The small boat jacked back and forth, buffeted first by the swirling eddy from the rocky shoreline that sped by and then abruptly rocked upward by the rooster tail of the deep boil into which its bow dropped. Otter Rapids, a wild stretch of the Reindeer River in northern Saskatchewan. Few stretches of whitewater provide a better training ground for the teenaged canoeists who spent summers in this remote wilderness in the mid-80s. Exhilarating. Terrifying. Confidence inspiring.
And just when the campers felt they had conquered the rapids with their canoes upright, the leaders encouraged them to try it again, this time with nothing more than their personal floatation devices. Maytaged was was term that described this experience, the sensation of being churned through the rinse cycle of an industrial washing machine before being spit out the other end. Talk about building confidence and character!
Life sometimes provides a similar Maytag sensation, the wild churning and tremendous pace of everyday existence leaving one breathless, yet invigorated! And yes, this too is character building.
We all go through it from time to time. As high school students, my daughters are experiencing it these days, jumping from steadily more challenging classes and explorations of collegiate options to cheerleading to Model U.N. and other academic clubs. Throw in the social elements of Homecoming week, and you’ve got a Maytag.
Professionally, I’ve been through the ringer this fall. My consulting has been going gangbusters. My teaching load has steadily risen. The writing assignment keeps pouring in, and my dissertation is constantly in the picture.
Through in a few health issues, single parenting situations, doggie daycare, and attempts to socialize, and the spin cycle is on full throttle. But I love it!
You see, those experiences navigating the frigid waters of Otter Rapids as a Camp Manito-Wish YMCA Outpost camper taught me some valuable lessons in life. Keep your feet up and in front of you, which allows you to make those minute adjustments to the rocks and boulders that appear in your path. Hold tight to your life preserver and having faith that it will eventually bring you back to the surface. Hold your breath, for your ability to do so is far greater than you can imagine. And most importantly, just enjoy the ride, for it will be over far sooner than you think, but the memories will last a lifetime.
So, next time you feel the jerk of life’s washing machine, and hear the swirl of the approaching water, realize you have a choice to either dread the impending ride or revel in it. Life can be invigorating, or it can be terrifying. Either way, you have to ride those rapids. So, you might as well embrace the character-building approach. You’ll be rewarded if you do.