Keep the Engine Running
by Beth Fiedler
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About 20 years ago, I took my first and last jet ski ride on the Fox River in Illinois. Don’t worry, no one and nothing was harmed on this adventure. Well, with the possible exception of my bruised ego because what started out as an “How hard can it be?” quickly morphed into an “I didn’t know”. Here is how it went.
A beautiful summer weekend day visit to my mom and stepfather’s condo in Oak Lawn, IL led to a drive northwest to my sister Roz’s house. Upon arrival, the water lapping gently to shore seemed harmless enough and quite the invitation. Only a brief discussion was necessary to determine that a boat ride was just the ticket to bide our time while the coals got hot for the barbeque. So, several members of my family piled into the boat and we went on our merry way.
As we departed, I looked longingly at the jet skis that remained on their racks in the garage. But, I was determined to be content with the boat ride around the river. That is, until my nephew Mike (I think) rode up alongside on a jet ski offering to swap positions. Despite not wearing a swimsuit and the overconfidence that it would not matter, I maneuvered as best as I could on wobbly sea legs and I was off into the wild blue yonder. Great stuff these toys!
After zipping along for about 15 minutes as if I was the main attraction at the Wisconsin Dells acclaimed water show, I thought that I should give someone else a try. Unfortunately, I had not given much forethought to the ‘disembark’ stage of this activity. So at this point, I was envisioning a flaming, descending plane and no pilot scenario. Well, maybe not so dramatic. Anyway, I made my approach and cut the engine about 10 feet short of the boat. I ‘thought’ that I should cruise in closer without power so I wouldn’t ram into the boat. Big mistake!
As it happens, cutting power means you can’t steer—a fact that I had disconnected myself from as I viewed the jet ski more like a kid’s bicycle than a powered vehicle. This perspective led to the attempt to turn the jet ski toward the boat and a prompt splash into the brink. Serious operator error.
Yes, I was embarrassed in front of my family who were throwing about friendly jibes (e.g., Enjoy your swim?) and certain that I had scared the locals with the unannounced solo wet t-shirt contest. It occurred to me recently that I never stopped to ask myself why this happened or more importantly, “What could I learn from it?” After all, if we truly believe all things happen for a reason in the grand scheme of things, how is it that we don’t recognize the value of life’s little foibles as the gentle lessons that they are intended to be?
Although it has taken 20 years to reach this epiphany, I can reflect on the lesson of that day all these days later. The concept was amazingly simple. If we aren’t powered up in some way so that we can move forward, we can’t change direction. If we can’t take corrective actions, we miss our mark. I think we all agree that this is not good.
I will concede that there are some things that you must decide for yourself. What do you believe? From what resource will you test it? But if you are really honest, you will realize that your best ‘solo’ decisions are often powered by something greater—love of family, faith, and dare I say, eternal truths? Without this accountability, even the best marksman will lose sight.
Laugh at your mistakes; cry if you must as is appropriate. But if you doubt or are still hiding from your mistakes, know that you are not there yet. Don’t stop short. Keep the engine running. Seek until you find your way all the way home.
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