Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Home on the Change.


   It'll change your life they say.  Try it.  It really will change your life. Whoa!  Wait! Woman! What are you talking about?  What am I talking about?  Change.  No matter how hard we try to stay the same the fact is, every day brings change. Every perspective an option to grow. For some people change is horrible.  Impossible!  Even though it will happen without their consent.  Change is a natural force that cannot be stopped.  But it can be directed.  It can be herded. Sometimes as loose as herding cats but the direction is determined. Change is what I look for in my students as a whitewater instructor.
  One of the biggest fears for many women when they first start whitewater kayaking is just the fear of changing.  It's a new perspective clashing with what your life was before you picked up a paddle. Where will this lead me?  Will I have to change my self perspective?  "I'm a little shy."  "I'm too old or too young."   "I'm not that brave."   I'm really just a mother/grandmother type."  All these are just tools that your mind uses to herd you in a determined direction.  I think I am, well then, so you'll be.  I like to break those paradigms.  Kind of how I like breaking glass.  Or popping bubble wrap. Pop!  It's gone.
   I've taught and mentored many women and they never cease to amaze me.  A few come out of the gate a length ahead of the pack and charging.  Most take it moderate, middle of the pack.  And some lag behind but are still running.  Those women at the back of the pack are the ones I've learned are some of the most precious jewels on the river.  These are three examples of how they cope with change.
  The back of the pack ladies.  They are back there usually due to a physical or mental issue.  A fear of being underwater.  Injury.  Maybe just the years have taken their toll.  Change is a scary thing for them.  The body can and will hurt when pushed to new limits.  Learning to make the change slower actually makes them pay attention to the basics.  Paying attention to what is happening with their bodies.  There are times I have seen a person with a physical limitation and adapted my instruction to get the best possible movement for them.  These are the ones who never quit trying and they celebrate the small gains.  The moment their eyes light up when they understand a connection to a stroke is priceless.  These ladies work hard to change.  It doesn't come easy for them, or for you, as the direction that they have been on before this is usually the opposite direction that you as a whitewater instructor want to herd them.  The change is a 180 degrees.  Quite an accomplishment Ladies!
   The middle of the pack ladies are what most of us start as.  We have health and attitude.  Not too many preconceived ideas.  We don't mind change, but....oh yes there is that but.  Women like to understand before jumping into the gnar just what is going to happen and just what they are expected to do.  They learn the basics and appreciate the changes they feel happening.  For them change is good and fun as long as there is full understanding of the metamorphosis.  They are like a beautiful day on the river.
  Now those filly's that took the bit in their teeth and are running full speed down the race track of change, well they just don't have any reservations about change.  They welcome the new transformation like an addicting drug. Show me more! Totally hooked on life, curious and impatient for every new skill you teach them.  They HAVE to see what's around the next bend...every time!  Change to them is a flow that they've fully committed to.  These are the ladies who have wisely stopped resisting change.  Their learning curve is sharp and the rewards come fast.  I love this mind set!  I try to keep this as my mantra not only in paddling but in everything in life.
   Change is flow. Slow or fast. As long as you are moving you are changing who you are and what you can achieve.  The value of change is equal.  Big or small, the self appreciation is the same.  The only difference is the length of time.  Every woman can become a competent whitewater paddler. You will not be the same woman today that you were yesterday. You can only control the direction of the change today.  I wonder what you will achieve. I bet it will be beautiful.  See you on the river Ladies!


wildmonkeyspro said...

I'm a guy---and I look forward to seeing all these ladies on the river! Keep up the mentoring, Nora! I love knowing that a typically male dominated activity gaining increasing saturation with women! Defy the stereotype, ladies!
We need more racial diversity out there too! Break ALL stereotypes, paddlers! Along with the rules!!!

WhiteWater said...

Beautifully said Nora!
Your thoughtful insight brings tears to my eyes. I am new to this sport, and very quickly became entranced. The changes I have experienced - I never expected.
We are all different and and find something unique when pushing to learn. Women are accustomed to the constant change of our bodies and minds, but too many struggle with athleticism, the physical and mental challenges of sport, particularly when served with adrenaline. Women NEED these new adventures, as much, if not more than the boys.
The changes (both physical and mental) I have experienced, learning whitewater kayaking, as a middle age woman have been profound and life changing. The generosity of this community of teachers, mentors, friends, has been an additional, unexpected gift. All this, at a time I needed something new but could never have anticipated the positive impact on my psyche. Change is constant. Change is beautiful.
My gratitude is great!

Nora Whitmore said...

Thank you Dan! You're a wonderful guy :)
Ms. Whitewater! Wow! Thank you! And to think this article started in my mind when I was just pondering how all the women around me were doing amazing things at each level and I wanted to write my gratitude for what they bring to the sport. You are so right when you say we NEED these adventures. Thank you!