We were traveling through the night to spend some weeks getting lost(and found) in the ancient, steep rivers of the Southeastern USofA. Our paddling gear was worth more than my truck, which had a penchant for breaking down at the most inopportune of times, and we shook and rattled our way at top speed toward our destination. Somehow we'd fashioned our itinerary to include putting in on our first river immediately following 16 hours of driving. We stood there bleary eyed and exhausted and already calling into question, our own judgment. As we geared up and shouldered our boats through the thick underbrush to find ourselves staring face to face with a thundering, rain swollen river, my old friend said, "Ya know...you should do something that scares you every day".
He said many quotable things over the years and remains a master at breaking up any tension that may reside in a situation but, the wisdom residing in these words, took me several years to comprehend. Back then, the notion of "something scary" generally involved risking life and/or limb in search of a little taste of adrenaline. Now, I realize that fear creeps into the nooks and crannies of my psyche and leaves me uneasy. Unaware. Sometimes it is subtle like the screening of a phone call. Other times it is furiously obvious, like being caught in a lie. Usually, I can't even put my finger on fear or recognize it's face enough to call it by name. But, if I am sure of one thing about fear, it is that fear exists. If you can't admit that, then you have little chance of doing something that scares you every day.
I've not found one endeavor more capable of producing fear and offering scary moments than that of raising children. As they navigate through the trials of a day, I am given many opportunities to see my own shortcomings. As a parent. As a person. Like staring into the mirror and studying my own eyes, I see, in them, the truth. In them, I am confronted with the very best and the very worst of myself. Every. Single. Day. And there I am for my children to see, strengthened by trial and humbled by experience. Crowned as a champion and exposed as a fraud. The only thing I have to offer is myself and... I've got nowhere else to be.
I still see my paddling buddy from time to time. He's out there. Spreading his words around. I think about that first day of our trip and how those few simple words have stayed with me for a lifetime. I chuckle a sort of nervous laugh when I think which words of mine these kids will remember. Now that could be scary. Maybe... Hopefully, It will be something that serves them well. Something that helps them face their fears with honesty. Not perfection, just truth. A quality I strive to see staring back at me, each time I look into that mirror.
If learning is living and the truth is a state of mind
You'll find it's better
At the end of the line