Tofurkey Time!

Monster Under the Bridge (a rapid) has definitely got me and my duckie!

What a crazy world I reemerged into last Friday after just a week off the grid in Patagonia!  After a couple hours of waffling, I cancelled my trip to Easter Island and flew all the way back home to Hawaii in a 48-hour marathon travel to get back before borders/flights got complicated and be nearer to health care and my parents.  Not wanting to endanger my older parents, I’m in self-quarantine in an Airbnb nearby.  I have never not stayed in my childhood bedroom while on Oahu in my whole life…it’s surreal…actually everything is surreal!

It seems like years ago now, but our internet/hysteria-free bubble in Patagonia was so blissful.  I’m incredibly grateful to my loving Bio Bio family for welcoming me back the past three years and allowing me to teach yoga and serve in a top-rate team.  This year, I was blessed to coincide with a First Descents (FD) trip for cancer survivors.  It was such a beautiful experience for me to be with my Bio Bio family and my newfound First Descents family.  

The participants were all around my age from late 20s to early 40s with brave stories, battle wounds, and proud scars (visible and unseen).  Even though I wasn’t officially part of the program, they accepted me with open arms as my new FD moniker, “Tofurkey.”  It was so disturbing to learn people’s “real” names at the end of the trip.  Like at Burning Man, I prefer people’s Playa names since they really capture a person’s essence.  (My Playa name is Kakaw!)

I never knew other cancer patients when I was diagnosed with synovial sarcoma at 9 and went through intensive surgery and radiation treatment.  It was just something I had to do and be brave about, but there were many times I felt afraid and lonely.  No one talked about the possibility of death though it hung unspoken in the air, not fully understood by my precocious self but subconsciously absorbed.  I was so young then and don’t really think about it now on a daily basis.

However, the subconscious has no sense of time, and in the past year, the universe has encouraged me to revisit, process, and integrate that experience.  I never knew I was missing or wanted this family, but it felt as if a circle completed in my 9 year-old’s heart.  

I also honored my fears by saying no to rafting on the second day.  I’ve had a little bit of the shakes from swimming on the Zambezi, Nile, and Fu last year.  I knew it would be challenging as I was inundated with FOMO, self-judgment, and ego identity crisis.  Who am I without my extreme activities?  Why am I struggling to do something I’ve already done before?  Why can’t I let go of the past? 

I returned to rafting on the last two days for big class V rapids in Inferno Canyon and Terminator, though I sat out the last afternoon of rafting..  After Entrada, the first rapid of Inferno Canyon, I rediscovered the joy of rafting again!  

I lost my nyami-nyami necklace from the Zambezi on my last day during a naked rock jump.  I was bummed but what better place to relocate it from river to river during naked hot tub olympics?  It was fitting to lose a symbol of my identity as a crazy rafter…I don’t need to continue to identify with it and can just be/do who I am in that moment, even if it changes over time. I’ve faced similar challenges with diving – maybe it’s called aging, or maturing, or moderation, or simply transitioning to a different chapter.  

The time away from everything and the internet helped me to take a deep existential inhale and accept I don’t really know what’s next but that’s okay.  I feel like the next big chapter is waiting for me…I don’t know what it is yet but I’m ready and excited for it!  My calendar has been absolutely wiped clean, and there’s a lot of space to allow what’s to come…


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