November 14, 2017
Mom fondly mused that children pick their parents. “For whatever reason, you chose me to be your mother.” Equally, I suspect we pick our life lessons. With time to reflect during watches (between Leslie, the boys, and me, we switch off taking control over our boat while we’re traveling across the sea: 2.5 hours on, 7.5 hrs off), I often mull over thoughts. This one bubbles up often, especially when I’m questioning what the heck I got my family and myself into.
The choices we make line up the challenges we’ll face: relationships, faith, education, career, health practices, entertainment, where we live, attitude, etc. “Why me?” thus becomes, “Why did I?” and “What did I learn?” or “Am I learning?” Finding myself in an overall healthy condition (kidney stones and depression are my crosses to bear), I realized years ago my problems were of my own making, and as such, took responsibility for them. I took the next step of preferring my problems over those of others, not wishing to swap mine for anyone else’s, instead, guarding mine jealously, appreciating I’d have to assume all of another person’s issues, not just some. In my view, one doesn’t get to select individual problems like dishes from a restaurant menu; we instead acquire a set of interconnected problems, more akin to owning a restaurant. My restaurant, I decided, could be made to work productively enough for my goals, even ambitious ones, like sailing around the world on our own.
To what degree we consciously, subconsciously, and/or unconsciously take on our challenges depends on our circumstances and our willingness to drive our own lives, and the goals we set forth for ourselves. Surging down the flow of life, it can be difficult determining the size of our rudder and how much of that rudder is actually in water. Given events effect how much we can steer our course. Am I in a rapid river in flood, a gentle stream in ebb, or a stagnate pond? Is my course with or against the flow? If against, how hard should I battle it? How big and reliable is my motor. In order for a rudder to have effect, the boat must be making way in the direction in which you wish to travel. Consider boat speed vs. speed over ground (SOG). Our boat can motor up to 6-6.5 knots. If I’m motoring against a 7 knot current, I’m going backwards, -1 knot over ground. Regardless how great the effort I make, I’m not going where I want to go. So I must ask myself, will the current change with the tide, a new phase of the moon, or a season? If so, when, and then what? Should I tuck away temporarily into an eddy, or anchor in place or somewhere downstream? Or maybe I should gamble and try to find if there’s a counter-current able to lift me against the prevailing current (In a current 4-6 knots against us in Indonesia, we found a 2 knot counter current motoring up Alor, pushing our 6 knots up to 7-8 knots over ground in the direction we wanted. In order to catch the counter current, we gambled, having to steer within 100 yards near shore where an uncharted underwater rock could have significantly damaged our boat.)
Or, is there something downstream that would be great to experience, taking the current I have and making it in my favor? (30 years ago in Hawaii, I skipped Molokai and sailed directly to Oahu for this reason). Or once secure, should I look into plucking myself completely out of the waterway and dropping myself into another, predictably more favorable circumstance. For instance, we sometimes leave our boat in a marina and drive, ferry, or fly to a location rather than beat ourselves up to get there in our boat. Choices – none particularly ideal over another, but rather, which ones get you closer to your ultimate goals. We weigh whether specific paths and ports support our overall goal of gaining worthwhile life experiences as a family sailing around the world. These decisions are impacted by the fact that we have limited time and funds. Clearly we have to respect seasonal weather patterns and political climates. Consequently, we don’t see everything that’s possible to see. “Can’t kiss all the girls,” as one sailor says.
Attraction, not rejection, drove me. My goal was conceived at age 14. I believed in it so much, I willingly chose, and asked my wife, to step away from an awesome job and neighborhood to achieve it: to sail around the world with our two sons. I did not move away from my land life, I was not fed up with America and the American way of life. I moved toward a lifelong goal, an experience. I had faith that in achieving this goal, my family and I would ultimately be the better for it, learning and growing in ways I don’t think we could have, had we stayed in our wonderful lives without interruption.
Although I expected some, I really did not anticipate just how much emotional, physical, and financial pressure that decision would fully bear. Obviously, these problems arise from my decision to sail around the world. Thus there’s no place for “poor me.” It’s more, “Well I didn’t expect that one…,” and “Guess I needed to learn that lesson…,” and “Now what are we going to do?” Seldom are the lessons painless; rarely are they unimportant. The real test will be to see whether, after I return, I internalize and incorporate the lessons into daily practice. Consciously, I chose this path, for now, not forever. Hopefully I will return to California a tad wiser and happier. Interestingly, since leaving California, I have not suffered depression. I’ve had one kidney stone, and it was minor, passing within an hour on its own. And as for our sons, I can’t know the affects this trip will have on them. Regardless, it’s not my fault. For better or worse, according to my mom, they chose Leslie and me.
Time to wake Bryce up for his watch.