Last year, Boyfriend and I went deep sea kayaking. First off, it was fantastic. I love kayaking, I love water, and I (as of now) love being warm (because last winter was so goddamned cold). Exercise, if nothing else, warms you up…as does my ever-present worry that we’d fall behind the rest of the group we were with.
So we get to the site and strip to our bathing gear and sign waivers, etc. Everything’s fine. We got a bathroom break, life vests, paddles, water, and a brief instruction to how we’d be navigating through the ocean. We paired up and picked kayaks.
It was fine. Everything was going great.
Until we had to get the kayaks in the water.
I wanted to help. I tried to help. But the goddamned kayak was heavier than it looked. I’m equating that to the fact that it was a two-person kayak instead of a single.
But I bent down, grabbed the handle, lifted…and nearly threw my back out.
It wasn’t just embarrassing because I couldn’t lift it. I was embarrassed also because the female instructors could not only lift a single kayak — they took two kayaks per trip. I couldn’t even lift one.
One of the instructors came over and giggled a bit knowingly. “It’s okay, I got it,” she said. “I do this all the time.”
I gave her a shaky smile and stepped back with a “Yeah,” and watched her and Boyfriend carry our kayak to the water.
Maybe it’s stupid, but I felt stupid just then. Stupid and envious. The instructors weren’t these huge, buff women with Arnold Schwarzenegger muscles. They looked as strong as Sister 2. But that damn kayak that weight definitely more than I did? They could lift that. Hell, they lifted two of them at a time.
I like thinking of myself as capable. Miss Independent by Kelly Clarkson. I like thinking of myself as able to take care of what I need to get done without any outside help. I like thinking I can follow directions without needing too many directions repeated to me.
Hell, I’d gone kayaking before. I knew how to do that. No, I never put a kayak or a canoe in the water, but I knew how they worked.
And I do yard work. I weed whack like nobody’s business. I own that weed whacker. That’s my goddamned weed whacker! I put those weeds in their place, put the other lawns to shame…or at least make our lawn slightly resemble the McMansions by the elementary school, with their perfect lines of cut grass.
This was September, by god. A whole summer of weed whacking and (minor) yard work? I should’ve been buff.
It stopped bothering me after we got in the water…sort of. Boyfriend took the back. I steered. Considering how much of a stink I’d made to myself about not being able to lift the kayak, I should’ve had him steering. That would’ve given me the change to at least propel the kayak.
But no. I wimped out. I thought I might not be able to handle this and said, with all shaky confidence, “Nah, you take the back. You’re stronger.”
College-aged Feminist Me would smack me upside the head for that one. Strong independent woman! she would scream. Post-College Feminist Me just rolls my eyes at her and says I couldn’t lift the kayak, what the hell makes you think I could propel it without injuring myself? Post-College Feminist Me lives under the belief that women should support one another’s decisions, as long as they aren’t doing harm to themselves. Women, she believes, shouldn’t be limited to simply “strong” and “independent” as their identifying factors for being considered complex people.
We still had fun and I forgot all about it until last week when I, quite literally, woke up in the middle of the night, remembering how I couldn’t lift the kayak and pissed that I wasn’t strong enough to do so.
There is no excuse for that, I told myself. You can get stronger, and you don’t even need to rush into it to do it. I’d already been doing workouts on the elliptical for a few years. While I lay awake, I decided that I would get a weight — not much, just three or five pounds — and do some arm curls while I biked, for however long I biked for (about 20 minutes, or 2 miles).
Increments, I told myself as I drifted back to sleep, my plan bubbling in the back of my head. You can do this in baby steps, but by god, sister, you’re going to do this.
I got out the weight the next night, right before jumping on the bike. It’s a bit shaming to say I had a little trouble convincing myself to do it once the time got there. I literally snuck around the house, nosing in corners for the forgotten weights and plotting a way to get the bike out without drawing too much attention to what I was doing. I went through a long, drawn-out minute of mentally walking myself through actually bringing my plan to life.
It’s funny, how reluctant I am to even the tiniest change. Maybe it was because I didn’t announce the idea to anyone (like I had when I first started the bike). Any time I try something new, I usually go at it alone so I don’t make a fool of myself. This was no exception — I stayed in a separate room and just curled for a while.
It wasn’t a big deal, or eventful, or anything worth getting nervous over. I’m not out to get huge or anything. Summer’s coming, though. I’m going to get stronger.
I will lift the next kayak.
Did you ever encounter an obstacle that made you push yourself to do something you didn’t realize you’d ever want to? Did it turn out to be as bad as you’d been worried about, or was it just a little something different that might make a much bigger, better impact on your life later?