I had a real life “Life comes at you fast” experience a couple of summers ago. It was a lovely July day when The Knight and I decided to test out the Provo River in our little inflatable boat. We had done it once before with Jen’s family in two boats and with Dara & Jeremy in our boat.
So the two of us climbed in and I settled in for a nice leisurely float trip. I had forgotten about the railroad trestle. The one that suddenly appears around a blind S turn in the river. The river races at triple speed through the trestle uprights.
Our boat suddenly picked up speed and smacked into the middle trestle beams, dumping both of us out into the ice cold water. It happened so fast that I was totally unprepared to find myself underwater. Shock. Surprise. Amazement. Bewilderment. I went underwater on the left side of the trestle beams and The Knight floated free on the right side.
I was wearing a life vest. I should have floated to the surface instantly. But I remained completely submerged on the river bed's rocky bottom, pinned there by the ice cold water pounding forcefully and relentlessly down on me. More amazement. I realized I could drown unless I got out of there. Adrenaline. Fight and Flight. My arms and legs began flailing violently to propel myself up and out. In a moment my head was above water and I had a handhold on the trestle structure to keep me safe. I was shaking violently. Life comes at you fast!
On that day life came at me fast twice! We slammed into the second railroad trestle a mile or so further down the river, permanently deflating the boat when a giant spike tore a hole in it.
I have often, since that eventful morning, reflected on my extreme emotional reaction to the experience as it was occurring. First of all, I had not expected to be smacked, dumped, pounded, and potentially drowned. Secondly, I had not expected this flood of irrational thoughts and feelings: What had I done to “deserve” being “treated” this way? The river had inexplicably turned “sinister.” I struggled to regain control. It's silly of me to take this personally, I told myself.
Fortunately, life comes at you fast only intermittently. Although, if it came at you fast every moment of the day, every day of your life, you’d probably become accustomed to surprises, and would quickly learn to respond appropriately in an instant. Thankfully, most of our days are not filled with shocks and surprises. Most days are predictable. As a consequence, when life does come at you fast, unexpectedly, unpredictably, you may be caught unprepared with an appropriate response.
When life comes at me fast in the form of people who are angry or hateful, who seem to want to hurt me with viciousness, I have the same reaction that I had when I was thrown violently against the trestle and then dumped into the ice cold water and forcefully pounded down, and I feared for my survival: Shock. Surprise. Amazement. Bewilderment. Why am I always caught off guard? I shouldn't take their behavior personally even if they intended it to be personal. People are much like I was on the river that day: their aim is to float through life, content to go with the flow, and to be carried along by natural, mindless, sometimes violent forces. If you just happen to be in their path, or they in yours, well . . . .
Life comes at you fast, and you suddenly see yourself in a surprising new light!