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Downstream vs. Upstream

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Blog_ Kayaking Metaphor

Explicit language warning: there is the occasional F-Bomb.

 

The adventures of being Contagiously Positive sometimes comes with being caught up on a tree branch, almost, but not almost drowning, and annoyed with my husband. It also just so happens to offer me the greatest metaphors on life.

 

First let me start with the story of that time I almost didn’t drown kayaking. 

 

Kayaking is one of my favourite most peaceful things to do in the summer. Besides sitting on the patio with a glass of red wine and eating plain potato chips.

 

This week, my husband and I decided to kayak in a direction we have never gone before. It had little rapids and we thought, “This will be so much fun!” It was, until it wasn’t.

 

Imagine me in bright yellow kayak, paddling away (against the flow of the river), and the current is getting stronger and stronger. I’m paddling like a mad woman feeling my shoulders burn and feeling like I am going to vomit from the exertion that my arms are rejecting. Finally the current takes me over to the side and I get caught up on a fallen tree, a branch stuck in the hood of my jacket. Again, I start to paddle as hard as I can, but I’m stuck, and I’m yelling at my husband because he’s way ahead while I almost drown in 3 feet of water when my kayak starts to turn over. Okay, I’m exaggerating the near drowning part, but still, I’m now wet and my arms are killing me.

 

My husband yells down to me, “Row harder! Keeping rowing!” He’s thinking that is motivating me or will give me more strength. It’s not doing either. I yell back, “I can’t! Am I even fucking moving?! Stop yelling at me!” By the way, I was paddling at full strength and I wasn’t even moving.

 

Then it hit me. “Stop going upstream. You are not having fun anymore.” So I just let go, stopped paddling, and I allowed the current to take me back downstream while I sat back in a gentle meditative row. What did the husband do? He kept rowing upstream because he was in his happy place (and not struggling as much with the current as me, having loads of fun).

 

I’m now safely and joyfully back to my happy place and this is where the life metaphor comes in.

 

It struck me that there are many times in life, outside of the kayak, where I (we) paddle upstream. I think we often make choices that make our life much harder than it needs to be. We hear it all the time, NO PAIN, NO GAIN! YOU GOTTA HUSTLE! TO WIN! If that pain and hustle brings you absolutely no joy, that’s bullshit. We choose to row upstream, instead of taking an easier path that takes us downstream in a more nature, easier flow.

 

For example…

 

We choose a dietary lifestyle that goes against everything we enjoy. Hating every bite, sip, and move we take (upstream), instead of taking the patiently awaited time to figure out what truly works for us (downstream). It may take more time to lose the weight, but it’s better than being on an endless nauseating diet roller coaster and it will make us feel happier, healthier and less stressed in the long run.

 

We choose to endlessly fight in order to be right in an argument (upstream), instead of just letting go of the never ending battle and choosing to be happy instead of right (downstream).

 

We choose to hang on to toxic relationships that are just not serving us (upstream), instead of making the hard, but necessary choice for our sanity, happiness and joy and respectfully going our separate ways (downstream).

 

We choose to hold on to a massive grudge because we believe that our misery will also be their misery (upstream), instead of realizing that the grudge is only hurting us, and letting go, and forgiving, will set us free (downstream).

 

So here are my questions to you that come out of this upstream vs. downstream kayaking metaphor.

 

Where in your life are you painstakingly fighting against the current?

Where in your life can you just let yourself take the easier path by letting go of the paddle, going within, having a chat with your inner guide, and begin to do the things that are going to make you happy?

 

Be happy. Be healthy. Be Contagiously Positive.

Laurie-ann Sheldrick,

The Contagiously Positive Girl

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