Disappointment is just a new door opening

  

  

I was looking through old emails the other day and was reminded of how a huge disappointment turned out to be the best thing for me. I got to thinking how pointless it is to spend energy on disappointment. 

Don’t get me wrong, disappointment is a natural and common emotion that will of course be felt. However, how long we decide to wallow in it and let it put a downer on our lives is our choice. 

About three years ago, I decided I was going to finish the doctorate I started 11 years prior. I applied for a great programme, the only one I would complete because it would give me everything I wanted. I went to the interview and still remember walking out of the interview beating myself up because I didn’t prepare enough for the statistics question.

Sure enough, a week later I discovered that question was what lost me my place. I was two points short of getting a place. I remember feeling so disappointed and so disheartened by life. I felt stuck and trapped in a job I hated and saw no door to leave. I was so busy feeling angry at myself and feeling as though life treated me unfairly that I didn’t take time to stop and put things in perspective. The truth was, I was working towards something I didn’t actually want. 

What I did know was that I needed to take a break from work life, so I began my plans to travel. When I was on the road, having the burden of the rat race taken off my shoulders was immense and allowed me to see life in a different way. I no longer went to bed feeling exhausted knowing I would wake up to hate another day and feel exhausted the whole day. I had a new passion for life. Every day was different and it was just me to worry about. I could do whatever I wanted. It was heaven!! 

  

After I found my peace in Guatemala, I remember the end of my trip coming nearer and dreading the thought of going back to London and doing something different, but still being in the rat race. You see, I was going to quit my job and just wing it. I kept reminding myself to be patient because life is full of opportunities and look at my life so far, I wouldn’t choose any other!! I’m very happy with it! Although I often walked around foreign countries feeling lost, I knew it would all be ok. 

Then I stepped on the boat and my life changed. I’ve already described how sailing makes me feel so it was inevitable I was going to do something with that. Then one question, simply one question changed my path onto brighter flowers; “Can I stay?” A question I almost didn’t ask because I didn’t want to look stupid. How glad am I that I asked!

  

Recently I was invited to sail from Honduras to St Marteen. It was exactly what I wanted! No charters, long stretches of sailing and time with a great sailing friend. Sadly that never came to light and I controlled my disappointment. My heart dropped when I discovered I wasn’t going. I moped for the rest of the day. Then I told myself, “It’s ok. Something better is around the corner. Just enjoy today and be grateful someone enjoys your company enough to invite you on their boat.” And so I did. Now the better opportunity has arisen. I will write about it in my next blog.

Three years after a disappointment that led to a major life change, I am sat on a boat in the Caribbean living a peaceful life that brings me so much joy. I spent the last two weeks spending hours daily snorkelling and enjoying the fresh sea air, instead of being in an office analysing people and allowing their problems to continue to weigh me down. It’s a shame I wasted months being frustrated and disappointed I didn’t get what I thought was right. Because to be honest, I didn’t want to attend that programme. I just wanted to be called Dr H and make more money. Now I have no title and no money and I am one of the happiest people on earth. 

  

I learned my lesson and followed through. Life works how it’s meant to. I will ride the waves (quite literally!!) and know that over each crest, there is a golden opportunity waiting for me. I will no longer spend my energy on being disappointed, but spend it on manifesting what I want from life and enjoying the moment. I invite you to take the challenge and see what happens. 

Which way was it??

  
“It’s easy. You can’t lose yourself,” said the owner of the hostel I was staying at. I smiled and said “Gracias” knowing that I would do exactly that. I had asked him where the river was. Supposedly it’s only 10 minutes away. 

I had decided to go away alone for the weekend over my birthday. I chose to go to Minca, Colombia as a friend told me it was really relaxed and chilled. When I arrived at my beautiful hostel, I discovered there were enough walking trails to keep me busy the whole weekend. Excellent! Walking is not something I do much of on a sailboat. 

I often feel lost around my birthday. I’ve spent many birthdays analysing why this is. I partly contribute it to the lovely bully I had throughout primary school. It was her favourite time of the year to taunt me. My Mom sent out the birthday invitations and she happily used that as a way to control me or tease me. “You know, everyone is going to your party because of me. If I tell them not to go, they won’t.” This torture lasted weeks. 

The day of my party, I would anxiously await and if no one had arrived three minutes past, the disappointment and panic set in. Luckily, the people that said they were coming always did. 

  

I am well aware of the power that childhood experiences have on people. However, my beliefs suggest that life is most simple when I leave things in the past, so why do I keep letting it bother me every year? Whether I show it to other people or not, I always shed tears around the week of my birthday and dread the actual day. 

