Let me tell you about one of the many mishaps that I made on an outdoor excursion and the lesson that I learned. First, I need to give a little background. It was 2007, and I was attending some military training in Missouri. During the week, the class kept me overly busy, which often led to homework. So, when the weekends came around, I was ready to get out and enjoy some of the beautiful things offered in the “Show Me” State. On this particular weekend, I wanted some peace, so I did some searching and came across a fishing trip at the Meramac River.
So, I was excited and bought a 4-hour float trip in a canoe. I was thinking to myself that it would be peaceful and fun to do some fishing and swimming. So, I started loading up my canoe around eight o’clock in the morning with all of my essentials for the day…or so I thought. Then, I figured that I was going to need my tackle box, fishing pole, towel, sunscreen, drinks, snacks, and I’m good to go! I wanted to disconnect from everything, so I left my cellphone in my truck along with my wallet.
I couldn’t believe how well the fish were biting! I’d like to think it was from the homemade bait that brought with me. It was the kind of fishing that every time you throw your line in, you’re reeling in the fish. Learn how to make your own fish bait and catch them like I was on this trip! Between the excellent fishing and the fantastic scenery all around me, I completely lost track of time. I would fish for a while and then go to another location downstream to cool off in the water. I kept that rotation on for several hours.
Now, remember that I was supposed to be only on a 4-hour trip. Well, before I knew it, the sun was setting, and it was starting to get dark. I have to admit; there was a slight moment of panic and disbelief. “Where did the time go,” I asked myself. Regardless, I had to start paddling with a purpose to make it back to the rental cabin and my vehicle. I honestly had no idea how far I had made it down the river in the daylight, so the distance to my destination was unknown. No problem, I’ll see the cabin and know that I’m back. That was not the case! Darkness set in real quick, and all I could see was the outline of the trees and cliffs around me.
This was about the time that I remembered to bring my phone and a flashlight. I wasn’t prepared for this situation and was going to suffer those consequences at any moment. All I could do was keep on paddling and making my way downstream, hoping to see something that looked familiar. Time seemed to speed by, and I began to doubt if I had passed the cabin because there were no lights on. What if they closed and forgot they still had a canoe out? Still paddling, I started to develop a worst-case scenario in my head. I’ll have to sleep out here and wait until daylight for help.
Then, I started doing a mental inventory of the items I had remaining in the canoe. There was one bottle of water, some beef jerky, and a banana. Okay, that’s plenty to get me through the morning, and if all else fails, I still have my fishing pole! I then began to try to rationalize and minimize the gravity of the situation. I’m going to sleep in a canoe at one of the gorgeous spots that I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting? That’s not too bad. It wasn’t soon after I had worked all that out in my head that I saw the lights from the rental cabin. What a relief!
You see, the moral here is not just that you need to have a more inclusive pack that will help you get you through your physical situation. Be sure that you also equip yourself for your mental status as well. You may not always be prepared for a particular situation that you find yourself, physically and mentally, you need to be able to rely on the tools that you have “packed” to get you through to safety.
Now, I like to refer to it as safety because the amount of relief that you get when you finally make it through a tough situation provides so much weight lifted off of your chest. If you are only able to deal with one problem at a time, you’re still making progress toward your destination. And that progress can motivate you to take on another, and another, until you find yourself right where you need to be. The way that you get there may not always be ideal, but sometimes life just wants us to have these experiences to ensure we have the right tools in our pack for things to come.
I like to reflect on times of hardship, as well as the blessings, to see the value of life. For many years, I have been struggling to “feel” any experience. It seemed as if everything was passing me by, and I was only just there. I’ve been numb for years, and the only way I’m able to pull through day to day and add value to my life is to slow everything down and live in the moment. I could “see through the fog” of chaos in my head. That fog consumes everything around me and that is all there is to focus. In another story, I will tell you where I learned this technique, or tool, and how I have to incorporate this each day deliberately. It’s baby steps, but it’s still progressing to my destination!