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New Challenges Conquered by Applying Life Lessons Learned

Copyright © 2004, Rosemarie Rossetti, Ph.D. - Rossetti Enterprises Inc. All rights reserved worldwide.
Reprinted with Permission: Women's News Monthly, February 2004

Life lessons are learned from our hardships, challenges, victories, conflicts, achievements, disappointments, times of crisis, and encounters with obstacles. We need to take time to reflect upon what we learned from our experiences to secure our future success and happiness.

Last September, I had a memorable kayaking experience that taught me much about survival. My husband, Mark, and I took our tandem kayak to the Mohican River in the central part of Ohio. The day was overcast and we were wearing lightweight jackets over our life jackets. The leaves were showing their full colors of the season, and we decided to take a weekday off from work at our home offices, in order to enjoy the outdoors.

The person who operated the livery transported us with our kayak to a location 12 miles up the river. He warned us that there was a tree down across the river, but said that we should be able to maneuver around it by steering towards the bank. He also remarked what a great day it was to be out, since the river current was brisk and we would return to the livery take out point in only a couple of hours.

We were the only ones on the river that afternoon. The ride down the deep, flowing river was easy and we enjoyed looking at the wildlife surrounding us. After about an hour, we spotted the fallen tree across the river.

Fallen trees bring back horrible memories. In June 1998, while riding my bicycle, I was crushed by a 3 1/2 ton tree and left paralyzed from the waist down. That tree on the river reminded me of the tree that crushed me.

As we coasted down the middle of the river, we came upon the fallen tree. We maneuvered the kayak parallel to the 30” diameter trunk. The current wedged our kayak against the tree as we looked over the situation. We looked at both banks of the river looking for a passage. There was none. Mark and I sensed that this was a dangerous situation. The cold water rushed by as we sat there in distress. Since I have difficulty moving my legs and cannot swim, my life would be in danger if I ended up in the river.

We discussed many options. We could use the cell phone we brought to call the people at the livery and ask them to rescue us. We decided that could be a very long process and we could probably deal with this situation ourselves. As we thought about our dilemma, we realized that the kayak was too big to lift over the tree, and there was no clearance tall enough for us to float under the tree. The banks of the river were too steep to climb, plus I can't walk. We could get out of the kayak and in the water, maneuver the boat around the tree, climb over the tree, get back into the water, and climb back into the kayak. This would be a more dangerous procedure, since I would have great difficulty getting back inside the boat.

We came up with our solution. We realized that we both had to get out of the boat and sit balanced on the trunk of the fallen tree. Mark got out of the kayak first, straddled the tree, and tied one end of a rope that we carried in our safety kit, onto the rear of the kayak. He tied the other end to a paddle and slid the paddle under the tree, and pulled the rope through.

Mark then helped me get out of the kayak in order to sit on the trunk. He slid across the trunk on his hand and knees, holding the rope, and with my help, we maneuvered the boat to the riverbank. Near the river’s edge, the tree had split just above its base, creating a narrow opening that allowed the kayak to be threaded through. Mark floated the kayak through the passage. The rope kept the kayak from getting away from us, due to the river current. He guided the kayak back around to the middle of the tree where I was sitting. He positioned the kayak parallel to the trunk and held it tightly so that I could transfer back into the front seat. I held onto the trunk, so Mark could slide himself into the back seat. Our first real-life self rescue attempt was a success!

Coming away from this experience, Mark and I learned many lessons that will help us and others who face obstacles in their lives.

  • Two minds are better than one.
  • Approach problems knowing that you're going to find a successful solution.
  • Don't dwell on the problem, or on getting angry. Focus energy on the solution.
  • Discuss possible solutions, weigh the options and consequences, and pick the solution most likely to be successful.
  • Follow your plan, and be able to make quick adjustments if needed.
  • Have confidence in and appreciation for your life partner.
  • Celebrate your victories.

As Mark and I continued to paddle down the river, we left with a deeper confidence that together we can deal with the future problems and situations that we will face in our lives. For me, victory was, especially sweet knowing that once again I had survived an experience with a fallen tree.

Rosemarie Rossetti, PhD

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