Battle Buddy Series – A Prayer for Those Stuck at a Crossroads
by Darian McIntosh
A few months ago, my husband and I decided to invest in a couple of kayaks. With the summer months coming, we knew it would be an excellent way to spend family time together and give our young daughter a way in which she can appreciate nature in all its glory.
The few times we have been out with them did not start in the best way. My poor husband, being the tall one, took the task of tying the kayaks to the roof of our car upon himself. It has been a frustrating task, to say the least. When he is doing this particular task, I have learned to just go inside and busy myself with other things. He does not want the help (not that I would know how) and it always ends up being very frustrating for him. Inevitably, the words, “It’s not even worth all this hassle. What a bad investment!” or some colorful variation comes howling out of his mouth. Naturally, my response back to him in annoyance is to call out, “Let’s just call it off! We’ll stay home then.” I am trying to learn not to take this personally as I was a big part of that made-decision.
The very reason I am learning to not take it too personally is that it most certainly is ALWAYS worth it. Every single time. Once we are out on the lake in our kayaks, there is a special kind of connection with nature that we cannot experience while staying at home for the day. We both feel frustrated at the time of preparing the kayaks. My husband does for the more obvious reasons but I feel it too because my desire for wanting the kayaks was for all of us to enjoy it, not to feel this seething frustration at their very existence. But it always passes. Once we are out and experiencing the calming effects the water has on us, the preparation for the ride back somehow always goes much smoother because we are reminded exactly WHY the investment was a worthy one. Inevitably, enough time passes between lake visits that we go through the same song and dance when we decide to do it again. How forgetful we can be.
This past weekend, we did that song and dance. Having a strong-willed four-year-old that is difficult to corral into agreeing with her parents’ decision for what is going to happen on any given day does tend to slow us down. Naturally, we got a late start. By the time we started the choreography of our dance (aka trying to tie down the kayaks well enough so they don’t fall off and kill everyone in their path), the late start only served as yet another reason my husband believed it wouldn’t be worth going to the lake. And of course, I was reactive to this.
Somehow, tempers died down and we made it. Even despite our daughter’s protests to get in the kayak in favor of swimming in the lake, we did it! Soon we were paddling. My husband was in the lead with the little one in his kayak. He chose left at the start, which was the path with the most resistance (going against the current). I hadn’t put any thought into his decision as I tend to just go with the flow (no pun intended). He later shared with me that he chose this way because he wanted the way back to be that much easier as we went with the current. You know, get the hard part over with first. Smart man, that one.
Anyway, we only have one waterproof cell phone carrier that then hangs around the neck. Before venturing into the water, we both agreed to take my phone because I have the better camera (at least, that’s what I tell him so I don’t have to say that I’m better at taking pictures……shhhhhh!).
While going against the indistinct current (unbeknownst to my oblivious self), I noticed I was having a harder time keeping up with my hubby. As he was in front of me, it looked so effortless for him to paddle and he was booking it. I, on the other hand, kept veering right, despite my best efforts to put equal pressure into my paddles on either side. As a result, I kept having to over-compensate to get back on the straight and narrow and I was WAY behind. It was a wee bit frustrating. As I tend to do, I was looking around me. I was busy comparing myself to other kayakers, including my hubby. My thoughts were racing.
“How are they able to keep consistent with their paddles going left, right, left, right while my pattern of use seems to go more like left, left, left, right, right…?
“Why are my arms already feeling so fatigued? I bet their arms don’t feel like rubber right now.”
My husband knows that I like to take pictures when we are out and about, especially in nature so it was an easy excuse to stop frequently for a rest as there was no shore in sight. Never admit defeat seems to be a motto of mine. I find it amusing that I have a serious competitive streak while at the same time, I’m hesitant to try new things. But I digress. Soon, we were at a crossroads in the lake’s path. My husband being the leader would get to choose. I thought the crossroads would make for a cool picture so I stopped us to get positioned to take said picture. As a result, the choice was made for us because we naturally floated to the left fork in the lake.
We came upon a few of these “forks” in our path as we paddled longer than we expected. Our late start to the day turned out to be a blessing as the cloud cover near dusk was superb against the continuing heatwave we have been experiencing of late. I reveled at the sight of two hawks frolicking in a sky dance and the beautiful, blue dragonflies skimming across the water in front of my kayak. There was finally plenty of time to just sit and reflect relatively uninterrupted.
As much as I adore my daughter, reflection is a thing that is considered a luxury with her around. She is four. A wonderful and curious stage of life to be sure but also one in which you always have to know what’s going on, especially where Mommy or Daddy are concerned. “What are you doing?” is a question I hear often but no pause for an answer accompanies the question. Usually, hands are getting in the middle of whatever it is I am doing to find out for herself.
Back to my reflection: I couldn’t help but think of these crossroads that we experience in our lives and how the right decisions help us soar like those hawks. On the contrary, the inability to choose one or the other can often leave us in a bit of a purgatory where we are just floating along and accepting whatever choices are made for us. As a result, there are too many of us (she points to herself) that are almost a little numb to the contentment we should feel when we make confident choices that are right for us at the time. In failing to recognize that even small progress brings us one step closer to our goal, we lack the self-assuredness to continue along that path.
Sometimes we may have to back-track a little; sometimes we may even have to overcompensate to get us back on track. What I have found is a detriment to me is the inability to stop comparing my chosen path with that of others. I have a feeling in today’s oversaturated social media environment, I am not the only one that does this. We know ourselves and what we are capable of. We know ourselves to account for our struggles but we can’t say the same of others. We may think we know because of what might be portrayed to the world. But just like I don’t like to admit my weaknesses, neither does anyone else. Most everyone has a desire to be successful and if there are struggles (which there always are), those tend to be downplayed or glossed over.
In conclusion to my reflective thoughts, my goal to get healthy and be a better person all around should include a resolve to be vulnerable. For it is in that gift of vulnerability that allows us to truly connect with one another. A battle buddy doesn’t always have to be a physical person. It can be an attribute we possess that helps to lift others in the process. I believe that the stories of our successes should include those hiccups, speedbumps, turnarounds and the like. If we continue to believe that the path should be as smooth as the person next to us, then giving up will always follow. It is this very reason that I see now is why I am competitive but hate trying new things. I let myself believe that my strengths should be the same as everyone else’s and if I couldn’t be as good as the ones I was comparing myself to, I stopped being willing to try. Shame on me. Just like in training for and participating in a marathon, we have to always be willing to play the long game to get the most gains.
Battle Buddy Step #6: Find your Vulnerability