  

So while I was trying to find the river, you know, the river that is a ten minute walk from the hostel, yet I had been walking for thirty… You can’t lose yourself he said…, I thought, how can I stop this pattern? One reason I went away was because I was convinced Captain Cool would forget my birthday and I would be upset with nobody. It’s easier just to be with nobody, right? Last year he didn’t forget and gave me a very nice celebration. Obviously I was still carrying the bully on my back. 

  

Guess what? I’ve carried her on my back on and off for many years. I’m tired of it. So I set upon this walk alone determined to throw her off the mountain and rid her for good. I want to claim my birthday back! I had a good discussion with myself. That saying, “You come into this world alone and die alone,” came into my head so I thought I was doing exactly what I should on my “special day.” Then I realised actually that saying doesn’t make sense to me. My Mom was with me when I was born and maybe I’ll die alone, but if I’m ill, I would like to think someone will be holding my hand in those last moments. 

  

Then I came to another Y in the trail and started to get a little frustrated because I had little water, it was hot and after 45 minutes, still no sign of the river. Then I realised I had no plans, no one was waiting for me and the view was absolutely stunning. I’m in the Sierra Nevada, why be frustrated?!? I knew I should’ve brought more water as I am an expert at getting lost, so I could only blame myself for being ill prepared. 

As I took the path to the left, I smiled about how I am more often than not, geographically lost. This is how I get to know cities so well and find little unknown pockets. I often entertain my friends acting like I have a clue and then later confessing I’ve had no idea where we’ve been for the last 20 minutes, but hasn’t it been fun? Varied responses to that question…

Then I realised like now around my birthday, I often feel lost non-geographically as well. I love to make metaphors of life and nature. I realised that more often than not, I take the “wrong” path or walk straight without noticing there are other options, or even jump across a blind pass not knowing what is on the other side. Guess what? I always have an adventure. Sure there are times I am scared, lonely, sad, confused, even angry. That’s called being a human being. The point is, I can look back at my life and think, “Shit!! I did that? That was super fun, or I won’t be trying that again.” It doesn’t matter. They have all been adventures and have taught me what it means to truly live. 

  

After an hour, I had long given up on finding the refreshing water and just enjoyed the path I was on. I saw a man on his horse dragging a long tube, I saw another guy on his motorbike on a path I was a bit nervous of walking on, much less riding on. I enjoyed the birds, the coloured lizards and the noise of the insects. Then I came to a barbwire fence with no through gate. I was slightly disheartened until I thought, sometimes life gives us these dead ends and there’s a reason.  

  

So I turned around and then took another path, not expecting to find the river, just enjoying the sights of that path. It got a little treacherous, so I turned around and thought how it can sometimes be easier or more difficult to go back on a path I’ve already been on in life. Easier if I gained strength from it or it was a pleasant event, more difficult if I let it get me down or am still carrying hurt. 

I then played back the conversation I had with Juan. He talked about a tree on the right and a path to the left. I obviously didn’t listen carefully enough and took the path that didn’t lead to the river. On the way back, I ran into another man on his motorbike, so I asked him where the river was and he said it was to the right. Oops, I hadn’t listened carefully enough!

  

I took the path and found the river. I took my shoes off and waded to a rock where I sat listening to the rapids. I reflected on this journey and my life journey and how it’s all just ok. It’s ok to be lost, it’s ok to try different paths, it’s ok to ask for help, it’s ok to come across those dead ends, it’s ok to try many paths. The most important part is to enjoy the journey because so many unknown obstacles and opportunities occur which can change the path. The one thing I will not change is the peace I have within.

  

As I laid on that rock, I could feel my bully slipping away from my shoulders. I released her into the cool water and have sent her on her way never to return. I wish her no harm on her way as I don’t know her life journey. I simply feel grateful to have less weight on mine. 

  

The next day, I took a longer hike and indeed got lost, various times. Luckily the Colombian farmers were most interested in my welfare and helped me find the way back, various times. Seven hours later, I was back where I started, but from a totally different route. It was a beautiful journey as you can tell from the photos. 

  

As was the case last weekend in the mountains, I am feeling a bit lost on the path I’m on now, but there is a lot of beauty in my life. As I did this weekend, I will just enjoy my current journey until the path ahead of me gives me different options. No doubt options that will give me new adventures. I shall await and keep walking with that smile on my face breathing in the gifts life is offering me today. 

Nights at the helm

  

I absolutely love sailing at night. In the open sea more so than near unknown coast or islands. Then I’m just nervous we,re going to go aground or hit a fisherman. 

Night time on the open sea is indescribable. I will do my best, but really it’s best to experience it! First of all, it’s really quiet. On our charters, the passengers are asleep or at least inside. When CC isn’t at the helm, he is resting so I don’t hear any orders or corrections from him. I feel totally relaxed and alone. It’s like nothing exists but me, the sailboat and the rolling waves. 

