Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.” ― Madeleine L’Engle
When I was about 4 or 5, I started taking swimming lessons. I’ve always loved swimming and it’s one of the few athletic things I’ve actually been consistently good at, regardless of the rest of my physical health.
This past weekend was the Montana Rico Meetup, and I finally got to meet @vicrylcontessa and @1967mustangman. I’ve known @ryanm for several years as he’s an old friend of my husband’s (as listeners of Flyover Country already know). Sunday, we decided to go out kayaking on the lake as VC had brought her kayak and the McPherson clan was staying at a resort that offered free kayaks. I was incredibly excited as I haven’t been kayaking in years and it’s something I’ve always enjoyed.
We got the kayaks down to the lake and the water was the opposite of calm. I was extra excited because I knew this would make it more fun. Danger was the last thing on my mind as I’m still relatively young and believed I was still invincible. I did not take a life vest. I’m the opposite of a petite woman and I could already tell that none of the vests were going to fit me. So rather than having an embarrassing time failing to fit into one, I boldly proclaimed that I would be fine and had enough “padding” to stay afloat. This would have been true had the lake been still.
Getting the kayak out in the water was difficult because the waves were large and kept pushing the kayak parallel to them. The kayak filled up with water quickly and it took several of us to get it back on the rocky beach and dumped out. We tried getting it back in again and WHOOSH! I got sucked under it, bruising my shins on the rocks in the process. I got up out of the water, still determined to get the damn thing out in the water.
Finally, I was out on the lake, paddling away from the shore, going up and down the increasingly larger waves while having a blast. I got out a little way and decided to see how easy it was to turn the thing 180 and point back at the shore. It was fairly easy. Feeling more confident, I decided to chase some of the bigger waves a little further out. It was glorious! I was having so much fun! The smoke had also lifted enough that I could see the mountains and the scenery was absolutely beautiful.
After a while, I decided that I should head back to shore as my arms were beginning to get tired from paddling. VC had gone much further out in the lake than I had. I started to turn, but my timing was off and a wave hit just as I was doing so. The kayak rocked dangerously but I kept trying to turn. Another big wave hit, but I was still up. I was almost there in the right position when I got knocked over by a third big wave and over I went. I couldn’t get the kayak back up. It didn’t have a skirt and had taken in too much water from the first two waves.
I finally gave up trying to push the kayak, knowing that it would eventually reach shore and I completely lost track of the paddle. I turned towards the shore and kicked off my flip flops, determined to swim for it, but it didn’t take long to realize I wasn’t making nearly enough progress for how tired my arms were. The waves were dumping water over my head and I went under a few times. I tried kicking my legs with the waves, but my head kept going under water. I tried rolling on my back to just let the waves carry me back to shore, but after a few nosefuls of water, I decided that wasn’t a good idea either. I knew I was in a really bad position and the main thing that popped into my mind from all my swimming lessons was “Call for help and try not to panic because panicking will make it worse.”
I started yelling for help, hoping they could hear me over the wind and the waves on the shore. I didn’t know how far back VC was still, but I assumed I was going to have to do most of the swimming. So yelling in between coughing up water and swimming I did. I had gotten out much further than I’d originally intended, I thought I saw someone swimming towards me, but they were so far away they looked like a dot without my glasses. I was getting too tired to stay afloat. I was taking in too much water and having trouble breathing. My labor was getting less and less effective at keeping me up. My head started slipping under the water more and more. My arms felt like jelly. I was trying so hard not to panic but it was getting more difficult to keep it together. I prayed as hard as I could that I wouldn’t die like this. This is not how I wanted to go.
It seemed like an eternity passed, but then there was VC, handing me a lifeline in the form of a paddle and I clung to it in desperation. I don’t remember what either of us said. The only thing I remember was sheer relief flooding in to replace my terror. She held me up with the paddle until Ryan made it to me with a couple of life jackets. I was going to live after all. Using the life vests to keep my upper half afloat, I kicked with the waves and eventually made it back to shore, just as my legs were starting to feel like jelly.
I found out later that she had started towards me after she saw my kayak flipped over. If she hadn’t noticed, I don’t think Ryan would have made it out to me in time. I felt so dumb that I didn’t at least take a life vest with me, or wear one unfastened. It was an abrupt lesson, learning that I am, in fact, a vulnerable human being and I am not, in fact, invincible just because I am young. It’s also been difficult for me to come to terms with facing my own mortality.
VC and Ryan both have my eternal gratitude. I truly appreciate you both.