Before we had kids, Gregg and I used to go on trips for our anniversaries. The Virgin Islands, some small weekend getaways to the mountains. Once we went to Woodstock. We had ridden the train from the city, and so we had to walk everywhere. We hiked to a monastery and ate organic food and considered moving there and becoming hippies. We considered moving everywhere we visited, really, because we never wanted the break from reality to end. After our kids were born, we only had two anniversaries together, and the trips stopped because, well, priorities.
One of the ways that I cope with anniversaries and birthdays now is by doing something adventurous. Gregg was really adventurous and I think my cautious nature was stifling to him at times. He had such a vitality about him, a palpable energy you could just feel. And it helps me to do something to honor him while also reminding myself that I’m alive, I’m here. I have fears, but I have courage. I have a past, but I can have a future.
For Gregg’s birthday a few months back I went rock climbing. It was only a 30-foot wall inside of a nice, climate-controlled building, but I may as well have been climbing Everest. I was terrified. I hate heights, and the thought of falling from them. But I could hear his words in my head from the times he would push me and cheer me on. “You got this, you’re doing awesome, just a little bit further, you’re almost there.”
Anyway, for our anniversary today I planned a paragliding excursion. I booked it weeks ago because I knew that the closer it got, the more likely I was to talk myself out of it. The thought of hovering high in sky with a mere piece of fabric between me and certain death is beyond terrifying. Last night I was literally going through scenarios of what would happen if I died. Like, “good thing I got that will in order… wait I haven’t gotten it notarized yet, oh my gosh my kids are going to be left in the hands of some stranger who probably will tell them their mother didn’t love them enough and that’s why she left!” Yeah, it got pretty messy. This morning I threw up. But then I pulled myself together and was determined to not let myself freak out. I think that doing something that provokes my anxiety is also a way to distract myself from the emotions. It’s a heck of a lot easier to worry about floating through the air with basically an umbrella holding you up than it is to think about all the crap that goes along with not having your husband here for your 8th anniversary and what you would be doing if he were here, and what he’s doing now, and what you’re going to do next, and how damn lonely it is sometimes, and how you might be lonely forever, or *cringe* how you might not be lonely forever… Yes, please, something, anything, distract from all of that. So I was all in for this paragliding thing.
And then the pilot called to say there was supposed to be high winds and they weren’t doing any flights today. Really? The company said that I could reschedule for another day, but I promptly told them I’d like to just get a refund, if possible. No way am I just going to just test my fate for “fun.”
So I scoured the internet for things that I could do that involved adrenaline. Most things were booked or closed or too far to drive to by this point, but I found a kayaking excursion just up the canyon. Rushing river full of rocks and river monsters, small boat that could capsize at any moment; perfect.
In all seriousness though, it was actually great. It was a challenge and the rapids rocked me, but I only had to lay down to avoid hitting a low-hanging tree once. And I didn’t end up in the water, though it seemed as if all of it ended up in my kayak.
It was the perfect mix of rush and lull. I quickly learned that some stretches called for strong, determined strokes, while others went smoother if you just drifted with the current. To passively row in an area where you needed to be vigilant would get you pushed to somewhere you didn’t want to go, and fighting a current that was working in your favor caused unnecessary exhaustion and still ran you into a rock. The guide had been down this river countless times before and handled these different stretches with ease, but I was clumsy and inexperienced. Occasionally, he would call out that we needed to stay to the left or to the right and at one point we even had to get out and walk our kayaks around a bridge that created too strong and unpredictable of a current to try to go under. The rapids got progressively bigger and stronger, so when I got to the last one, I was glad that I had been prepared for it by the smaller ones. I was thankful at the end that I had chosen to go with a guide instead of trying to navigate the water on my own. I still almost got taken out by a tree and was thoroughly doused by each rapid, but I made it. And I knew that if I did get caught on the shore or go the wrong way that the guide would be able to help me back to where I was supposed to be. It was reassuring.
So I would say that kayaking was a success and that Gregg would have loved it, too. But I’m already having a hard time replaying his voice in my head, and that is scarier than any adventure I can think of. But I’m fairly certain he would have been whooping and laughing and, when it got difficult, telling me that we were almost there.