October 7, 2012

Raft-up: Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

 I thought for a while about how to write this post. My impulse was to do a top ten fears and how I cope kind of story. It would be easy to write that way—less raw and exposing. I could say I’m fearful of storms but we practice good storm management skills and have sorted out how best to ride out bad weather on this boat. Or I’m fearful of breakdowns but we have repair equipment on board and know how to use it.
But my fear doesn’t work like that. In the moment when sails are ripping, reefs are looming, engines aren’t starting or Maia is crying I am clear-headed and pragmatic, and even though my mouth may be dry and my hands might shake, fear is not a problem.
Then I thought I could write this by telling you the details of a particularly difficult experience (Nearly hitting the reef in Vanuatu? Losing the rudder off the Marquesas? The weather bomb off La Cruz? Maia fearing she will never have friends again?) But realized that without immediacy the feelings fade and it simply becomes a story.

Instead I will admit I would like to be a fearless person.

I would love to embrace high winds and towering seas with gusto and awe rather than with shaking knees and white knuckles on the helm. I would love to look at a chart with a long course plotted out for somewhere marvelously foreign and feel nothing but wonder, rather than the more familiar wonder tinged (heavily) with anxiety. I would love to watch Maia as she takes on this world we’re sailing her through and know wholeheartedly that we’re doing the right thing, rather than having the brokenhearted moments of wondering just what she’s losing in this transaction.

Fear is one of the toughest things about cruising for me. I'm fearful of big seas, high winds and crowded seaways. I'm fearful of docking in adverse wind and anchoring in crowded bays. I'm afraid of stuff breaking and equipment failing. I’m afraid of slipping on deck in rough conditions, or of one of us being hurt, or lost overboard. I am afraid that when all is said and done we will regret our choice to cruise. And I worry I am the only sailor who lives this close to the edge of my comfort zone.

Some nights when I wake at 12 midnight and again at 6 am to take over watches I need to go through my mantra, “The night is dark, but I'm not in danger in this moment. The sounds are loud, but nothing is breaking in this moment. The wind is strong, but right now it's propelling us safely.” Some nights when I wake at 3 am worrying that Maia has no permanent base, and that, for children especially, bonding with new people just gets more difficult the more often you say goodbye I need to remind myself that this life is the best gift I know to give my daughter.  

This is a magical life. But there are trade offs. It’s not secure. Not for us. We gave up good jobs in a loving community for the hope we’d find work when we needed it and that we would create a floating village around us. We are aware that our safety is not guaranteed--not on shore, not at sea. We think but don’t know that Maia will blossom better out here.

I read book called Mimff: the story of a boy who was not afraid over and over when I was a child. It was based on an old fairytale about a boy who ran away from his home and family to find fear. I was intrigued, even then, by the idea of being fearless. Mimff traveled the world in search of ‘the fear’ but it wasn’t until he returned home, defeated, and discovered his mother had become very ill while he was gone that he felt afraid.

To me the moral of the story was that you really need to love and value something, or someone, to feel fearful for its security. So I hold that. And when I feel so very afraid, I know it’s because I love this life so very much.

Read more raft-up:
1 Dana svnorthfork.blogspot.com
2 Behan sv-totem.blogspot.com
3 Steph www.sailblogs.com/member/nornabiron
4 Stacey sv-bellavita.blogspot.com
5 Tammy ploddingINparadise.blogspot.com
6 Ean  morejoyeverywhere.com
7 Lynn sailcelebration.blogspot.com
8 Diane www.maiaaboard.blogspot.com
10 Jaye  lifeafloatarchives.blogspot.com
11 Verena pacificsailors.com
12 Toast blog.toastfloats.com


Anonymous said...

Beautiful. Thank-you. I know I'll be back to read this post over and over as we get ready to go.

Carly said...

I enjoyed reading this. Thank you for sharing that it's ok to fear the world, the future.

NatGeoWannaBe said...

What an awesome post.

Sometimes a land-based life is not secure either. Real security comes with self-sufficiency - the ability to adapt to change, trusting in ones ability to handle adversity whether that 'danger' comes in the form of a long daily commute along a trucking route, traversing office politics in a weak economy or the often cruel and unfair social environment of schools - it's how one handles his- or herself when facing fears that provides real security.

And if that is true - then you are doing an admirable and amazing job at living a stable and secure life.

Diane, Evan, Maia and Charlie the cat said...

Thanks, Jen. Ha! Carly... Hopefully it wasn't that bleak. Everyone else out here just looks so brave to me. I always feel like I'm the only one who gets a bit panicky and fearful. NGWB--I really like your take on this. i guess I kept expecting to be the person who got over fear with experience and added skill. I know many women say they aren't afraid because they trust their partner and their boat and I do--but I still know enough to be nervous...

Doug and Carla Scott said...

There is definitely "anxiety" or whatever you want to call it, being a Cruiser. But so far, it has been a wonderful trade off. So many beautiful places and people - like you guys!

The Crew of Savannah said...

You said it perfectly and no, you're not the only cruiser living so close to the edge. I forgot what it's like NOT to be afraid - even when we're not on the boat! stingrays, sharks, slippery docks, strange poisonous plants...:) I figure the worst that will happen to Jake (long term) is that he'll buy a house and never ever move, ha! Great post.

Kyra and Rick said...

Written from the heart - thank you. Sometimes I feel like I'm the only one that's constantly pushing the edge of my comfort zone - your honesty is refreshing. And I love this life too. (I may finally post my article on the same subject - there's a certain vulnerability that comes with sharing something like this) Best, Kyra