Overcoming Our Fears

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Since we first started sharing our sailing dreams with family and friends, we received mixed reviews about our decision…. and they were justified as we shared the same excitement, but with a few reservations.  Concerns like whether we could actually get out on the water (financially), would we endanger the kids more by taking this on (parenting issue), and could we actually live together peacefully in such a small space (just to name a few)! Perhaps since we have always done things a bit differently as parents, we chose to take on those risks and doubts and try our hand at something new,  and hopefully at the end of it all, come out better because of it.   So now that our maiden voyage is coming to a close, here are my reflections on the theories that got us here AND the seen/unseen outcomes (some planned, others we didn’t see coming at all).

THE THEORIES THAT GOT US HERE and THEIR OUTCOMES

In the world of educational theory, there is a term which describes the sweet spot you want to be aiming for with your students/ kiddos: Vygostky called it the zone of proximal development.   In a nutshell, its the idea that  you  “should provide just enough assistance so that students learn to complete the tasks independently and then provide an environment that enables students to do harder tasks than would otherwise be possible.”  And in this way, continue to push the student (our kids) past their comfort zones and open up new found abilities and/ knowledge.   I’m pretty certain Vygostky doesn’t have the copyright to this idea, it sure sounds like the goal of many parents I know (me included).  Each new skill I teach the kids is for them to gain independence, liberation and empower themselves to thrive in the world which isn’t always an easy place to live in.  And the benefits that come from stretching yourself (and your kids)?  Forbes magazine ran an article last year where they specified six benefits you gain when you attempt something that’s never been done before which includes an element of risk, they are– (and my analysis of our own sailing experience in regards to these benefits are listed under each)

1. You will let perfection go.
One of the greatest blessings I’ve learned from this trip is the need for forgiveness and the necessity of asking for it quickly.  So much of learning new things is admitting to the fact that you don’t know it all and that you frequently make mistakes, definitley sailing, but even more so as parents.  Working through your difficulties together (and showing the kids first hand) facilitates an understanding that relationships take a lot of nurture and care to maintain.

2. You will inspire others.
I think this one has been overwhelmingly correct, I have been amazed at the positive vibes we get from family and friends as well as others cruisers we meet.  Taking OUR dreams to the next step seems to help others start to think of theirs in an achievable light.

3. You will have no regrets at the end.

Here are our original goals from the start of the trip: 
*Travis to get his well earned sabbatical experience.
*See new things/ places, and meet new people.
*Not throw up too much.

We have definitely met these expectations, although life aboard a boat isn’t all eating bon bons my friends…  there was much work needed to make this experience a positive one.  Everyone chipped in and helped as much as their skill set allowed, but Travis definitely was the “go to” man in most of the situations that required problem solving skills for the boat and sailing.  The latter half of our trip did evolve into a different experience than we originally had hoped for, but looking back, this new route was one which we wouldn’t change for anything.

4. You will define your self authentically.
The definition of authentic is real, genuine, true (I did look it up).  I would hope that most people define themselves authentically and honestly at all points in their lives (regardless of comfort zones).  Determining who you are and what you are here on earth to accomplish is a core element of your self esteem.  I don’t agree that the checklist of accomplishments defines who you are so much as your actions which reflect who you have chosen to BE.  If my kids find themselves BEING more who they know God designed them to be from this trip, then yes, being goal oriented and hard working is one of those things which I know this experience has given us.  Seeing us accomplish this long term goal together has been one of those bitter sweet experiences for us.
   
5. You will gain control.
This is a bit tricky to detail, but yes, we did regain control of how we want the story of our lives to unveil.  We did control what we did and said to get here, what choices allowed us to see it happen, but we knew the rest was always up to God.  (you can read our backstory on the FAQ page)

On the flip side though, this was also the trip that I learned to follow.  About half way through our adventure, our primary navigation chart plotter wasn’t working.  The internal GPS unit wasn’t reading, so we had to make a few critical decisions which ultimately changed the path I wanted to take on this journey.  The control I wanted to feel was gone, but I ultimately knew God was in charge, our voyage wasn’t ending, it was just taking a different direction (ironic that my blog theme is “If you can’t change the direction of the wind, adjust your sails.” 🙂  God was leading us to the warm friendship of another sailing family, Isla Bonita, who we have enjoyed being with up until a few sad weeks ago.  Sailing bonds you together with friends and family in ways you can’t explain, but by giving up some control and learning to follow, we gained some life long friends. 

