Sunday, October 04, 2009

My compass is broken and my sails are flapping in the wind


(Photo courtesy of Nick Jaffe’s Flicker photostream)

I stayed up most of the night reading Nick Jaffe’s blog about circumventing the globe alone in a tiny red sailboat. Sitting in the comfort of my home office in the dead silence of deep night and wrapped in my warm hooded robe with fluffy slippers on my feet, I had the most powerful urge to press re-wind, go back about 30 years, and do it all differently.

I have never had even an inkling of regret about the choices I’ve made in my life and the path I’ve taken, until 3:35 AM last night. It scared me so much that I abruptly clicked out of the site, brushed my teeth and went to bed.

This morning I woke up wanting only to go back and read more.

Why? I don’t know!

My parents courted on sailboats in Bavaria and I grew up on sailboats in California, so something about Nick’s story touches a deep vein that reaches way back. My parents have owned sailboats since before I have memory. The name of their first tiny boat was actually two bars from a melody of a Schubert sonata that my dad loves, and it was written on the stern in musical notation! Dad would whistle that melody (and I can still whistle it now) to call us back to the boat when we played all over the island of Lake Barryessa, where we spent most weekends when I was in 3rd, 4th and 5th grades. When I was in 6th grade, we got a slightly larger sailboat, a “Picnic,” and a few years later still, Dad got his dream boat, an Islander 36. By then I was in high school and the best thing about sailboats was the opportunity to invite boyfriends along so we could smooch on the bow while Dad sailed under the Golden Gate.

In all these years did I ever learn to sail? I am ashamed to say that I did not. My three brothers did, but I didn’t. I don’t know if that’s because I showed no desire to learn to sail, whether it’s because my father believed that men were the sailors (though my mom, having grown up on the Chiemsee in Bavaria, taught him to sail!), or a combination. But in spite of growing up on sailboats, I never learned to sail.

I know the hull-lull that ushers in a deep sleep and I know the melodic ring of the rigging that allows for a gentle awakening in the morning, but I never learned to sail. I instinctively know (or knew, anyway) know how to move around a boat depending on where the wind is coming from and where the bow is heading, but I never learned to sail. Now that I really think about it, that’s a travesty.

So fast forward 30 years to today. I work for a huge software corporation, managing the development of things like SilverLight demos and SharePoint sites that focus on how to sell stuff in order to make gobs more money for the company. I spend 16 to 18 hours a day, 6 days a week, working on things that matter tremendously to the people I work with, but that don’t necessarily make the world a better place. (At least the educational kids’ games I designed and produced for 20 years enhanced a kids day and taught them important skills.) I have gotten fat, the result of both an injury and perhaps depression (which is a whole new realm to me), and when I look ahead on the course I’m currently on, I see only fog and haze.

Reading Nick’s blog and watching his videos (and finding another blog of a woman, Roz, who is rowing the Pacific Ocean after shedding “a house, a husband, a job, and a little red sports car”) touched off something in me and I realize that my compass is broken and my sails are flapping in the wind.

And I never even learned to sail! How messed up and convoluted is THAT?!

Do I learn to sail now (metaphorically speaking)? And if I do, where do set my heading (metaphorically speaking)?

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Margaret said...

Take small steps and try some different things--but a whole life overhaul? Nope, not a great idea. It's tempting at times though!! I wish I'd spent a lot more time in Europe.

Anon said...

Life is what you make it. If you don't like what yours is, it's within your power to make it right. You only get one shot at life. And it's short.

Seems like the weight issues were before the injury, and were even, perhaps, the cause of the injury, not the other way round.

Unknown said...

What an abrasive comment! Rude.

Let's take sailing lessons, Mom!

AstroYoga said...

definitely take a sailing class! not only will you get something out of it by learning something new, it will also give you the chance to know your mom's spirit on a much deeper level!

My husband and I learned how to sail in California, but we aren't very close to anything but a river in Germany. I think it is high time for us to get back to sailing a bit though. It is awesome.

The wisest piece of advice I got was during a lesson on a small dingy. My roommate was my first mate, and her husband (who owns a sailboat in SF bay) was on board. In a frantic moment when the wind picked up, I looked at him and said, "Where do I go? (with regard to which way I point the boat to the sails catch the wind)" He calmly replied, "well, that depends on where you want to go."

Snooker said...

I simply, strongly urge you to learn to sail. It will lighten the air in your lungs and give you wings you wouldn't have had otherwise.
Just do it... study theory over the winter and get thee in a class in Spring.

Goofball said...

you've raised 4 wonderful children, you are the heart of a fantastic family who is always welcoming other people in their heart.

...I don't think your compass is broken ;)

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