Posted by: First Mate | September 28, 2010

Lessons from First Grade

Many of us get a little seasick every now and again but if you love the water, you learn to use whatever is available to manage the experience.  This past weekend on the water we tried out our new gennaker sock in calm winds and rolling seas.  Running around dealing with basic boat duties, I was suddenly clammy and nauseous.  I slipped a Zentrip on my tongue, grabbed the “margarita bucket,” a paper towel and moved out to watch the horizon.

The Captain then called out to me to do something. With a brave face and a skip (tumble?) to the front of the boat, I listened and obeyed: grabbed the sheet, put in the blocks, executed tasks and focused.  Somehow I got through my difficult moments and moved on to enjoy the group process of hoisting and jibing the gennaker a few times. The water still had some funky rolls and I reviewed my clinical status:

  • Did I have a second glass of wine last night?  Um, yep
  • Am I over-tired? Always
  • Healthy breakfast?  Yes

After a while, I was relaxed in the cockpit and my 6-year-old was a little flushed and clammy.  Instinctively, she knows to lie down on deck and go to sleep.  Ah, the luxury of being 6, right?  I gave her a ginger ale – soda cures everything except diabetes and obesity.

As I got ready to prepare lunch, I turned on the Genset generator.  As I primed the pump, the rank smell of diesel filled the air in the cockpit.  Ruby started to cry about the smell and how she was going to be sick.  I grabbed the “margarita bucket,” paper towel and led her to the bow of the boat where fresh air is always abundant and she wouldn’t have to be sick in front of the rest of the crew.

As she was throwing up and I was gently stroking her forehead she said to me “Mom, sometimes you just have to let things go.”  As my Captain says, there is a lot of wisdom in that little heart of hers.  Applying that lesson will really help me in life – honestly, “should have, would have, could have is what keeps every therapist in business.”   By dwelling in our past, we are left at a standstill.  By not focusing on the now, we can not accurately predict or implement our next move.  You don’t trim a sail in the past or the future you do it when it luffs until the luff is just breaking so the wind is too far aft to flow around the sail.  As a trimmer you watch for the moment, in life I often get caught in the “If I had only..” scenario.  Ruby taught me a little lesson about life via ginger ale and a recycled plastic margarita bucket: don’t look back – it is a waste of time.

Later, Ruby said “I wish this day never happened.” In an effort to ease the situation, I said “You know you love the boat and the ocean, this is only one time, tomorrow will be better.”  The last part being a lesson I learned from a fabulous children’s book:  Lily\’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes.  She looked out across the water and as she spoke demonstrated two hula style hand motions, “Mrs Tabori says we need to go with the flow and let things roll off our backs.”  Important lessons on many levels from a first grade teacher and a brave 6-year-old in the middle of the Pacific.

Interesting that sailing terms include: about, adrift, aloft, ease, anchor, batten, cast off, trim, watch and reach, all of these terms have multiple meanings that can be applied in life as well.  I wonder if William Glasser, MD, the founder of reality therapy was a sailor?  According to Wikipedia: Reality therapy is more than a counseling technique. Reality therapy is a problem solving method that works well with people who are experiencing problems they want help solving, as well as those who are having problems and appear to not want any assistance. Reality therapy also provides an excellent model for helping individuals solve their own problems objectively and serves as the ideal questioning series during coaching sessions. I follow the Sheldon school of thought from Big Bang Theory in that “the social sciences are generally hokum,” and feel I should follow the lessons of my 6-year-old and her instructors henceforth.


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