Changing your mind:

Paddling upstream?

By Suzen Fiskin
Reader Columnist

Many moons ago, my friend Donna and I had been working our booties off, and decided to get out of Dodge for the weekend. We scored an invitation to her friend Susan’s home on the Russian River in Northern California, just an hour’s drive away. Wahoo!

Suzen Fiskin.

Suzen Fiskin.

It was mid-July and the tourist season was in full swing. We made our way through the evening traffic, and crashed after schmoozing with our host over wine. The next morning, we took Susan’s suggestion to rent a canoe across the street.

As the dude behind the counter took my deposit and driver’s license, he said, “Oh, yeah, I forgot to tell you. You have to take the boat upstream because we don’t have any way to get it back here. That okay?”

I was so impatient to get on the water and have some fun that I didn’t let his words sink in.

Huffing and puffing paddling upstream, it didn’t take long before we were peeling off our life vests, bathed in sweat. The thermometer was inching towards 90 degrees, and the water got shallower with each stroke. Before long, we had to get out of the boat and drag it through the mud. We were slapping mosquitoes, getting filthy, and cursing like sailors.

We stopped for a swig of water when the lilting melodies of laughter came wafting our way. I turned in the direction of the sound and saw that the folks in the boats across the river were barely lifting a paddle as the current carried them happily along. They were eating, drinking and having a grand ol’ time. Honestly?

It was one of those life changing “Aha!” moments.

”My whole life, people have been telling me to go upstream. Screw it, I’m not doing it any more. I’m drawing a line in the mud. We’re joining the Downstream People!”

For the first time since we hit the water, Donna smiled, and her sky blue eyes lit up. We made our way to the opposite side of the river to literally go with the flow.

We had a glorious day. Within minutes of tweaking my world view, we became true Downstream People. We started yakking with a flamboyantly funny couple in another boat who shared a bottle of wine with us. We got invited to a lovely home on the river for a spectacular lunch, and had a rousing good time playing volleyball on a private beach.

Well into the afternoon, it was time to face the music. We landed where a lot of other people were dropping off their boats. A few guys were stacking the canoes in a trailer in  the back of a van. I walked up to one of the them, “Is this where we catch the shuttle?”

He looked at the name on our canoe. ”Nope, there is no shuttle for your boat.“ He winked at me. “Not to worry, I’ll take you back. It happens all the time.” He tossed our canoe in with the others, and we hopped into the van with my new life lesson firmly in place. His words “It happens all the time” echoing in my head, and a self-satisfied smile on my face as I enjoyed how good it feels to go against the grain and have it be the right choice.

Have you ever noticed that people are always telling you to swim upstream because “that’s the way things have always been done?” Yeah, yeah, yeah. Here’s what I know: sometimes you have break the rules to do what your heart knows is right.

So, let me ask you. Is there some area of your life where you’re going upstream and fighting the current? How’s that working for you?

If you’ve had enough of what was, maybe it’s time to ask yourself what other choices you might have. How can you turn your boat around and become one of the Downstream People?

If you’d like to see me share this tale with an audience, I have a 2 minute clip on YouTube:

Suzen Fiskin began her photography career as a personal photographer for Hugh Hefner at the Playboy Mansion. She currently focuses on clients doing boudoir, portraits, event and real estate photography. She’s a graphic artist, web designer, and professional speaker. Suzen is also the author of “Playboy Mansion Memoirs.” [email protected] (208)572-0009


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