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Against The Current

I have been jotting all these little notes in my brain for time when I had a moment to write. That time is now. Water is so cleansing for me figuratively speaking. I find the sound of water whether at the beach or a waterfall or a river to be so peace inspiring. For me, the symbolism of water also includes the idea of motion. Motion, even if you are paddling upstream, is so important to life. According to Newton, objects, which includes us breathing ones, in motion, tend to stay in motion. It means you are alive and can put that figurative foot in front of the other.

This last 4 weeks have included a beautiful southern California beach with dolphins playing in the ocean, an amazing waterfall hike outside of Yosemite and three opportunities to paddleboard in the fresh, cold water of the Southern Sierra Nevada.

I am sort of new to paddleboarding having only done my first paddleboard yoga class last summer and it has been a learning experience. There are two definite messages that I had from my most recent experience! First of all, it is important to remain balanced. Secondly, if you have a fall, get the heck back up and keep paddling even if it is upstream.

You always hear the phrase, “activate your core” and that is incredibly important when standing on a paddleboard with the unstable surface of the water. Most people think their core refers to their abs, but there is way more to your core which really includes all muscles from “nipples to knees”. I can activate my core until the cows come home, but the other core that I must activate to put one foot in front of the other includes the muscles of humility, resilience, hopefulness and, even, lest I say defiance.

I was actually really struggling with a bit of humility these last few weeks. It just sucks to have a flawed body and I was just plain and simple struggling with the concept and the need for other people to help me deal with it. But there is another perspective. There always is. I need help with my physical body – hips mostly. Fortunately, I have a career that supports all of the basics – food, clothing and shelter and all the extras. Can you imagine the humility needed to share your need with a complete stranger? A basic need such as a pillow to rest your head on at night? And, a place to shower?

Here’s where my lesson comes in. Last week, I was balancing our checkbook and noticed that my husband had withdrawn a couple of hundred dollars in cash. We mostly use our bank cards so that surprised me and I asked him what he bought. He said, “you are going to be mad!” Oh shoot, what did he do? He told me that he met this man and his wife at the dog park and they were really struggling financially. In fact, they were homeless. My husband said, “I filled up their tank and paid for them to stay at Motel 6 for a few nights.” And, then, my perspective in humility changed. I know I would really struggle with the humility needed to ask for that level of help. I suppose I’m humble to an extent, but I know it is also a weakness of mine - being okay with asking for help.

Resilience, I feel, too is a second very important muscle that is required of a journey with any struggle. I fell off the paddle board in the rapids (not super-fast, but fast enough). What did I do? Well, I can tell you now, I certainly did not just hang on for dear life until I floated back down the river to our starting point. I hoisted myself back on and laughed. I turned around into the rapids again, standing I might add. A bit more cautious, but not scared! Resilient. My message to you when activating this core muscle is if you don’t get back up again, you will be floating from one struggle to another with little opportunity to steer your life and your outcomes.

Hopefulness is another one of those core muscles. I am not sure physically where it located, but I think it is somewhere connected with the heart and the stomach. If you lack hopefulness, you will feel it in the pit of your stomach. You will feel nauseous and unsettled. But, if you do actually have hopefulness, then it is definitely closer to the heart. You will feel alive. You will be energetic. You will feel the sun on your face as you look up to the skies with hope.

And, that final, one? I actually just realized that I have been exercising my core muscle of defiance. What? Of course, those around me may see that attribute on a daily basis. I can hold my own on litigious work meetings and, sometimes, even with a little amusement as the other party is so emotionally charged that they lack self-control. But, I’m also defiant about the outcomes of my hip surgical interventions. There are always risks and consequences to every medical intervention. I research it to death, either agree or disagree to an intervention and always expect the best outcome. Case in point, about 2.5 years ago I had my third hip scope on my left hip. It was a longish surgery (3-4 hours in length). My Hip Healing Surgeon needed to give me the rundown on the possible complications and the likely outcomes of my surgery. One of those outcomes was the heightened likelihood of the progression of arthritis resulting in a hip replacement. I remember my response as clear as day and perhaps my Hip Healing Surgeon does too. Quick witted as I am, I thumbed my proverbial nose at him and said, “I’ll prove you wrong!” At the moment, I thought maybe I should not have said that as I am a plant-based eater and would hate to have to eat crow!

For me, activating my core muscle of defiance against my hip odds includes many things. It includes a healthy diet, a daily exercise routine (that exhausts my husband) and mindfulness. For example, yesterday I went to a place called HotWorx and did a 30-minute Pilates class in an infrared sauna at 126 degrees! My husband's response (even though he did not say it) was an internal rolling of the eyes and a “when will you stop, woman?” I am defiant in that way. I’m not going to let my body dictate my physical pursuits. If it comes down to it, then the mind will dictate my decisions to allow my body to continue doing what I want it to do. And, so far, by the way, I have not eaten crow, but I still try to remain humble about that as I hear “humble pie” does not taste great – even with ice cream.

You know what they say, if you don’t use it, you will lose it. I hope that my muscles of humility, hopefulness, resilience and defiance never atrophy. I hope that they will continue letting me paddle through the cleansing water even when that water is trying to knock me down and pull me under.

So, the next time you see someone that may need your help, ask yourself, “If I was in their situation, how would I feel about asking for help?” Ask yourself, “Can I activate my core?” But more importantly, “Can I use those core muscles to paddle against the current whatever the challenge?”

Activate those muscles!

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