Floating or fighting though life?

I took a friend river tubing yesterday. She had never been before and was excited to give it a try. It was a perfect day; sunny, warm and humid. About half way through our trip, I saw a man and a young boy standing in the center of the river, attired in full fly-fishing gear. I didn’t think much about them until we got closer, and the man was almost yelling at my friend who was ahead of me. I heard the words, “You should go around, rude, …” I felt a little confused and then he said the same things to me. It still had not registered that he was angry and so I joked with him saying, “We don’t have a lot of control on these things!” He would have none of that, and he sneered and sputtered as we floated by.

It was an upsetting episode. Very unlike the feelings that I usually have on the river. I actually felt shaken, and bad for the little boy who didn’t look up or say a word. I felt angry and indignant. I talked to Jack about it last night and had a realization about myself, and asked the question,  “What could I have done differently?”

I did see them, way before we got to them, and made no attempt to go either way around. I had to admit that I had an attitude (just a little) about the people who fly fish in the middle of the day, on a very recreational river and expect us to go around them “like they own the river!”  (that is the attitude I am talking about!) I always expect them to be somewhat negative, after all, we have completely different agendas; they generally want solitude, peace, and quiet, and we want movement, laughter, fun.

I really don’t like to admit this, but I could see the posturing attitude that I had. The “I am not backing down, or off, or going around you”, attitude. If he had been nice it would have been easy, but that should never be the determining factor for my behaviour. I could have avoided the unpleasant feelings that I carried for much of the rest of that float, by going around them.

I am glad that this episode happened yesterday. I must be ready to grow and drop this old, worn-out pattern that I wanted to believe I had moved beyond. When I was younger, I thought that backing down was a sign of weakness. I don’t see it that way now. There are some “confrontations” in life that must be taken on, should not be avoided, but this type of interaction is a choice. I don’t have to hit, head on, every “boulder in the river” anymore. Most I can float around.

My son Tom, on a fly-fishing trip several years ago. Both of my sons are "catch and release" fishermen, and will be happy to read this story!

19 thoughts on “Floating or fighting though life?

  1. I’ve been having these “right of way” encounters nearly every day, out walking or driving. I find myself ascribing motives and attitudes to “others”: “How rude!” “Doesn’t he know pedestrians have the right of way?” “Why can’t he slow down and give me a wider berth?” “That’s not a right-turn lane – doesn’t she know she’s blocking my sight of oncoming cars?” It can certainly ruin a good hike! So I’m trying to take a more proactive role in shaping my own experience. Skipping the judgments so I can savor the walk instead.

    • You have gotten inside my head Jill! That is exactly it….trying to figure out why someone else is doing/saying what they are instead of focusing on what I am thinking/doing so I can change me! Thank you.

  2. Mary, your story told with such candor, hits home to me today. Sometimes having a husband (retired) who is now around the house 24/7, invariably with the television on the news channels, I find myself getting irritated because I just do not want to tune into or even hear the Bad News Bears as I call them, a certain channel in particular. Then again, we are polar opposites politically – I pretty much ignore it all anyway – but I have found myself making little digs, yes, sometimes snide even, comments to the picture tube (of course) but it gets the point across and I am realizing now it is NOT fair to him and it really gets me nowhere anyway, but to get under his skin. Yep, I’ve gotta let this go – choose my battles wisely, and let the rest float away, like water off a duck’s back. – And my, you have a handsome son in Tom! Beautiful picture.

  3. That is one of the things I love about you, Mary, you are so open and always willing to grow. It is such a great thing to be able to pause and try to see the other side or opposite point of view, even though we may not always agree on everything. A while back, I read a book by Gerry Spence “How to Argue and Win Every Time.” What stayed with me from the book was if you speak with truth and love (or what your truth may be) most of the time you will win your case. Sometimes when you lose an argument and concede to the other side, you win anyway.

  4. Was there sun flares or some other cosmic disturbances yesterday???
    Bulls-eye again, Mary. I was deeply disturbed about two incidents that happened to me yesterday (one at a park, the other driving to the store) and I spent the evening reflecting on how my behavior contributed to the experiences that I thought I was beyond having. Your words today: “I must be ready to grow and drop this old, worn -out pattern…” fell into my lap like a boulder off a mountain.
    Thank you, thank you a zillion times over for your clarity, honesty and willingness to shine light on all those parts of ourselves we’d rather leave shrouded in “attitude”. You are a treasure!

    • so interesting Cheryl….Several friends told me yesterday that they had similar uncomfortable experiences yesterday, almost at the same time…I was talking with Jack about this before I went to bed last night and he said that something had happened (unusual and disturbing) at that time during his day too!

  5. Catch and release our narrow attitudes and throw them out!

    I so agree, Deb. It is such a great feeling to be able to stop and give pause and try to see the other side. My daughter puts me to shame in this dept.; a great skill she naturally acquired from her dad and has perfected to an impressive level.

