However, today felt and bits of this week, my confidence within myself is growing again. I have been on white water 3 times in 7 days, on three different rivers in three different parts of the country.I have got back into the gym and begun doing some fitness sessions on the water and off it. It feels a bit like a turning point and today I had a thoroughly enjoyable day paddling at Symonds Yat with my canoe club in Leamington. I began my day at Symonds Yat and paddled upstream in my river racer to find one of the groups who got in further upstream for a little river trip. It was a slog and in places the river was very low which made paddling up the rapids hard work. I felt like stopping a number of times, but something drew me on. The silence from the river was quite therapeutic and during my paddle I put a few things straight in my head. Paddling hard for 1hr 10 mins I was beginning to wonder if I would ever meet up with the group. Thankfully, as I turned the next corner I saw them and it was great to be met with big smiles. I then stayed with the group and remembered what it was like to just float and chat as you enjoy the beauties of the river, people spotting kingfishers by the water, fish jumping out of the water. So many little things that can be just missed if you spend your time trying to get from A to B as fast as possible. As they stopped for lunch and partially as it was raining. I left the group and headed downstream. It didn't feel long before I was back at the Yat and decided to go straight down the famous/well known Symonds Yat rapid. This was the first time since my swim at the worlds and world cup I have plucked up the courage to paddle white water in my river racer. This time it did not end in tears....
Having paddled for a good 14 miles, it was time for my lunch. I then went down the rapids and played and surfed the waves, attempting to make my way from the bottom to the top. It was nice to play breaking in and out amongst the other group from the club. After another couple of runs from the top to the bottom, I soon found myself finding my groove again and I couldn't help but grin. The water began to feel 'flat' again. I happily paddled back to my car and changed boat to my plastic, recreational boat. This was when the group I had paddled up the river to meet arrived. I then had the privilege to take some newer paddlers down the rapid. You can easily forget how nerve racking it can be doing something new. Also how alien it can be to be on moving water and feel totally out of control. When you get new people down a rapid you can't help but feel pleased as you can see the relief and excitement of accomplishing it means to them. You internally smile to yourself.
For the rest of the afternoon, it was like a switch clicked with me and I felt myself zooming across the water... it felt like I had my slalom flair back and the boat felt like my shoe and it just went with me. My love of white water and passion I have is flowing once more. I think my grinning and general happiness was easily seen by the other paddlers. Just the feeling of the water bouncing off my boat, the sound it makes, the feel of speed as you come into an eddy...hmmm you can't beat it.
So where am I going with this, well I think going back to my routes and seeing the joy of just floating and chatting, makes you realise there is more to life than getting from A to B as fast as possible.
I have lost count how many times I have been asked, so what is your next goal / challenge / aim is after DW. For weeks, it made me feel inadequate, as I didn't know. Where was I going, where did I want to get to, I did not know. Could I just not for once just recover before saying this is my next aim. It took me into a dark spiral of internal reflection, lack of confidence and sadly due to a few events and few words said in the wrong place and time, I just felt totally on my own. So I became a hobbit to my house and it took a lot of talking to myself to get me out. It almost felt like my identity to people and myself was that of what crazy aim I am next going for. I am more than an aim... So my answer right now... I want to be happy, I want to learn how to enjoy life a little more, I want to learn how to relax. That for me is a huge challenge.
Today I realised that there have been a number of people around me that I had not really given a second look and some of those showed me that it is the simple things, like seeing a kingfisher, dancing and singing loudly in a car to music, making silly songs up on a river is quite ok and lastly watching others achieve and improve and having a very small part in helping them ... is well ok.
Although I won't name names, there was some real improvements from certain members of the group and it was great to see them working hard, trying new things out and starting to connect with their boats... from the early steps of mastering ferry gliding, to using the waves to cross the current with ease.
For someone who has spent a number of moments trying to hide the tears building in my eyes over the last few months, you guys helped me find my smile again. I can't believe they said thank you to me today for the paddling when really I want to say thank you to them. Tonight I will head to sleep with a smile, thinking about what river to visit next and what fun I have had today.
Thanks Guys, what a way to celebrate 1 year of my book being published!!! With way over 250 copies sold in its first year, numerous comments as to how the book has resonated with people, I could not have asked for anything more.
What will the next year hold....