6. Your life experience will be fuller.
For Travis and myself, yes our life experience is definitely fuller.  I can now hold conversations about most anything sailing or ICW/ Bahamas related and not feel like I’m lost (and I’ve got some great stories to tell:).   Our single family sacrament meetings have given me insight into the kid’s testimonies and understanding of gospel principles in ways that I couldn’t have foreseen.  We’ve been able to share our own testimonies of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ with wonderful people who had never heard of it before.   And you will have to ask Travis about his own reflections, but for the life experiences which we expected to give the kids… seeing new places, learning new things, and meeting new people has definitely run its course.  Here are some of those unstructured outcomes which I never planned for… 🙂   I asked the kids what were some of the unexpected things they gained from his trip, and this is what they said:

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*Holding our breath and learning how to free dive (up to 30 feet!)
*Recognizing the many varieties of reef fish and wildlife
*Learning how to spear and fillet fish/ lobster that won’t kill/ hurt you and is legal
*Seeing how people live differently here in the Bahamas and learning their history
*Driving a dinghy, golf cart and wakeboarding
*Spending lots of time with friends
*Making cookies and giving them away to other families
*Sharing dinner meals with new sailing friends
*Trying new foods (whelk, lobster, conch, Bahamian recipes)
*Learning how to sail and communicate on the VHF
*Washing their own laundry
*Electrical amps and water conservation
*How to shower in salt water
*Swimming with dolphins

So ultimately yes, there were far more benefits we gained than what we sacrificed to get here.  We stretched ourselves beyond our comfort zones:  the outcomes were more intense and real than we could have imagined.   Thankfully now we’re to the point where we’re good with the idea of embracing those comfort zones again (atleast for a few weeks :)… which brings me to the last and similar theory I’d like to share… one called the Structure of Morale, and the one least expected in outcome (atleast not this soon)!

In Malcolm Gladwell’s book, David and Goliath, he repeats that the idea of desirable difficulty suggests that not all difficulties are negative (which we just agreed with from our experiences so far on our voyage).  He also quotes from Canadian psychiatrist J.T. MacCurdy on the Structure of Morale (created with information gathered after the German Blitz against London during WW2).  In it he states,

“We are all of us not merely liable to fear, we are also prone to be afraid of being afraid, and the conquering of fear produces exhilaration.…The contrast between the previous apprehension and the present relief and feeling of security promotes a self-confidence that is the very father and mother of courage.”

I’m sure you all remember in our early posts how freaked out we were just seeing sharks in the water below the boat.  Well, over the course of the past few months we’ve been able to conquer that fear (to a certain level).  We hooked up with another kid boat whose father had done several dives with sharks and had enough life experience that we felt comfortable testing the waters a bit more when our sleek predator friends came to investigate our snorkel spots.   So eventually we have moved from physically being in the water for about five seconds upon first sitings, to now being aware of what type of shark it is, how big it is, to what activities are we doing in the water that might encourage it to stay, and then staying around a bit longer when the shark doesn’t show much interest.  Of course, those are the times when that conquering of fear turns to exhilaration, relief and feeling of security when nothing negative occurs from sharing the same fifty cubic feet of water with a shark.   As an unexpected conquering of fear, I never would have guessed this was going to be one of them! 

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The last outcome I wanted to document was also our least expected.  The night before we were to say goodbye to our friends, we were surprised with a sit down formal presentation on what we (and other young sailing girls) have inspired our two eldest daughters to achieve.  They both had discussed, researched and had drawn up an action plan for the the two of them to sail on a one month journey unsupported on their own boat down the coast of Central America!  They had supply and provision lists, route distances and timing, and to top it all off, a boat on sailboats.com that was priced where they could achieve their dream.   What are two sets of parents to do when our children embrace the courage, self confidence and exhilaration to fulfill their own dream?  We will see what the next years bring as to the development of this crazy sailing adventure….(although if anyone could do it, these two girls have the willpower to see it through)! 

Borrowing from one of my now favorite books, I conclude with this, “You become the people you interact with… we teach our children good or bad stories, what is worth living for and what is worth dying for, what is worth pursuing and the dignity with which a you engage in your own narrative.”

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