Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The rescue

I used to love whitewater. As a teenager I learned to read rapids and shoot them with the finesse of a professional. I even landed on the cover of a national magazine (Ok, ok don't be too impressed, it was Girl Scout Leader Weekly, but still) because of it. One of my most prized possessions was my whitewater canoe. It all represented a time of adrenaline, confidence and fun.

I've been in a kayak once. I probably don't have to tell you it's not the same as a canoe. It was cool though, and different. I felt no fear as I clumsily navigated a measly class 3 with my double-sided paddle. It was humbling - the skill set I had was nearly useless. I was enjoying trying to figure it all out though, but the thing about kayaks is they flip. It's easy to get out if you can't flip it back, you just need to have the presence of mind to pull the tab on your spray skirt while underwater. Inevitably I flipped my kayak, but when I did my head (yes, in a helmet) hit a rock and I guess the impact knocked me out. I was told later that the current dragged me about 20 feet before the guide got to me. I woke up on the bank with burning insides. I couldn't speak or think as I choked and wheezed and tried to catch breath. There was a crowd around me - it was the most surreal experience, and probably the most frightened I've ever been on my own behalf.

I've never gotten back into a kayak, but more than 15 years later, that guide and I are still friends. Why? Because people who know how to save each other are awesome people. People who will do so at the risk of themselves? There are no words. Those people deserve to run the world - they'd be good at it.


In general though, I don't think it's fair to divide people into rescuers and rescuees. I'd rather just say there are people who care about each other and people who just care about themselves. If you're honest with yourself, you've probably spent time in both categories. I know I have. 

This is something I've been thinking about a lot, what it means to need help, ask for help, or give help. Take this next part for exactly what you paid for it, because I'm just trying to figure it all out.

I think sometimes there's a lot of pressure involved in helping others, and you can get so caught up in it you start to almost live through them. At that point it's exhausting and unhealthy. On the flip side, you can also easily fall into that victim mindset where you're constantly relying on the boost others can give you. As imperfect beings, we all need help at some point but we also need to know how to get ourselves going in a positive direction, no matter what.

Yes, helping each other and accepting help takes effort, but being dragged around by other people while you yourself are having issues is a whole other thing. 

Between October of 2011 and March of 2012 I experienced 2 layoffs, lost my apartment, and almost lost my mom. It was a rough time, and a time I never would have made it through without massive amounts of help, love and support from my friends. I was given a guest room to live in, freelance work so I could feed myself, and about a dozen shoulders to cry on. That support gave me the strength and momentum to get my shit together and get back on track. That's what good support does. It does not feed negativity or enable a victim mindset, it gives you strength. People who can help you find strength in yourself are the best kind of people. After being in one job and one apartment for 8 years, the transition I had to make was hard - many times I felt like it was a losing battle. So yes, I got myself together…but it was only because of my friends that I had the strength to do so. Friends don't let friends give up on themselves.


When you get on a plane they tell you in a short pre-takeoff presentation that in an emergency, put your own oxygen on first. Help yourself so you can help the person next to you.

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