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The Day’s Delight: Portage

I once went on a canoe trip and was either angry, exhausted, or asleep for most of it. (Well, except for the fun part: getting the giggles every night in the tent with two fourteen-year-old girls. I was twenty-four. It was fantastic.)

The part I had been most not looking forward to ahead of time was portaging– because the canoes were old, heavy alumacrafts and I carry all my feelings in my shoulders. And I was right, I didn’t love the portages– especially the one that turned out not to be a portage and required backtracking. But at the end of the trip I was surprised to find that the portages were what I was most proud of.

I think a lot of people would say that’s obvious, even predictable. But it was a pretty new thing for me: to do a hard thing and be glad I did it. (I did plenty of things that were hard for other people: theatre and stumbling through a foreign language and public speaking on the fly to name a few– but those were fun for me. Portaging was… Sort of terrible but satisfying).

I’m pretty sure that moment of self-realization is the whole point behind the outfitter I went through, and I’ve thought of that experience a couple times a year ever since.

I thought of it tonight because I did a thing that made my heart race. Not because it was physically hard, but because it is the sort of thing that used to trigger so many tripwires around money and poverty and people needing me and the feeling of drowning that I couldn’t ever do it.

But I did. Nine years after it first occurred to me. And it wasn’t something I forced myself to do out of anxiety that if I didn’t I was a bad person. It was just time.

I was equal to every anxious question. I took my time and gathered information. I checked in with myself: yes, this is still the thing I want, and the person I want to be in this moment.

I helped a friend, in my own healthy capacity, well within my boundary, and I know it’s making a difference for both of us.


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