Now, look up. Imagine a black canvas sprinkled with all different sizes of glitter. On a clear night, this goes as far as the eye can see. Pick up your binoculars and you will see even more glitter of even smaller and less shiny pieces. When the moon comes up, it changes the brilliance of the stars, but they are still there. 

If you think that sounds great, look down. Wow! Do you see that?? The glitter in the water glows in the dark! The times the engine is on to recharge the batteries, there is a trail of tiny little plankton rolling around in the disturbed water. The wake on either side of the boat lights up even more plankton of all different sizes and strengths. I can spend hours watching it. My mind wanders to what more is below the surface that I can’t see. Nature is truly the most real magic that we are given. 

After spending an hour observing this beauty of nature (and of course watching the compass and checking for other boats), my mind is in a totally different state. I am here. Alone. Totally one with nature. I can hear the wind singing through the rigging and mast. I feel it kissing my skin as it passes by. I watch how it shapes the sails so we can move without power. Just pure wind. I notice the permanent upturn of the corners of my mouth as I experience this bliss.

I think so clearly. These judgments or worries that I normally have in day to day life don’t exist anymore. There is no fight in my mind, no debates, just total clarity. 

In this mind state, I again look up and I see how the stars are a metaphor for life. There are billions of stars of all different sizes shining in their own beautiful way. Much like the billions of people in the world of all different sizes, colours and personalities. How maybe if the stars could view us as we view them, we would shine in the same way. Sometimes relationships we have are like shooting stars, brief, beautiful and rare to find. Others are like the planets. They are bright, strong and always there even if we can’t see them. 

All of the stars make the beauty of the night, just like a range of personalities, beliefs and cultures make the spice of life. 

Focus back to the sea. In rough seas, those waves can appear intimidating. Almost as if the waves are going to crash over the boat and pull us under. I observe them come from a distance, anticipating to get wet. However, when they come, they simply roll under the boat, lift us up and then set us back down again as though nothing happened. Nothing happens other than a fun mini rollercoaster ride. That ‘worry’ was for nothing. 

Think about life. How many times do we worry about something scary we see coming? Whether it’s a job interview, a move or a relationship ending. It happens and usually it isn’t as scary as we anticipated. This of course depends on your mind frame as well. Just like how I steer impacts how the boat rides the wave. Sometimes when the waves are coming from the bow, I get it wrong and I get a shower and am left wet and shivering. It isn’t so bad. I am left shivering for a while and then I dry off and it’s ok. Just like in life. Sometimes we get knocked down and are left in shock, but it always calms down at some point. Have faith and life truly does balance itself out. 

It all seems so simple when I am here and in this mind state. The thing is, it is. Life wasn’t really made to be complicated. We do that ourselves. I’ve learned to ride the waves. I used to fear and then fight them. Guess what, they are going to happen! We can’t control them. All we can do is control how we ride them. Being prepared and riding them calmly is what works best for me. 

Sometimes there are big waves that knock me over, but I can always remember this mind state. I may be wet now, but with time I will dry off and everything will be ok again as if nothing ever happened. 

Significance

  
“I felt so insignificant,” said one of our passengers when describing how she was afraid of swimming over the deep water on her way to the island. This statement really struck me because I remember saying the same thing about 16 years ago. 

One of the benefits of long distance sailing is time to think. For some people this would be awful, for me, it’s heaven. I think I’ve said before that my mind is always busy and I have learned to accept it. Sailing for 27-40 hours is just what my mind dreams of! The amazing thing is that on the sea, there’s always a positive side to my thoughts, no matter what sad thing I may be thinking of. I love it. It’s like a retreat for my thoughts and I have no problem making it clear my favourite form of sailing is in silence. 

Now, back to the idea of insignificance. The first time I felt this was when I was in the Alps in Switzerland. A friend and I had taken a hike and we came to this beautiful valley in between the snow capped mountains. After my initial reaction of my breath being taken away, it really was taken away. With panic! I had never felt this before. I was only 20 and had just been canyoning and sky diving in the same beautiful country. Why this reaction during a hike?? I realised it was because I had nowhere to hide. If an animal came to attack me, it was a long way to run before I could seek shelter. I felt insignificant in this huge open space. A strange thought, but it’s what I was thinking. 

The funny thing is, 16 years later, I thought the same exact thing but instead of panic, I felt totally exhilarated and alive. I remember it very clearly, the sun had come up and CC told me I could go to the front of the bow where it was easier to watch the flying fish and spot dolphins. This was my very first time on the open sea. I looked all around me and saw nothing but beautiful deep blue and the white caps of waves. I remember thinking, “I am so insignificant in this big wide world. I am just bobbing along on a tiny sailboat that isn’t visible from an airplane or even the cockpit of a cargo ship. The things I am stressing about right now, really don’t matter in the grand scheme of things!” It felt great to be insignificant!
  
