Thursday, July 29, 2010

Take a deep breath

Magnolia River
Today, I had to take a deep breath.  I took a couple of hours to go kayaking on the upper portion of the Magnolia River where it was peaceful and quiet.  In the two hours that I spent on the river, I saw a grand total of three people.  Two of them were fishing from the river bank and our interaction consisted of:
  • a promise from me to do as little as possible to disturb the fish, and
  • a request from them for me to wake the fish up because they weren't biting.  
The only other person I saw was the river route mailman who was focused on the task at hand.   (Magnolia River is one of the few remaining water postal routes in the country.)  Just three people in two hours is pretty amazing.  Despite the fact that I'm an introvert by nature, I like people and enjoy interacting with them.  Today, however, I needed  a couple of hours to be alone away from home, people and responsibilities.

There's just something redemptive about paddling slowly and quietly up a narrow, shady river and I needed some redemption today.  When the river narrowed to the point where I could no longer pass, I turned the kayak around and just floated there a while in the quiet.  Sometimes the responsibilities of our lives can overwhelm us.  Each of us has a unique set of experiences and challenges.  Sometimes we handle them well and life rocks along.  Sometimes we don't handle them as well and we become overwhelmed, discouraged and frustrated.  I was not handling my circumstances particularly well and consequently had become depleted and discouraged.

My wife and I each have one surviving elderly parent who lives in the same town with us.  Both of them live independently but still need regular assistance.  Our siblings all live elsewhere (although this hasn't always been the case in my wife's family) and consequently, an understandably disproportionate share of the responsibility for caring for these aging parents falls on us.  It's one thing for a couple to have have one widowed parent to look after but it's another to have two of them.  Julia and I have taken a "divide and conquer" approach to this responsibility, intentionally limiting what we do for the other one's parent because we recognize our own limitations.  This is far from ideal, we know, but it's the best that we have been able to do even if both parents may feel somewhat neglected by their son-in-law or daughter-in-law, as the case may be. I don't have any delusions that I can always make my mother happy or meet her every need.  I'm a big believer that happiness is a choice for each of us and no one else is responsible for my happiness nor am I responsible for theirs.  Even so, I recognize that the circumstances could be far more demanding than they are but sometimes still struggle with the completely reasonable and seemingly doable responsibilities that I have for my mother.

Coming back from the river today, I felt better . . . not completely recharged, not relieved of all of the discouragement, but better.  There's nothing magic about the river but taking some time to talk through these challenges with the One that created that river and set it on it's course was a step in the right direction.  When I loaded my kayak back into the bed of my pick-up truck, all my problems were not solved, the challenges were not gone but I was refreshed enough that I could take another step.  Arriving back home, that's what I did and life goes on.

What do you do when you need to take a deep breath?   What refreshes you?