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  • Writer's pictureEric Spitz

Moving in Tandem with Life's Currents

This past week has been exhausting for me.

Not so much physically, but mentally and spiritually. I was feeling frustrated and discouraged. My to-do list was never ending, and instead of being proud of myself for crossing items off the list, I was only focused on the next task once one got completed. If something didn’t get crossed off my list, or if something didn’t turn out the way I wanted it to, I felt even more defeated.

As my agitation grew, that energy turned into apathy after a few days. I became numb and disconnected from my daily activities. I lost the drive to reorganize my upstairs workspace. I didn’t have the motivation to keep the kitchen clean. I didn’t have the gumption to sell my car Bessie (read Dreaming Yourself Awake for the backstory on that). As the days pressed on, the voice inside my head kept growing louder, just asking what’s the point?

I spent several days in this mental rut. Any emotion I would feel seemed to be either anger or sadness. The smallest inconveniences would set me off at work, like a sales order not being filled out correctly, or having to re-explain situations in e-mails that I’ve already addressed previously. I knew my mental state was in rough shape, but I didn’t know how to fix it.

I continued down this mental path of self-destruction throughout the week. On Wednesday, I couldn’t think of anything else to do but call my mom. I hate talking to people about my problems, as I always feel like a burden. I only seem to talk about them when asked, as if everyone is supposed to know when I’m struggling. But I knew I had to try something and reach out.

I had a hard time articulating my thoughts and feelings, as I’m not quite sure I even understood them myself. In the end I probably just made her worry about me, which made me feel worse. She recommended a few podcasts, taking my mind off of things, and just doing something different to shake up my normal routine. All great advice, I just had to find the motivation within myself to actually listen and give it a try.

I decided that enough was enough, and I needed to get a better handle on my mental well-being, so I took the day off work on Friday. I figured it wasn’t healthy to continue operating at the level I was working at, just going through the motions and feeling detached from everything that usually brings me joy. My brother Joel and some of his co-workers were going kayaking along the Grand River, so I decided to change up my normal routine and join them.

I haven’t been kayaking in at least ten years, so I figured it was the perfect activity to occupy my mind and shake up the monotony. Joel and I packed our bag full of essentials: Clif Bars, hand sanitizer, sunblock… beer. We were running fashionably late as usual, but luckily we weren’t the last in the group to arrive, so we didn’t feel as guilty about it. We asked the worker managing the kayaks which direction she recommended taking the river, and she recommended heading south against the current, so that the river would carry us back once we turned around. We all agreed on that plan. After a quick safety tutorial at the dock that I only partly paid attention to, we were on our way.

Once in the water, it didn’t take me long to get my sea legs, if that’s even a term that kayakers use. It brought back memories of taking canoes down the Grand River in Burchfield Park in High School for Cross Country workouts. There were multiple people in those canoes back then, so I didn’t have anyone else to blame if I started to lag behind the group in my kayak. However, no one was in a big hurry to get to a certain destination, so that wasn’t an issue.

Since the river trail runs adjacent to Grand River by downtown, I’ve ran past the river hundreds of times during my daily runs. However, seeing downtown from that perspective was a much different experience than running by it. Maybe it’s because the experience was new, but it was refreshing seeing the city from that vantage point. Time seemed to slow down as I was soaking in each moment.

The cleanliness of the water, or lack thereof, didn’t even freak me out as much as it should have. One doesn’t even need to be a germophobe to raise an eyebrow at the dark and murky appearance of the Grand River. I wouldn’t have been fully shocked to see a diaper float by me in the water, if that paints a picture. Despite all of that, I was at ease with my fear of anything unsanitary, even if it was just temporary.

We pulled up to a docking station around the Cherry Hill District for a quick break for beer and pictures. Floating down a river really throws off one’s sense of direction, at least it did for me. We had to resort to Google Maps to even see where we were, and my mind was practically blown when I realized I was just blocks away from my friend’s house. We often draw maps in our head based on the roads we’ve built, forgetting the fact that nature can also serve as a road.

The group decided to venture a little further south on the river before heading back. I tried paddling with one hand while using the other hand to polish off my M-43, which wasn’t very effective. Once we arrived to where the rivers splits between Grand and Red Cedar, we decided it was a good point to make the trek back north.

The route back was much faster than the venture out, filled with laughter, stories, and random bits of a capalla belting out hits from The Backstreet Boys and any other pop groups we could come up with. As we headed back into the dock, it made me think deeply about our unanimous decision to head upstream on our route. It’s like when people always ask for the bad news first. They like to get anything negative out of the way in the beginning, in hopes of there being some positivity and a light at the end of the tunnel later. It made me reflect on the kind of week I was having. Even though the beginning of the week felt as if I was paddling upstream, it made the relaxing and hopeful end of the week worth it as I let the current help me along my path.

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