Failure is an option

After several weeks at the Riverside pool in Dunoon, the newly re-formed Cowal Kayak Club has transferred its Friday night activities to Loch Eck. The sea kayakers are presently outnumbered by the river kayakers, but hopefuly in time, as word gets out, this imbalance may be rectified. Already we have formed the expected “us versus them”/sea versus river cliques. We sea folks remain dubious of any ostentatious displays of kayak acrobatics by the river guys, and they in turn have watched with derision fascination as we practice our wet exits and re-entries. Cruising around in our sea kayaks amongst the river boats is a bit like being a whale surrounded by lots of little fishies.

It has come to my attention that Loch Eck is rather cold, actually Baltic, to use the vernacular. This has made me less than enthusiastic to plunge myself into its freezing depths, despite wearing a drysuit. Bracing practice for me has been a rather muted affair, and I have rarely surpassed a “2” (out of 3) on the edging scale. Rolling is out of the question quite frankly, as I’m not sure my noggin could handle the shock. Alan, on the other hand, has been throwing himself into our various practice drills with gusto and is accelerating past me on the learning curve. I plan to catch up just as soon as the loch warms up – even if that is only for one week in July.

Nonetheless, I did manage to chuck myself out of my kayak for a bit of self-rescue practice. I confess to not having attempted this for quite some time, for similar temperature-related excuses reasons. And it showed. After about 15 attempts to climb on top of my kayak, during which time Alan had been deftly demonstrating correct technique to a rapt audience of river folks, he noticed that I was positioned at the wrong spot. My memory had dimmed since the last time I’d practiced – but it is now seared on my mind that the correct place is precisely where my “Nordkapp” logo is located. Unfortunately, after all those failed attempts I couldn’t succeed in completing the rescue due to having run out of “oomph” and having lost all sensation in my (by now blue) hands.

Following on from that, I sensed the commencement of what I’ve come to know as the “Friday night funk”. No I didn’t immediately head for the night clubs, instead I observed my mind descending down the spiral of negative thought. It goes something like this:

  • I am a failure and will never learn to (insert desired skill here)
  • (Insert name of person) can do it so much better than I can
  • Everyone must think I’m a loser
  • Everyone must be laughing at me
  • If I can’t (insert skill) soon, I will have to give up kayaking for good

Of course, you can see a common theme here. The frequency of references to “I” and “me” gives it away. Yes, that old culprit – the ego. It doesn’t like when it’s been given a bit of a battering and can tend to exact its revenge by undermining any consoling thoughts that one might happen to muster. Conversely, I confess to having allowed my ego to enjoy a little inflating in the recent past. For example, when I learned to roll in the pool, I definitely permitted myself more than one happy dance (much to Alan’s nauseation). But that only serves to create a bigger fall when the next setback occurs.

As we drove home, it occurred to me: I can let this encroaching gloom engulf me, or I can … not. It is like the Cherokee legend about the two wolves. One is angry, envious, greedy, self-piteous, proud and arrogant, the other is joyful, peaceful, loving, hopeful, serene and kind. The question is, which wolf survives? The answer is, the one you feed.

In kayaking, as in yoga, as in life, failure is not a defeat, it is a learning experience. We never stop practising and we never stop learning.

1 Comment

  1. Hi Pam—Keep feeding that joyful wolf!

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