Seven things I’ve learned from sailing

This is high on the list of Things About Which I Never Expected to Write. I didnt know a jib from a poop deck up until a few years ago, when my honey took me out for our first sail (I’m trying to come up with a “maiden voyage” joke, but it’s not working for me). I haven’t actually learned how to sail, but I have learned lots of Deep Life Lessons, as is my wont.

— 1 —

I don’t always have to be in charge

Refer back to that “I don’t know how to sail” thing. Though I’ve found a handful of ways to make myself useful (I can pull a line with the best of them), when we’re out on the water I’m usually being told what to do. That might have been one of the first signs that this relationship was going somewhere, when I was able to take orders from him without stiffening my spine and jumping off the boat.

— 2 —

It takes all kinds

photo-1When he first told me that he sailed, my class-warfare meter went to eleven. I shared this with my mother, describing sailing and its adherents in colorful language. My mother, who has never been a big advice giver, thought about it for a few days and called me back to say the following:

“Margaret, I’ve been thinking about it, and if you had been raised near a bigger body of water than the Connecticut River, you probably would have sailed too. It’s not like he does something really jerky, like ________________.” (I’m going to leave the blank there in order to avoid offending anyone who participates in the activities she mentioned.)

— 3 —

Sometimes too much is too much

Though my mother’s suspicion was correct and my sweetheart’s hobby has nothing to do with being an uppity Gold Coast crap-bag, sailing has exposed me quite a bit of uppity Gold Coast crap-bag culture. We sail out of the harbor of a tony suburb, and some of the other boats there are obnoxiously big. One of the things I find myself saying most often when I’m down there is “Does that belong to ONE PERSON?” (I say this about manses as well as powerboats).

I am dangerously close to a self-righteous anti-materialist rant, so I’ll try to rein myself in. Let me just say that sometimes the other boats in the harbor tempt me to say what is said to me when I’m reaching for my sixth piece of dark chocolate: Baby, you don’t need that.

— 4 —

Sailing = science

photo-2When I learned that sailing uses the same principles that flying a plane does, my brain nearly fell out. THAT’S NEAT. My mastery of aerodynamic principles has yet to progress past the “That’s neat” stage.

— 5 —

What it’s like to have a hobby

During the “Getting to know you phase”, I was asked what I did for fun and was flummoxed. Though I participate in plenty of activities, they all have some goal in mind. I run to improve in races, I sing to earn money and get more gigs, I write to achieve world domination (what, you didn’t know?). All of these are “fun” for me, but they are so intertwined with my relentless quest for self-improvement that I couldn’t really call any of them a “hobby”.

Sailing (or more to the point, sitting on the boat while someone else sails) does not achieve any goal other than to up my exposure to vitamin D. It is a hobby. After all these years I have one.

— 6 —

I can sit still for a while without everything falling apart

This was the biggest revelation I had about being in a relationship in general. When I began to prioritize spending time with someone over spending time accomplishing things I was not entirely convinced that I could spend my weekends doing something other than everything. (NB: Just this past weekend we had nothing planned, and I spent most of Saturday tied in knots of anxiety. It took me until about 2:00 pm to realize this was because I wasn’t getting anything done. Again, this was just a few days ago. I’m a slow learner.)

When I am on the boat I can’t get anything done. This is good for me.

— 7 —

When life changes, roll with it

Again, this is a lesson I’m learning in fits and starts. The last few years have forced me to learn lessons I haven’t wanted to: how to be lonely, how to be sick, how to soften, how to be take pills, how to be patient.

It would be easy to take this new adventure into the world of hobbies and airflow and rest and water and wrap it up with all the other things that have discombobulated me in recent years. It would be easy to succumb to the anxiety that comes with leisure and try to throw all the new things in my life overboard. But my life is different now, in ways I love and in ways I hate. Every time I slather on the sunscreen and fly across the water with someone I love, I am reminded that not all change is bad.

What do you learn from your hobbies and activities? Is there anything about being on the water that I missed?

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

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2 Responses to Seven things I’ve learned from sailing

  1. Mo says:

    #6! Yes! I have a very hard time just sitting still not doing anything. Even if I am sitting still watching tv, the computer is on and I am planning or figuring something out on there…That’s why I love when I get out in the backyard or head to the playground with my kids. It forces me to be in the moment, and nothing else (laundry, cleaning, meal planning) is getting done, I am just having fun with my kids.

    Great post! It’s amazing what we can learn about our selves when we try new activities.

  2. Kay says:

    You cannot make the wind blow. This is part of being out of control, I know. But harnessing the wind is exhilarating, just as learning to make art from your own breath is exhilarating. And as you know, we have to receive even our own breath from God.

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