And Sometimes, The River Takes You
by Kate Van Raden
This planet is vast; and all over it runs the bottomless black tar river of pain. At one time or another, we all trip into that endless blackness. Some of us will spend much of our lives swimming. We may reach land and get our footing, and just when we’ve dried off and aren’t looking back, we stumble and submerge again. If you lose hope, swimming becomes very hard, and indeed, some people drowned. But the silver lining is, there are boats everywhere! If you keep faith and tread the water, eventually a boat will pass you. If your eyes are open in this life, there is no reason you should have to drown.
By no means do I aim to insinuate that you can just board a boat and its smooth sailing from there into the sunset. Indeed, the great river has a current of its own and we are seldom in control. Sometimes you will have to accept a detour to your chosen route. Sometimes you will lose sight of what’s ahead and be terrifyingly jolted by rapids. Sometimes the current will take you in the direction you want to go and things will get easier for a bit; there is a harmony and seemingly a synchronicity to it all for a time. You’ll pass by beautiful landscapes and mind blowing visions. You will come along other boats and share kinship with fellow travelers. You will pass by other people: drowning. On your long journey to the ocean, you will be given choices. You will have pleasures and pains, daylight and darkness. But mostly my sweet soul (and this is the key to the whole dance), you will have to paddle. You will have to paddle like a motherfucker. Until your arms burn, until your exhausted and frustrated, hungry and despairing; and still you will have to paddle. At times the current will become too strong, and your best efforts will be overwhelmed. You may be swept into eddies for unforeseeable periods of time. Sometimes these eddies have whirlpools and you may languish for what seems like forever, with no results and no progress and no hope. And still, I tell you…paddle like a motherfucker. We all must accept that there are many periods in life that we have no control over. But there are also periods where you must fight until you think you might die, and then keep fighting a while longer, or you will stay there in that eddy, swirling, alone in oblivion for eternity; and so your journey ends. I tell you this as one who has patched many holes in the boat with my own meat. One, who has often lost my paddle, gone forward an eternity with just my hands, and then fashioned a new paddle from the tiny gifts that floated by. Yet, I’m still afloat. I still see the sun set on the horizon in front of me every evening. I try not to be judgmental of my pace, or my route or my wrong turns. Belaboring those things just causes me unnecessary strife and shame. After all, the water is completely out of my control. Complete not of my own making. Completely and totally all powerful in the expanse of my life. It would be silly to waste anxieties on how I could have changed it; when I couldn’t have. All you can do dear ones, is paddle…and sometimes the river takes you.