I’ll probably never see them again. Don’t even know their last names.
But two days ago, they saved my life. And I’m not even exaggerating…
Before I get to that part of the story, I must first share that the last two weeks have, for the most part, been bliss.
A few things I have not done:
(Seriously, not at all.)
- Dial – or even touch – a phone.
- Use the internet.
- Turn on a computer.
- Send a text message.
- Use Facebook.
- Watch television.
- Interact with a screen.
- Taken a photo, or a video.
- Stay up late to finish the work – or get up early to start it.
- Eat hurriedly to get back to a task.
- Make a to-do list.
A few things I have done.
In short, I was thoroughly human. And it has made all the difference.
I feel like a whole new girl.
Of course, as I mentioned, there was the one near-death experience.
I left one activity off the list above:
We canoed for more than 7 hours in alligator-infested waters.
Of course, I’m not really sure you can call it “canoeing” when you:
- Tip the boat 7 times in 7 hours.
- Swim as often as you float. (Did I mention there were ALLIGATORS in the water? Like, ones that have eaten people in this very creek.)
- Cut your hand so badly that you’re rendered nearly incapable of rowing.
- Use your hands more than your oars to steer and grapple with low hanging trees that threaten to decapitate you if you lose focus for even a second.
- Sink into over 4 feet of mud as you claw your way onto an uninviting shore where snakes and who-knows-what-else await.
- Once toppled, feel your feet tangled in tree roots under water as you scramble to get a life vest to your boyfriend who’s not a great swimmer and whose face, barely surfacing above the water, wears a look of sheer terror.
- Stand on the muddy banks looking for a nonexistent hiking path to safety or motorized rescue.
- Watch powerlessly as a torrential downpour and thunderstorm open up overhead.
- Hang perched in a tree crying & blowing a useless emergency whistle while your boyfriend, whom you can no longer see, holds your flipped canoe against a current whose speed is being multiplied by the power of the storm.
- Hold on for dear life to each passing branch and threaten not to go on as you sob and say “i just can’t do it.”
- Lose glasses, a flip camera, hat, sunglasses, and your dignity in a creek that we’d later learn is the “most challenging canoe run in Florida”. Nice.
- End up floating somehow backward down the creek as more low-hanging and fallen trees greet you at every zig and zag.
- Scream like a little girl while you watch alligators pass under the boat & swat away spiders that are bigger than your hand.
- Get back in the boat 7 times in 7 hours, each time more terrified that the next time you could get tangled in the jaws of a hungry reptile or roots that threaten to drown you.
- Get rescued by gracious kayakers named Tanya & Larry who shepherded you slowly down the rest of the course as you cry in gratitude and a fear that won’t relent until you reach dry land.
(Maybe this description from another unsuspecting canoeist on this run will fill in any missing details.)
Larry would right our boat twice after kayaking up and downstream searching for oars we lost in the upturns.
Somehow, through it all, he maintained his sense of humour, saying the last time,
“You know, the open part’s supposed to be on top, right?”
Tanya kayaked calmly, encouragingly behind us whistling to Larry when we needed his help to surmount an obstacle.
Larry and Tanya had once been rescued by helicopter as they crossed a raging river in Northern Georgia.
For me, the whole experience was just a reminder that people rarely get where they’re going all by themselves. (Not even me.)
Especially when they’re going somewhere they’ve never been.
The stories of rugged individualism that surround our entrepreneurs, heros, athletes, leaders – and even ourselves- are only myths and legends. The self-made man is a fable. Behind each one is an unseen, unheard, rarely celebrated legion of friends, families, employees, supporters, fans, educators, coaches & more – who’ve invested in dreams not their own to make them possible.
While I was out, several folks pitched in to help. Many people had my back – Betsy, Tori, you know who you are.
It’s good to be reminded that you’re not in this alone.
When you need it most, and when you least expect it, there’s a Tanya, Larry or maybe even a helicopter waiting just past the next bend to carry you home. As long as you keep getting back in the boat, stay on the trail, and keep rowing.
Thanks, to all of you who have been my Larry & Tanya over the past two weeks – and over the last three years.
My gratitude is deep and abiding.
And I’m back.
Off to Africa again on Friday…