I went kayaking for the first time after my new life began a few weeks ago. I kept waiting to write about it because sometimes it can be so hard to write about a feeling until it has long since processed and drifted away.
It was a windy day. So windy we discovered that an underground cult of wind surfers exists in our mid-size Texas town. They all seemed to be on the water that day. Racing their boards along. Dragged by the inflated sails that tugged at their navels from high above. Flipping up out of the water and spinning tricks I would’ve longed to catch if only I were a sports photographer instead of just me.
So windy that as I sat in my kayak and was helped with a few pushes offshore, I immediately started to drift back to the ramp. But this was my first day back on the water and, if you know anything about me, you know how stubborn I can be at times.
In fact, my stubbornness is probably the only reason I’m still alive. I simply refused to pass quietly along.
And here my stubbornness was again, pushing me forward in the water.
It actually wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be. My arms seemed to remember how to churn the water after all. After heart surgery and not being able to use my arm for a couple months, I was worried my body wouldn’t remember how to function this way. Or at least wouldn’t be able to function this way.
It felt awesome to prove myself wrong.
It was the first time in a long time I’d felt I could really even do anything other than exist. I have one word for the feeling: empowered.
I have another few words for the physical sensations: shaking and spasming.
It didn’t take long. Within 30 minutes the muscles in my shoulders started quavering and twitching. Their own feeble protest to any more work.
The sun warmed my face and the cold water splashed my legs as my arms kept churning and the wind surfers flew past, sometimes almost overhead.
I felt alive and capable.
Funny how you can be alive, but not really feel it. So numb we are to so much of life.
But in my kayak, in the sun, bounced gently along by the water, I feel it. I feel the blood pulsing through my veins, the textures against my skin, the paddle in my hands, the sun warming my face. I see life laughing all around me, smell the water and the trees and the reeds and the sheer existence of it all.
Being outside is the only thing that makes me feel limitless. As though the walls that often surround us literally shrink us and our world to a smaller size.
I barely managed to paddle my way back in so I could wash up on the beach. Exhausted but exhilarated. I collapsed against the sand in triumph, feeling it against my toes.
I drank it in, in big, gasping gulps, a starving woman in the desert. No pain, no machines, no hospital smells or choking pills or people hovering over me like I was the most fragile thing in the world. No bandaid goop or stitches or oxygen masks or yet another IV or injection. No more bruised arms and fresh scars.
Just me. On a beach. With my friends. And the big, wide sky that watched over us all.
It felt like I was back. And for the first time, I really wanted to be here.