In the predawn hush, I let myself out for my morning commune with the river. I want to see the sun rise over the mountains. I’ve gotten ready for my river run; sunblock, hat, sunglasses, whistle — mustn’t forget the whistle — and the smallest amount of swimwear possible. I want to feel air around me. I want to bathe myself in it, for it is the purest, surest way I know to both find, and free me.

I pad across a dew-clad lawn, down the steps of the breakwater, and into the cool river. My SUP (stand up paddleboard) glides onto the surface. I’ve an ankle strap to keep me tethered, my paddle, and buckets of gratitude. I am so lucky to be alive. To have my family. To live where we live. I am happy. Deeply, soulfully, content, which is rather miraculous, considering.

Childhood experiences, early adult choices, and the mundane keep it real; what will I fix for breakfast? Lunch? How about we skip supper and lounge by the river with a bottle of wine? Which around-the-world-all-expenses-paid nuisance caller expects any response, let alone a positive response at 9:00 p.m.? The sprinkler system has a severed artery and my husband dutifully pulls a hose around the east side of the house in an attempt to remind grass it once grew there.

Last week I calculated that of the prior 10 weeks, I’d been gone 8.3 or them, launching and then promoting The Fifth Sister: From Victim to Victor — Overcoming Child Abuse. How incredible to see this piece of work find its way into the world. It was exhilarating — and terrifying. Still is.

I’ve been around more people recently than I typically see in a year, am getting comfortable being interviewed live on radio, had my life dissected then artfully put back together by a number of journalists, had OpEd’s picked up regionally and then syndicated, have engaged in powerful discussions about child abuse, abuse of power, sexual assault, overcoming stigma, choice, and finding victory.

I have never needed the river more. The dip and pull of the paddle guides me into the current and I feel like I am shedding layers and layers of clothes, but it’s my spirit that lightens. Dawn’s quietude is not silent, despite its stillness. An osprey’s high pitched greeting signals a mate and they switch tending their nest. A fish jumps ten feet in front of my board. I absorb the natural world as it greets this day. On the water, yesterday slips away, tomorrow is unseen around the bend, and in this perfect moment, I touch air.

Four ideas to help you “put your own oxygen mask on first.”

1. Make it a habit to take a few minutes each day to ‘let go.’

2. Add exercise when you can. It’s an extraordinary stress reliever.

3. Connect with people who lift your spirits.

4. Healthy friendship is one where the nourishment flows both ways.

Here’s to you!

Originally published at


  • Laura Landgraf

    Author, activist, speaker, champion for change and empowerment, hope awakener, retreat leader, author of The Fifth Sister.