Life Lessons from a Sailor

My positive attitude is taking vacation in the Florida Keys.   I’m eager for it to return home.  Weeks of steroid withdrawal have taken the wind from my sails.  I’ve no forward momentum.  As a sailor, I learned that when this happens, no amount of fretting and frustration will make the wind blow. If the wind dies, you can either choose to be miserable or change your plans, adapt to the circumstances, and put the waiting time to good use.

I wasn’t bothered by being “dead in the water” on the sailboat:  I’d learned to enjoy the mandatory change of pace, even when I wondered how long it would take to get back to the dock. I paid attention to details of the shoreline, currents passing through the water, patterns in the sky; and I thought about life.  I cleaned the deck and coiled ropes.  I dipped my fingers in deep water and had conversations with other people which I still cherish years later.  Sometimes I slipped overboard for a cool swim.  These things couldn’t happen when I was racing down the lake or trying to stay upright in a heavy wind.  Like other sailors, I made the stalled wind into a gift. 

If I could calm my impatience and wait for the return of a breeze years ago, can I translate that learning to current life?  Ah…this is the recurring question. I want to control my life and move it in the direction I want to go, at the speed I want.  I want to race across the water of life, hear its rushing sound along the hull, feel the wind in my hair, and test my skill.

I feel like I’m stuck in the middle of the lake without wind, so I’m going to bring my sailings lessons into my current situation.  I want to make times like this into as much of a gift as quiet time on the water was long ago.   Here’s my plan:

  • Make a written list of what I’ve done and learned in the past year—externally and internally.  As I remember more items and insights, I’ll write them down.  I quickly lose sight of what I’ve actually done and how much I’ve grown and learned, so the process of making a list puts my life in a context I wouldn’t have otherwise. 
  • Learn from my feelings of frustration, impatience, and worry.  Like fretting about the wind, these feelings don’t help me move forward, so I’ll use them as a window into myself and reflect on their roots.  Based on previous experience I’ll gain important insights, wisdom, peace, and even the restoration of joy through the process.
  • Do what I can do.  Periodically I take a deep breath and, as I exhale, imagine breathing out what I’m not doing that I want do.  I’ll try thinking creatively about how to feed my soul, take care of myself, meet my needs, and do tasks in new ways.

The wind has left my sails at other times in my life and I had the choice either to be miserable or to adapt and create goodness.  I’ve adapted before, and I’m going to make sure I do it again.  God was with me before and can be trusted to lift my sails once more.  Maybe now I’ll get a postcard from the Florida Keys.

Learning:  Even a stalled wind can become a gift if you’re patient, change your plans and perspective to match your new circumstances, and creatively put the new situation to good use.

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