Two weeks ago I escaped the dreary gray Northwest winter and traveled to Arizona. Four sun-filled days in the suburbs of the Sonoran Desert. My best friend and I rented a little one-bedroom apartment for the two of us, and another on the opposite side of the pool for our sons. That little apartment felt like the most perfect ‘boat for two’ in a sea of sunshine. A small carry-on bag ensured that I did not have too much ‘stuff’. Having lived in my current house for 14 years now, I am familiar with a literal overabundance of ‘stuff’. It weighs on me. I am sentimental, disorganized and tired. A cruise ship of clutter headed for the reef of chaos! Perhaps I’ll tackle that another time. For now I want to focus on the feeling of weightlessness that came with being in such a small little ‘boat’, with just what I needed and no more. Simple. Sunshine. Son. Sister-friend. Sanity.
If you are feeling overwhelmed and weighed down, see if you can find a smaller boat to ride in for a little while. Pack a small bag and spend the night at a friend’s house if you can’t afford a hotel or vacation. Get away from your ‘stuff’. When the weight of your usual full life is lifted you might be surprised at the ‘You!’ that is hiding under there. You may feel yourself breath deeper and stand taller if your boat’s a little smaller and easier to control.
A previous co-worker, both wacky and wise (he reminded me of my dad) had a lifeboat theory. We are all riding through this world in our own emotional lifeboat. The capacity in your lifeboat is limited. Chances are, if you really had to live in a lifeboat, you would bring your immediate family on board. Probably some extended family and likely a dear friend or two. At some point we have to recognize when our lifeboat is full! If you let too many people on board we all know what will happen. If your boat doesn’t sink, you will begin to run out of supplies. Everyone will suffer equally or you will be in the terrible position of choosing who goes without. You will feel responsible for this suffering. Perhaps you are a martyr and you will go without yourself. Be considerate and careful of how many people are in your lifeboat at a given time. Some may come and go and that’s okay. But in the paraphrased words of my wise and wacky friend, “there are going to be times when some tragic soul is clinging to the side of the boat that you should not let on board. Then you have to be strong and pick up the oar and whack their hands until they let go.”
And now a quote from this weekend’s environmental studies.
There is a midrashic story: A man is on a boat. He is not alone, but acts as if he were. One night, he begins to cut a hole under his seat. His neighbors shriek: “Have you gone mad? Do you want to sink us all?” Calmly, he answered them, “What I’m doing is none of your business. I paid my way. I’m only cutting a hole under my seat.” What the man will not accept, what you and I cannot forget, is that all of us are in the same boat.
- Elie Wiesel, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986.
With hopes for smooth sailing and sunshine in the coming week- Judy