Linda Seitz, PeaksandValleys.life
Creating bountiful stories from our otherwise ordinary lives.
“I begin to think, that a calm is not
desirable in any situation in my life.
Man was made for action and for
bustle too, I believe.”
Last summer we took a camping trip to celebrate my husband’s retirement. We hitched the travel-trailer to the truck, filled up on gas and food, created a comfortable bed in the back seat for the dogs and headed off with the plan of driving all the way to South Dakota to see Mount Rushmore. During that trip, we basically “winged it” in regards to finding camping spots and landmarks to visit along the way.
One day, as we rounded the corner of a road that was seemingly unending, we came upon a beautiful view of the river down below and quickly turned into the campground that was along the water. Excitedly, we were enticed by the movement of the rushing water and quickly chose a campspot on the grass that had a pathway to the river.
That evening at sunset, with a glass of wine in hand, sitting lazily by the water, we made a decision to brave the river in the morning. The campground we were at offered “white water” rafting expeditions that you could sign up for in their general store. We had gone white water rafting before with a guide and a whole boatload of people, but this time it would be different. The clerk at the store fitted us for life vests, gave us our inflated canoe and sent us on our way. I asked if a guide would be coming with us and he replied, “No, the river’s water flow speed is acceptable for you guys to go on your own - of course we could give you individual canoes if you prefer, hardly ever does a couple go rafting together that they don’t come back divorced.” Ha, Ha…the laughter ensued as we picked up our raft and paddles and hit the water.
The river was like glass and I now understood why we could go without a guide. It was completely manageable with little ripples that we paddled through easily, able to take pictures and even watched an eagle fly back to it’s nest high in the trees above.
The minute we thought everything was under control, one of those “little ripples” dumped us out of the boat faster than you could yell, “Momma!!!” But, “Momma” was not what I was crying out when my body hit that frigid water. I was literally yelling for, “Jesus - and Angel Warriors - come save us!” Over and over again. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t see Brian anywhere, just big water and big rocks creating quite a stir.
It had rained a lot the season beforehand, so the water was high, which should have helped the situation, but I could still feel the boulders hitting my back, bottom and legs as I desperately tried to get my feet in front of me and try to “push off the rocks” as I remembered learning from our first rafting trip with a trained guide. When I was able to lift a leg up, my foot revealed that the water shoes were long gone! At this point, though, the water was so fast and powerful all I could do was just keep my mouth above the surface so that I could take in breaths in between the waves crashing over my head. I was panicking.
It just so happened the day before we were listening to a book on Audible. We love Malcolm Gladwell books, so we chose one that we both hadn’t read as of yet. What the Dog Saw seemed to be the perfect choice, filled with engaging stories of human behavior and how we all process life situations uniquely.
One chapter was about the difference between “choking” and “panicking” and it was based upon many different people and the surprising way they “choke” at a task when they’ve practiced their skill to perfection. “Choking” as an athlete, for instance, would be practicing and then having all the pressure upon you in front of people, at the final game is something different altogether and they end up thinking too much and missing the play. “Panicking” was described as an event you experience that is terrifying because you’ve never been introduced to it before, you react in this way because you’re thinking too little.
Slishing and sloshing through the quick flowing and very powerful white water waves I suddenly thought of that chapter. I said to myself, “Linda, don’t panic - people who panic can die in their circumstance when they panic…talk through what you do know and what you’ve already practiced. I remembered the concept from the book. I know how to swim, but that doesn’t matter because I have a life vest.” At this point, I grabbed the life vest with my hands and pulled down a bit so it wasn’t rising into my chin, helping to get my arms to stop flailing and giving me something solid to grab onto because the canoe was still nowhere in sight.
“You’ve body surfed in the ocean and you’ve been water skiing since you were a kid, you’re used to the water, just breathe. You can stay alive like this for a few days floating in the water, no biggie.” I stopped panicking as I talked to myself and was more comfortable now just making sure I didn’t smash into the big boulders. I was aware of my surroundings as I was getting carried down the river and could begin to look around and try to get myself to the side where I could possibly grab onto a tree or bush so that I could come to a stop and try to see where Brian was. I had more clarity now, thinking more about what I could do, rather than what I couldn’t do.
I was coming up to a tiny island in the middle of the river that looked like one big mound of grass. I knew the current would bring me to it, I would just have to navigate my way towards it and eventually I would get there. Speed being my enemy, I came upon that little island of thick and very strong grass and quickly grabbed hold of it as tightly as I could. I just grabbed and held on and told myself to stay put until someone came by. As I looked at my hands, grasping those strands, I immediately noticed that I had inadvertantly found a breeding ground for locusts. Yes, they were all up and down each blade of grass minding their own business until I came along. What I saw squished in between every finger was (you guessed it) smashed locusts…..and I didn’t even care. I thought, “Wow, survival takes you to another level!” I wasn’t letting go, it didn’t matter at this point how much locust flesh was all over my hands, I was stopped and hanging on, feeling safe and not letting go anytime soon!
Within thirty seconds, Brian swam up with the canoe and stopped where I was, both of us now holding onto the locust grass and nervously giggling at what we were both seeing. I grabbed hold of that canoe and used every core muscle known to man as I wrenched my body up to flop inside. Brian hopped in as well and we were off again, out of the water and cautious about what wave may be coming next. We pressed through each new swirly rise of water, but now with much more seriousness until we reached the end and took stock of our injuries. They were minor and we were grateful.
What divine timing that I had listened to that chapter just the day before that happened. I’m sure I would have continued to panic had I not processed the distinction of choking vs panicking and I’m not certain how differently the outcome would have been.
Fast forward to this monumental time in all of our lives.
When the COVID-19 Quarantine first began, I didn’t know what to think. The new reports came in, one by one, shedding light on China, Italy, Paris and then it started to hit home. Travel was shutting down, our local community was stocking up with years’ worth of toilet paper and eventually, a “stay at home” directive was issued by our government.
A week into our staying at home, I had a feeling of panic overtake me. I was intensely watching the news and researching the virus because with two autoimmunes myself and a husband who had cancer in his past, I was curious how the coronavirus would affect us if it came knocking on our door. Not well, actually.
So, I had a night of panic, which then lead to an anxiety attack and I was not sure how to proceed daily, being quarantined and perchance not having enough supplies to keep us going. Also, worrying about the fact that this virus could possilby be fatal and that simply going to the store, or anywhere there were people, could bring this unwelcomed guest home.
Then, I remembered that chapter again. The difference between panicking and choking. I talked myself and a few other close friends and family members through a narrative, much the same as when I was being carried down the white water river. “All you need as a human is water, food and shelter. That’s the bare minimum to stay alive. I have water, food and shelter. I can do this, we can do this. We can stay in place and look at it as a time to clean out (our homes, clear the clutter), connect (time to call and chat) and rest (how long has it been since you’ve taken a nap?)
In a Godly sense, this could give us time for silence and solitude with the Lord. A time that He may have been calling you to all along. A time to take our eyes off of our schedules to look into something you’ve been craving. A time to clean out (our sin nature), connect (daily with bible reading and prayer) and rest (in knowing that even God rested on the seventh day, and you were meant to do this as well.)
I’m passing up the panic train and easing into the life that is expected of us right now. I may not do this perfectly, but I am starting to slow down a bit and feeling like I’m sure to find a new groove soon. How about you?
Grace and Peace,
The Ups and Downs of Life...