Saturday, January 21, 2012

A New Year: Paddling into Unchartered Waters & Joy

Family. Friends. Faith. Experience.

These four simple words have helped make me who I am at this spot in the river, this place where I am paddling my own canoe.

Although a strong current threatens to steer me off course and perhaps to capsize me, I am not afraid. How can I fear what lies ahead when I glance behind me and see the long, hard miles I already have paddled?

Throughout my journey, I often have bolstered my spirits with a favorite Louisa May Alcott quote:"I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship." Let me paraphrase Louisa: I am learning how to paddle my own canoe.

The unwavering support of my extended family and my circle of friends has given me the courage and strength to continue paddling, even when I couldn't see around the bend in the river and the obstacles ahead.

In hindsight, how grateful I am that I couldn't see the obstacles. Had I known I would lose my job and my home within a two-month period, would I have found the sheer determination to safely paddle through these tumultuous rapids in order to reach the calmer water just beyond the bend in the river?

If I could foresee that one week before Christmas, with the help of so many dear family and friends, I would have to downsize from a three-story house to a one-bedroom apartment and to give away a large portion of my worldly possessions, could I have kept on the course without wavering?

The last 18 months of my life's journey have been fraught with difficult obstacles: Divorce. Being laid off from my job. Then, in the midst of a depressed real estate market, having to sell my house quickly before it went into a short sale and damaged my credit. And in a short span of time, both of my young adult children moved out and left me an empty-nester with only a fussy cat to keep me company.

In December, I faced the roughest rapids, and somehow, I made it through to calmer waters.

Now it's January. I have let go of my old life and am settling into this new one. I have mourned the loss of my marriage, my job, my house, and my children's childhoods. The latter passed much, much too quickly.

In this new chapter, I am learning to embrace simplicity, but I do not pretend to be gallant about it. This is not prayerfully chosen voluntary simplicity as practiced by Quakers. On the contrary. I am a woman who collects antiques, vintage hats and ephemera and goes weak in the knees at estate sales. Mine was completely involuntary simplicity. It wasn't painless or pious, but it was for the best.

The surprising result of having to let go of so much so quickly is that now I have room in my heart to find joy in simple pleasures: a cup of tea with a friend, an inspiring walk along the Columbia River, a song that lifts my spirits, finding a healthy recipe as I begin my journey of mindful eating and deliberate exercise.

Another welcome surprise has been the resurgence of my faith after a long, dry spell. Although I lost a good deal, I gained much more.

Here I am, on the other side of the rapids, still paddling my canoe. I can't wait to see what adventures lie just around the bend in the river.


  1. Paddle on, Susan. I especially like the part about wondering whether you would have gone on if you'd known what was around the bend. It made me think about the bends, whitewater, and rocks in my own river.

  2. Dear Sue,
    you have come so far, and I look forward to seeing where life takes you next ~ I'm thrilled to think that I can be a friend to you on your journey. I LOVED our coffee date, and tho I've been bad at keeping in touch since then, I am so excited for our next one :) Love, Katie