Wednesday, December 29, 2010

What Manatees Taught Me about Inner Peace

Last week I got to do something I’d been looking forward to for months. I kayaked near manatees. My husband watched the girls so my mom and I could have an all day excursion while we were down in Florida.

I’ll never forget it.

I went into the experience expecting to see maybe one or two sea cows (as they’re often dubbed) from a distance. We put our kayaks in the water and headed out. Within five minutes of paddling, I began to notice gray shadows moving under the water. Close. So close, if I wanted to poke them with my paddle I could have easily done so. But there’d be no paddle poking that day. Instead, I pushed the kayak forward in awe. I squealed with joy upon seeing the mysterious creatures all around me, even directly under my kayak at times. My muscles relaxed. I felt as though I’d been dropped in one of those nature shows my dad and I used to watch. I was living the adventure.

I was at peace.

After over an hour studying the creatures and sharing my excitement with my mom, we ran into trouble.

We’d been casually conversing with a volunteer in his kayak, on the water helping protect the manatees. We didn’t see it coming.

A man, who might as well have finished his sentences with, “Argh” and shook his hook hand at us, steered his pontoon boat directly toward my mom and the volunteer. Then he sprayed verbal insults at them. His ugly words rained down over the water. My mom is hard of hearing and couldn’t pick up specifics. But I heard every single word. And my heart lit on fire. (Here would be a good place to mention I can be fiercely protective of loved ones. Since my father died, I’ve been even more so of my mom.)

The peace that had swelled inside me, a balloon of contentment, deflated as I heard his words and the rudeness that accompanied them.

I’m a feisty gal. I had no problem letting him know I found him rude. He had plenty of room to steer around the kayaks.

But he aimed to pop. And pop he did. He went off. A litany of anger. A tirade of blah blah blah. I bantered for a bit. Didn’t back down easily. No, that I did not do. No one messes with my mama.

And my peaceful day for that matter.

My mom sat silently in her kayak during the whole charade. Eventually the man moved on and the volunteer followed him and held him accountable for disturbing the peace (I’m grateful to that man).

My veins became tunnels of fire. My peace had been shattered. The manatees swam in meandering patterns all around us. The day remained glorious. The scene incredibly meaningful.

But I struggled to let the rude pirate’s insults go.

I struggled to let go.

My mom and I discussed it. She reminded me of what I’ve had to learn time and time again. It’s important not to let others control our emotions. The longer I dwelled on it, the longer he had hold of my feelings, my day.

So I fought to release it. We spent over an hour more in the cove where massive manatees played below us. Some had visible scars. Some bobbed to the surface and puffed for air.

Gradually I let the beauty of the experience rush inside my veins again. Then we decided to head back. When we were five minutes shy of where we’d put in, I noticed a walrus-looking fellow rippling beside me. I hollered to my mom. I’d seen plenty up close by this point, but there was something different about this guy. I stuck my hand down in the water. He swam beside my kayak. Then he rose to the surface, high enough so I could touch his blubbery sandpaper back. Before he dove under he bumped up above the surface and blew out an adorable snoring breath.

I cheered to my mom. She cheered back.

Peace flooded me again.

*photo by flickr


  1. Oh man, firstly, I'm sorry I missed you in Florida! What river were you on? Secondly, I'm sorry you encountered that rude man. I've been on the river a lot, tubing and stuff, and most boaters are very considerate.
    I'm glad you got your peace back. ;-)

  2. It's amazing how much power we give people when we hand over our emotions, I'm glad you took control. It all boils down to our decisions- we get to decide. What a relief!

  3. Manatees...oh, how fun!
    It is so true though about letting others determine our emotions. Makes me crazy that I do it. Something God has been working in my life these past few months. I'm such a WIP. =)

  4. So glad you found your peace again. Sometimes it does get stolen, but we have to fight hard to keep it too. :O)

  5. That was wonderful. It's so hard to hold onto our peace sometimes.

  6. "It's important not to let others control our emotions." Thank you for putting this in words. I had to learn that lessson several years ago. But, like most of us I have to have a reminder every once in a while.

  7. And are you singing the Manatee song from Veggie Tales since then? Oh how I love their silly songs!

    I am sorry Mr. Nasty Pants spewed his owies on you. What was he so upset about? I'm proud of you that you managed to grab back your peace. I guess we should pray for him, huh?

    I love your eyes, btw. I think they are sweet. Yes, sweet eyes.


  8. Isn't it amazing how much of our peace we hand over to others--others who don't treasure it like we do?

    Yay for wise mamas and the wise daughters who listen to them.

    Yay for protective daughters who won't let peace-stealing pirates verbally bash their loved ones.

    And phooey on that man for being such a grump.

    What a precious gift to touch a manatee.

  9. Despite the anger of the moment, this was a beautiful post and sounds like a precious moment. It is hard to take control of our emotions back, especially when someone else tries to interject so strongly. I'm glad you were able to end with peace.

  10. Great post, what a nice way to find serenity in the midst of life chaos.

  11. That was a test of letting go and giving the anger back to the abuser. I'm sorry he sailed in and spread ugliness on your peaceful day. But, I am so encouraged by your ability to let it roll off and float away.
    Peace to you in the New Year!

  12. Jessica, I think Clearwater Lake or something or other. Near Altoona. I seriously think the man was just ready to pop.

    Tamika, The biggest feeling was one of wanting to protect my mom.

    MaDonna, When it comes to WIPs, I'm an epic. A series. A constant edit. You get the point. I'm with you. ;)

    Diane, Pirates! Argh!

    Sherrinda, I learned so much from just that one trip.

    quietspirit, Your name alone calms me. I feel like I'm given an oppotunity at least once a day to get this one right.

    Jeanette, Actually, wanna know the crack up? My husband and I used to sit around and sing, "We are the pirates who don't do anything..." song. So we were the pirates when it came to Veggie Tales. Thanks about the eyes. My mom said is quickly and quietly, but I got her meaning. It was just before Christmas. She said, "Many people deal with added stress this time of year." It softened my heart...a little.

    Erica, Touching it was the coolest thing. Truly. I felt like that little manatee was seeking me out to play. Yay for people like you in my life who balance it all out.

    Tara, That's where I feel God's grace really came in. It ended with peace. Our hope for the future.

    Toyin, And chaos is everywhere. Smacks us at any given moment so I'm glad I'm finally learning this one.

    Mary, Yep, a test. I hear you on that. It rolled slowly. And instead of letting it float away, I think I chucked it and it sank to the bottom.

    Peace back at you!

    Thanks ladies for swinging by. I know this is a super busy time of year, but it's still fun to interact.

    I hope and pray God blesses you in the New Year and teaches you more and more about His Love!

    ~ Wendy

  13. I'm so glad I caught up on some blog posts I missed last week, or I would have missed this! It is so difficult not to let others affect our mood. Good for you for fighting through it and enjoying your day despite someone else's problem. What a fun experience for you and your mom!! Maybe the two of you will enjoy a laugh over the pirate in years to come, but savor the memories of the manatees!


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