Last Saturday was a big day for me – the first day that I’d ever taken a sailboat out by myself. It had been almost two months since the last time I’d been sailing. And here, on Saturday afternoon I stood on the dock, hands on my head, looking up at the boat and wondering if I remembered how to do this.
My instructor’s voices came back to me. Heard them ask, “Do I have my three essentials on board?” (A PADDLE, PUMP, and PERSONAL FLOTATION DEVICE.) What direction is the wind from? (It was just my kind of perfect day – there was hardly a breeze.)
One of the first things you need to do to RIG or get a boat all set up to sail, is take this long rope, called a HALYARD that goes up to the top of the long pole in the middle of the boat, called a MAST, and attach that rope, (which is actually called a LINE) to the top of the little sail at the front of the boat called a JIB.
Usually there is a little clip or SHACKLE that you just snap on and then pull up the sail. This time, there was just a dangly piece of rope and me without a clue about how to tie the right knot. I was pretty sure it was a BOWLINE I needed but after many attempts I realized I needed some help to figure it out.
I called over one of the sailing instructors. He tied bowline after bowline for me, but I just couldn’t figure it out. I watched and tried. Concentrated harder and tried. I fussed. Got frustrated. Threw up my hands and exclaimed, “I may never get off the dock today but I have to figure out how to do this!”
He paused, looked me in the eye, and said, “I’m going to walk away now. I know you’ll figure it out.”
Good parents do not like to see their children in pain.
But even better parenting comes in instilling trust. Telling our children that indeed they will “figure it out”. Instilling trust and confidence and then stepping away, making room for our children and ourselves to find our way through the pain, anxiety, fear.
There’s a life lesson we need to learn again and again. How to figure it out and make it through a challenging time. Every time we do, we build up a reserve tank of trust, of hope inside. We have made it through challenging times before, we will do it again.
I thought it was all over two weeks ago.
There were just minutes left in the game. The end of the game, just minutes left. The 49ers had the ball and Kaepernick threw a beautiful pass into the end zone.
Then filling our TV screens, was this guy with floppy hair and a number “25” across his chest, who jumped up and gently tapped the ball away into the arms of his Seahawks teammate.
You know, we watch sports for many reasons as we come to church for many reasons. But I think one of the reasons we do is to see things like that: in impossible situations, a possibility.
A hope that grows to a conviction that maybe this too could be us – jumping up, hand outstretched, for light, hope, trust, truth, for more than we ever imagined possible. For saying, despite everything, that the game is not over. We are not finished yet.
Oh yeah, last Saturday I got off the dock. The instructor was right. I figured it out.
Out there on my great sea of Lake Union, I felt it: such peace, such deep, deep peace. Something I’ve never felt in this same way out here. Such peace. Like I’d really have to work hard to find all those things I was so stressed and worried about on shore.
It had been an important week. I’d shared a letter with my congregation that after a long time of counsel and discernment that my partner and I have separated. It’s a new season in my life. A time of figuring out so much that is new. A time of solitude.
Solitude is very different from loneliness. Solitude is finding home in your aloneness. A stilling, quieting, of the voices that clamor for attention within.
When I am at home in my aloneness, at home in myself, I am free. So free. So free to be with others, out there in my life. Able to be so present, to hear, listen, engage.
When I step away from my at-homeness, I run and look to others to fill what is mine alone to claim. Look to others to make me feel good, feel better. Look to stuff in my life to distract or fill me. It’s not the best way I am with the people or things in my life.
In that aloneness can be such presence, a companionship with everything.
I feel the presence now of all who have come before me, all who have taught me. Here meeting in my hand, as I take hold of the tiller. Draw it gently, slowly, ever so steadily through the water.
The boat turns, sails fill with wind.
8 thoughts on “Sailing Alone”
Ah, Peter. Another beautiful piece, full of meaning. Smooth sailing, my friend.
Thanks Kathy for writing and for your good wishes. For all of us, yes, smooth sailing.
You did it again Peter! What a wonderful story that I will pass on to our children, ‘Grandkids’, and friends. THANKS for sharing
Thanks Joel. We all need stories that in their particularity speak to what touches the depths in us all. I sure need them. Reminders, that yes, there have been there that have gone the way before us, and yes, we will indeed figure it out, and make it through.
It is good.
How strong to see the difference in loneliness and aloneness! There are life lessons in each moment of the day. Thank you for sharing with us and please know that you can be alone but you are still surrounded by the love of many fiends who are there for you. Peace!
Thank you Sandi, and yes so true – in our aloneness, we are so accompanied and part of all – that is the gift we know in our aloneness,
This is lovely, inspiring, and powerful. Thank you for your risk-taking, in so many ways. Peace be upon you as you begin your sabbatical.