    Thank you, Mary for your great stories and life lessons/reminders.

  6. Excellent post. My son and I were fly fishing in Washington last weekend. There was no traffic, flyfisher, rafter, floater, or otherwise, yet on the back of a forestry sign (the back!), there was a list of “water etiquette tips.” I’d never seen such a thing.

    One was, if you are floating, to ask the fisher which side she prefers you to pass on!

    I agree that it’s a “share the water” experience, and the guy who was rude to you probably has a tough time in this life!

    See you on the river, Jim Burns

    • thank you Jim. I tubed again yesterday, and was completely prepared to happily float WAY around anyone fly fishing!

  7. I do love you Mary, you are so honest with yourself! You are willing to look at all sides of a situation. I remember when I had my job at a newspaper MANY years ago and part of my job at first was answering complaint calls. Not a fun job. Anyway, one morning a gentleman called and was yelling and screaming at me because his paper landed in his flowerbed. I tried to be civil and apologize but I was getting very irritated at his nasty tongue. His anger stayed with me for awhile and then he called me back. He apologized for being so nasty and told me his wife had just died and he was lonely and scared and things like a paper in his flowerbed just set him off. I never forgot that. I always try to think of the place others are coming from and give them a little leeway.

  8. again and again you speak to the heart! i’m deeply grateful for your work.

    this morning, after an altercation with a dear friend, i picked up one of my “prayer” books and cried as i read from paul tillich:

    “grace strikes us when we are in great pain and restlessness. it strikes us when we walk through the dark valley of a meaningless and empty life. it strikes us when our disgust for our own being, our indifference, our weakness, our hostility, and our lack of direction and composure have become intolerable to us. it strikes us when, year after year, the longed-for perfection of life does not appear, when the old compulsions reign within us as they have for decades, when despair destroys all joy and courage. sometimes at that moment a wave of light breaks into our darkness, and it is as though a voice were saying, “you are accepted.”

    • Virginia, thank you so much for that Paul Tillich quote – it’s going in my White Feather Folder!

  9. Just got home from a long but fun day away and am reading your post, albeit a bit late! I love Susan L’s catch and release our narrow attitudes! It’s a great visual and metaphor for doing so! I must remember this! And I have also allowed the nasty, cranky behavior of someone else to ruin my day. I think that that man’s grumpiness had nothing to do with him being a fly fisherman (as I’d like to think that most fly fisherman/woman are very pleasant as Mike and I fly fish and have only met a few ‘grumps’ along the water ways) and everything to do with being an unhappy man. And while there is river etiquette, just like biking or camping etiquette, we all must share these beautiful resources and, in my experience, most do, politely and willingly. After all, it’s all called recreation. I had an experience about a year ago when a lady at an antique fair said a somewhat nasty thing to me, for no apparent reason. She had obviously been eavesdropping on my conversation with another person, and very impatiently, tapped me on the shoulder and said, pardon me…but WHO cares?! And I found myself saying something nasty back but it was more like, in a sarcastic way, “gee, I’m really sorry you got out on the wrong side of your bed this morning”…(not my proudest moment). But that lady’s comment to me set my mood for the rest of the day. I felt stormy and tense and didn’t enjoy myself at all. The very next day I read something (sorry I can’t recall where and it might very well have even been on this blog!) that asked “do you want someone else’s bad behavior to shape your character and your attitude?” Wow…of course I don’t. What a lesson for me to learn within such a short time of doing just that! Hopefully I’ll do better next time! Happy weekend everyone!

  10. Going to bed soon here in Arizona, but just had to check in with my girls, feel like we have a real powerful POW WOW going on every day. You all energize me and inspire me so much. Love to all.

  11. Like others, I love that you share negative as well as positive points in life. It makes you more “reachable”. I can tell you I have backed away from many people in my life in the past 20 years who have to always have it their way. They have nothing to teach me. Their path is narrow and scary. They have no strong foundation and never, never reach out for an alternative essential in life.

    Life is about growing and being all that we can be. Life is about building strength and offering it to others. However, if a malicious encounter enters my day, I brood on it for a week. Why did this happen? What did I say? Why can’t I forget about this? What will I do in the future to avoid this or respond differently? These things are learning experiences taught to us for a purpose. There is no right or wrong way the encounter “should have” occurred. It happened. It is a jolt of lightning as much as a slap in the face. Don’t like it? No, it is not you. You didn’t anticipate it. Now we are ready for another of life’s lessons and a growth period.

    I will build today in the positive realm and break the cycle of
    any ill feelings from others.

  12. yes, excellent observation of your own mind’s belief that ‘you” owned the river!!! By ‘walking a mile in another person’s shoes’, we are blessed with seeing their viewpoint hopefully, …if we will allow it.!! Not always easy to let go of our own stubborn beliefs, but oh so rewarding..

    Love your writings

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