I’ve been sinking for a while, if I’m honest. Probably since before I began this blog, a little over four years ago. Likely since childhood. Life works in ups and downs for us all, with a few peaceful patches, a surprisingly large number of dangerous squalls, and a handful of downright maelstroms. I’ve weathered them all. Just.
In large part, my weathering has been down to those I once termed my ‘Darling Lifeboats‘, who would rush in and rescue me when I sent up a flare and started to capsize. Ropes would be flung, help would be sent, and their love and support would buoy me up until I was able to float by myself – albeit shakily and with water sloshing around the bilges – then off we all went again, sailing with as much purpose as possible through the course of our own lives’ journeys.
I suppose the thing, when we’re not in dire need, and standing with broken staves, wondering whether or not our current situation warrants the use of a precious flare (and consequent interruption to the lives of those who drop everything to help with the rescue), the thought occurs that, having the time to have the thought likely means it’s not a situation which warrants a flare, in which case one oughtn’t be loosed for fear of developing ‘Boy-who-cried-wolf Syndrome’. In which case we continue to stand, broken, with water flowing in and our chattels and capabilities beginning to salinate, sending out radio signals, or semaphore, or raising flags to suggest that even though the situation may not be *dire*, we could still jolly well do with some back-up, please, and perhaps a bit of a tow to harbour for a breather.
Raising flags and sending radio signals are fine, as long as your flotilla hasn’t dispersed too far. In my case, I feel as though many of my ‘ships’ have sailed beyond my horizons back to their own worlds, and though I understand the rightness and importance of this, it’s still left me somewhat bereft, especially when the storm clouds roll in. Even if I didn’t need them, it was nice, as the waves troughed and billowed, to look out and see their lights shining steadfast around me.
My other concern, for those left, is that if I call upon their resources too many times, their own ships will begin to deplete. Or, worse, they will begin to resent the constant drain on their time and input, their swift efforts on my behalf beginning to get punctuated with eye-rolls and feelings of ‘here we go again’. [Herein lies the tangential issue of my perspective of others’ perspective of their efforts on my behalf…]
The seas of life are in constant flux, and navigating them, we all take damage. Hopefully we all also help one another, where possible, so that as many of us as can be, stay afloat. We work best within the safety of bonded communities – networks of people all engaged with one another, prepared to raise anchor and steam over to alleviate an hour of need, advise on a problem, or appreciate a sunset together.
At some point, though, it becomes apparent (as it has done to me, with increasing clarity) that we bear responsibility not only for getting help, but for limiting our own damage, taking on the burden of our own repairs, and rendering our ships seaworthy. Our ships, which due to past experiences and external influences, may well be riddled with broken timbers, impossible sails, and wonky rudders. By the time we’re at a stage of captaining our own ships, we may find ourselves (through no fault of our own) in charge of a leaky, utterly unreliable tub. My first response was the equivalent of sitting and crying.
I suppose I’ve been through all the stages of ‘whatever’ with it, and having gotten through the Shock! Horror! phase of surveying my wreck, I’ve been through anger (utterly unproductive, laying blame for my ship’s poor condition at the feet of the people who broke it, eventually realising that doing so made no difference and didn’t fix things), bargaining (though again, no difference was made), depression (sat in the bottom of the ship, drinking, watching the water rise higher, only sending off a flare, panicked, as the water was about to breach the gunwhales, realising I didn’t want my journey ended just yet), and finally am at the stage of accepting that the only person who’s willing or able to do anything to render my little ship of self, seaworthy again, is ME.
Whilst I will always appreciate the support and advice of those who wish to render it lovingly, I can’t hope that their efforts on my behalf will magically fix things. Whilst I will always hope that I’ll have a few people around who’ll come steaming across the high seas to my rescue (as I would for them) in case of emergency, it’s not right or fair that I should rely on them.
My efforts and capabilities must now be redirected from trying to make things seaworthy by attaching myself to other things (for instance, my sense of worth to how useful I can be, or my sense of goodness to how many people care to spend their time on me, or my sense of image to anything a reflection throws back, tainted with vicious whispers from the past) – I need to develop my own buoyancy. I need to begin an overhaul, tearing out old, ill-serving portions, and replacing them with new wood, new characteristics, new resilience.
I’m beginning to realise that those around me are wonderful, glorious beings, more than happy to show me how to find the resources I need. Delighted to point me in the right directions and encourage me as I explore. They want me to succeed – they want me to float. But it’s MY job to make it happen.
It might be a lifetime’s work. I might spend the rest of my days exhausted from ripping and replacing, sanding and painting. I might spend the rest of my life trying to keep the seas from sending me permanently overboard, hoping for enough calm patches to perform the routine repairs as well as continuing the bigger, deeper work. My old perceptions and perspectives are unhelpful and I must untangle myself from their rotten netting and cast it away, ready to start anew.
The work is worthwhile, though, and I’m finally coming to a place where I want to take it on.
I’m sinking. I’m standing in knee-deep water, with much of the contents of my life sloshing around, sodden and beginning to spoil. I’m taking on water and some of my boards are staved in. My caulking is faulty, my rigging is impossibly knotted and my ballast is all off-kilter…
…but I SO want to float.
I want to be seaworthy and capable, and more than that, to feel like it. I want to face large waves with the knowledge of my own soundness, and to share sunsets and chase mermaids, and know that whatever life has in store for me (unless it’s one of those awful, unexpected maelstroms) I’ll probably make it through without bothering anyone else too much.
I’m ready to begin fixing my own boat.