So on this most recent journey after the comment by the passenger, I got to thinking why the same thought evoked two completely different feelings. Here are my thoughts…

I spent my whole life trying to be significant. I wanted to get good grades so the smartest kid in my class and my teachers would stop bullying me. I wanted to be a good child so I was the favourite. When I was older, I wanted to have a doctorate degree because wow, that’s really significant, right? In my jobs, I not only hated being the new person, I hated when new people came in. I either had to find my place or fight for the place I had in order to keep my significance. 

All the time I was single, I was searching for a boyfriend because I thought people who were in a relationship had more significance. Never mind if they were actually happy or not. I convinced myself I wanted children even though the thought always terrified me more than it made me excited. Women who have children are more significant, they have more meaning to life. 

Of course whether these things actually have significance are up to an individual and what they want in life. I’m talking about what they really want, not what they are doing because that’s what society pushes them to do. 

I got tired just thinking all of this and again writing it. This led me to my conclusion of the difference. When I was 20, I was very early on in this battle to be significant, or maybe in the thick of it. Of course being insignificant would bring me into a panic, it was my life meaning!!

Now that I’m 36, I have a different meaning in life. To have peace with what I do in my life. I’ve discovered it’s not any of the things I mentioned above. No wonder why it was such a relief to feel insignificant!! My battle was over and I was free to be me.

  
As I still had many more hours to think, I started thinking about whether or not insignificant was accurate. I am significant to my parents, family members, friends, CC and probably some other people. If I go, they will be sad. However, if I go, the world (and actually those mentioned above) will still go on. The world isn’t going to stop turning when I die. However, the air and Earth will start sucking what they need from me the minute I am dead and buried, so actually I guess I am significant. 
  
In the yogic beliefs, every soul is the same, it is the shell (body and personality) that is around the soul that is different. There is the belief that we all have atman which is part of Brahman, which simplified, is everything. For those of you non-yogi’s, this means we are all connected. 

With all this deep thinking, I decided that the concept of being insignificant was the same as having the same significance as everyone and everything else in this world. 
  
In conclusion, I will happily stay on an insignificant sailboat doing all of the things I never knew I wanted to do until I did them and felt so much peace from them. And if in some other people’s eyes, that makes me insignificant to society, then so be it. I will leave them to find their own path to peace so they can stop worrying about others and just live. 

Mast overboard!

  
“Whoa!! Do you see that? Look at the catamaran!” Captain Cool shouted towards me while I was cleaning the cockpit. I look over to see that their mast was at a 45 degree angle and bouncing towards the water. 

CC jumped into our dinghy to see how he could help. A few minutes later, three men in a speed boat rush over to their assistance. I continue cleaning as I watch the action. Suddenly CC is speeding over in the dinghy and the speed boat is towing the catamaran towards us. CC jumps on our boat, opens a stopper and tells me to get ready to work the winch. 

Suddenly my just cleaned cockpit is invaded by four guys with dirty feet and shoes, the dog from the catamaran comes to explore or seek safety, I’m not sure which, and as I offer to help push the boat away, the men politely ask me to move so they can do it. That’s fine. I am used to living in this masculine world, no reason to get upset by it or I would always be upset. I know my abilities so I don’t need to prove what a cool or strong chick I am 😉

They attach a line from our boat to the line of the mast on the catamaran and I press the button to lift it (yes we have electric winches, cheating I know!!). There is a lot of shouting “Be careful” and as all is in Spanish and I am now controlling something that can cause a lot of damage to people and boats, I listen carefully for any sign to stop. The ten people that dropped what they were doing to help, were spread out on the catamaran looking and checking to make sure things were in their place. 

The mast is now upright and the crew start securing lines to prevent it from falling again. The owner smiles and thanks everyone for their help. CC looks at me and says, “You did it!” I laugh and show the muscles on my arms. Really it was my finger and electricity that did it 🙂

  
It turns out that a part which secures the sty to the boat (sorry I don’t know all the sailing terms in English!!) was stripped and they need a new one. The owner runs off to see what he can find and our boat happily helps support the other mast until it’s fixed and ready to be independent again.

This is one of the many reasons why I love a sailor’s life. People are always there when you need them. You don’t even have to ask, people just come to your aid. I imagine this is how communities worked in the old days. People were always willing to help without expecting anything in return. 

The sailing community is an incredibly friendly community. People are always waving and saying hello. Sometimes people stop by to ask something and then they stay for a chat and drink or invite you to their boat for dinner. The chat is almost always happy; sailing stories, boat repairs, snorkelling, movies, books. All of the topics I love! I guess when you live such an easy going and carefree life, that’s all there is to talk about. 

After all the excitement was over, I carried on cleaning the cockpit smiling about how it was so nice to be a part of such a great community. I have truly found a gem in life!