From Disconnection to Deep Connection

On a smoking hot summer day, in the foothills of the Sierras, I was loading up a truck with equipment for a two day river trip down the South Fork of the American River. I was the head guide on this trip and once we were loaded up with our gear, we were ready to go. I hopped in on the bed of the truck and off we went to the put in site on the river.

As we were pulling out of the warehouse, the owner of the rafting company made a special trip to see me. He wanted to inform me about the people I was about to meet and greet. The passenger who organized the trip called my boss to request a well-endowed female guide, and by the way, his group consisted of 30 high powered male attorneys from Los Angeles.

As you can imagine, this information didn’t go over well with me; however, I so appreciated my boss letting me know what I was about to walk into. He always had my back.

When we arrived at the put in area, the driver of the equipment truck pulled up next to the bus with all of the lawyers. They started to catcall and make comments on my breast size. I chose to ignore their comments as I knew there would be an opportunity at some point in the day to address their behaviour.

I felt such a sense of disconnection, and quite frankly resentment, towards these men, and yet I knew it was my job to create some form of connection during our time together.

I sized all of the passenger lifejackets while the other guides blew up the rafts and placed paddles in the boats. Once we were set, I called all the guys to meet me in the shade for a safety talk. They continued to make comments under their breath, but once again I strategically ignored them until it was time to get into the rafts and start heading down river.

I then introduced the other guides, all of which were men, and proceeded to tell this group of lawyers that in order to get started, they all needed to cool down based on what I heard them say. I gave instructions for them to dunk their bodies in the river up to their necks before we could take off on our two day excursion.

And how they pushed back! The water was freezing as it was run off from the snow packed mountains. They balked and whined but those were the rules, we were not going to take off until all of them cooled their jets…

About 30 minutes later, after they all completed the task of dunking themselves in the water, we took off downstream. To my surprise there was silence in the boat. Occasionally, some of the guys in my raft mentioned that I reminded them of their elementary school teachers - the ones they didn’t like.

As we made our way down river, we all loosened up and we were able to talk about how we started our journey together. I shared about what it’s like to be objectified and they shared stories of their dominant mothers and teachers. We spoke of power as dominance and how that hurts humanity and then we spoke of power as love and how that ushers in respect and dignity.

There was such tenderness in our communication. We got real and spoke about experiences that hurt us and formed our views about gender. Our respect and trust for one another grew exponentially throughout our day together, lifting all of us higher and higher. 

When we got to our campsite, the other guides and I made hors d’ oeuvres while these men had a delightful cocktail hour as they deepened their connections with one another. We then cooked them dinner as they continued to have meaningful conversations about their lives, their relationships, and their families.

The next morning to my surprise, all the men got up quietly to help the other guides make coffee and breakfast. All the attorneys then served me while I was still in my sleeping bag. My heart was touched beyond words.

Here’s what we learned: We found inspiration from seeing one another as equals, we valued one another’s strengths, vulnerabilities, and leadership qualities. We saw one another and listened to one another. We shifted from our expectations of what the trip was supposed to look like. We showed up and got present and created the weekend we were meant to experience together. As a result we got so much more out of our time together. We rose together, served one another, and shifted from the old paradigm of Power as dominance to Power as LOVE.

This is what Badass Engagement can do if you’re willing to discover a new way of relating which is the pathway to an entirely new way of leading! I invite you to click this link if your interested in learning more about Badass Engagement!

Katie Macks