Every year I go canoe camping with my family at least once, often more. Being out in the wilderness can bring out one’s wild side. There is no turning back and relying on every day comforts or habits. Immersed in the wild-ness of it all means you come face to face with new challenges. It’s a time to test personal limits.
After several hours of paddling surviving on minimalist camping style meals and then drudging a pack that is half my weight up and over rocky portage paths, while fighting off a multitude of annoying bugs, my patience is hardly at its best.
Being out there with my family means that I am not only coping with my own adjustments to the new setting but also to my family’s adaptation to the new surroundings. It becomes the ultimate test of my stamina, tolerance and ability to stay present in stressful situations.
Seemingly little things become big. Like when I am verging on loosing it as the repeated barrage of “I’m hungry” and “I’m tired” comes after only 15 minutes of paddling a four-hour trip, from occupants who aren’t even paddling. Or when the canoe needs to be unloaded and lifted over yet another beaver damn only to have to repeat this process five more times in a span of a half hour.
Oh the irony! I go out into the wilderness for the calmness and grounding after all, don’t I? Admittedly in retrospect much of this is comical. At the time however, there are usually a few other factors at play that prevent us from appreciating the humor fully.
Yet trip after trip I go back, knowing that similar circumstances and additional challenges will be there to greet me.
Perhaps it is the element of surprise, when a presumed easy portage ends up being a little more difficult than planned with kids in tow. Perhaps it is the feeling of accomplishment I feel knowing that I am able to adjust and persevere. Or perhaps the pull to be closer to mother nature is so strong that everything else seems rudimentary.
I think that it is all of the above. For to feed my wild side I need all of these: connection to nature, acceptance of the unpredictable, and the opportunity to challenge myself to tap into my own power. Going on these trips helps me to connect with my self through the challenges I take on by choice.
Recently I was reflecting on one such self-imposed challenge. This last time we went canoe camping in the wilderness, our trip was coming to an end and we were doing our best to leave the park before the long-week-end warriors came in. Of course we were not the only ones with this idea. We were coming from the remote parts of the park’s backcountry routes and moving into the more populated parts where many of us were portaging at the same time.
By nature I am not competitive. I am not driven by a need to do better than others. But something was triggered in me. I was driven to get out of the park before my view of it as serene was spoiled.
On a particularly longer portage, I was hauling my two packs, one on my back and one on my front, plus paddles. The distance was taking its toll. I started to feel the strain and pain in my shoulders taking all the weight. There were several times when I wanted to just “give up” and put the pack down to come back for it.
Everyone was ahead of me. My husband was going to have to double back to get the canoe. I could have easily made two trips as well. Of course it would have taken longer, but I knew I could carry them both since I had before on shorter portages.
Then I passed someone on the path, another portager who was struggling with his load. It was at that moment that my confidence shifted. I saw a flash of what I was capable of. A voice inside me told me to keep gong, prodding me gently. You can do it. Flash to the pain endured during natural childbirth. Breath through it you can do it, this you can do. I did. I listened to that voice and believed it. I believed in myself.
Now you may be wondering why I bothered, what difference did it really make? It wasn’t a race. Sure I had other choices, my choice to carry it all in one go was not necessary. However, when I made that choice it wasn’t just about choosing to breathe through the pain to prove to myself that I could do it. No, it was about claiming my power and trusting my abilities, my decision and ultimately my self. Each time I carry out my decision to its fruition, my core is strengthened. That is what it was about for me.
Each time I give up, a little part of my confidence dwindles. It’s not about winning. It is about staying true to my Self, trusting my decision and trusting that I can do what I set my mind to.
I can remember a point during the portage when there was a shift in my mindset. Cheerleading myself on, the pain subsided. It was no longer about a discomfort to endure but rather it was about hanging on to that belief in my intention and my self.
When we push ourselves to our outer limits, grounded in a gentle trust of self, then we can see our potential. If we give up before trying we let ourselves down and never really give ourselves the opportunity to expand our knowing of self. By taking on the challenge we reaffirm a trust in self. Trust in our potential. Trust in our ability to stretch beyond ourselves. Trust that we are able to handle when things don’t turn out.
Petrea Hansen Adamidis R.C.A.T. is a Registered Art Therapist, a mom, artist, & an avid nature nut with over 18 years of experience working with children, families and adults.
Join her at ArtTherapist.ca where she offers a free e-course “Free Your Inner Child” plus other creative resources to draw the self out.