, I found another one to focus on. I counted passing each landmark as a small victory. When the burn set in, I settled into an almost hypnotic state, a sustainable rhythm. My husband contributed as he was able, which did speed us along. But I could tell he was spent.
Powering through means letting go of timetables. Yes, the trip was long and yes, my arms did ache, but I promised myself I would rest when it was over. The less I paddle, the longer it takes.
Fortunately, the reservoir didn’t have a lot of twists and turns like a river or marsh might. I was pretty certain of our way back, even when my husband didn’t. There were other landmarks I remembered as they came into view and when I knew we were getting closer to our launch point, I got a second wind. And before we knew it, we were back at our cove–with bragging rights.
So what does this mean for you?
Everything we endeavor to do is not going to be easy, or happen when we think it should. I’ve found that if I just keep moving forward, no matter how incrementally, even if it doesn’t look I thought it would, I usually get where I need to go. Keeping a positive attitude is like wind in the sails. My husband may have been concerned about more than what he was saying, but he never once said we wouldn’t make it.
I learned a lot about myself on that trip and it really took all the strength I had to get back to our launch. While I was thrilled we had succeeded–that was very empowering!–we never made that trip again. Two years later, the northern point boat launch finally reopened. By then we had already proven that we had what it takes.
If you’ve had to make a decision to power through to the end of something, I’d love to hear from you. Share it with us in the comment box below.