appreciation

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Over the past week, I had a couple of long text-message conversations with a friend across the country, trying to sort out how to navigate the intensity of dynamics that had developed so unexpectedly. I mean, I came to sail, not to do intense interpersonal processing! Which doesn’t mean I assumed that there would not be any, but I never doubted that we would work them out. As I grappled with the shock, my friend said, “You’re trying.” I replied, “That can be taken two different ways!” (I found a nautical application, too: “To “try” is when a vessel is hove to, to so trim her sails that she may gather headway and make something to the good.” A Manual of Boat and Yacht Sailing by Kemp and Smith.)
Captain has said it’s a matter of difference in the ways we show concern. I’ve thought it might be more in the ways we show gratitude. I have my “analysis,” as the Captain says. :-/ And she has hers. If we agreed on the nature of the problem we might have had more of a chance, but the initial upset has been ungraspable, or unspeakable, or otherwise uncomprehendable. Captain says crew/captain conflict is typical and common. Yes I’m sure but we are not! Neither of us is oridinary; my disappointment is keen. Which (true confessions) did not help her stress level, at all. 🙁
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As I continue to puzzle over this development, it seems to me we’re talking two sides of the same coin: appreciation (i.e., the perceived lack thereof) ~ for what the other is going through and what we believe we give. (“Belief,” writes Ursula Le Guin in The Telling, “is the wound that knowledge heals” (p. 190).)
I have learned tons.

  • I start to forget things and get spacey when my mind is full of thoughts unwritten.
  • I’m easy unless/until a suspicion of being unwanted or not accepted gets going (not new info, just evidence that vein of pain still runs deep) and (!)
  • I’ve got more bounce-back than I ever had before. 🙂
  • My coping strategy of poking fun directly at the sore spots (in myself, primarily but also interactively) can be interpreted by others as oppositional, even combative. 🙁
  • I really don’t need very much but that little bit is vital. :-/

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Tracking my own emotional ride these past two weeks, I realize I’m a bit like that lighthousekeeper who really wanted a son. First, prudence (of course my needing to finish that paper onboard was going to rub the wrong way), patience (we have plenty of time to let things sort themselves out without getting too worked up about them), hope (“we had a major breakthrough,” I texted a friend after the Captain told me she was feeling better), then despair. 🙁
Still working on “the little fox way over there.” (Or was it Hog?)
I learned more about sailing too, and my attraction to it. I like the role of doing the manual labor without devoting hours of intellectual labor to the comprehensive tasks of outfitting the boat and the constant challenge of navigation.
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I think I could grow into these skills, given favorable conditions to develop them at a natural, experiential pace. There’s just too much else going on in my mind/life with accumulated momentum and ambition for me to divert the kind of resources necessary to be assertive about sailing without tangible support and conducive opportunity.
The Captain told me, several days ago, that I sail better when I actually look at the sail – an activity she thinks I do (!) when the awning is down. If I did glance at the sail more often when it was easy to see, that didn’t mean I knew what I was looking at! Even when she would tell me what to look for, I still did not develop a sense of meaningfulness regarding what I saw. I have experienced this often in relation to the terminology and jargon of sailing (boatbuilders, types of boats, names of parts, etc) – I understand the words but do not comprehend their relevance. The evidence is in not making the connection between what’s been said and what’s happening or what one wants to make happen. I experience those moments (which occur in other, non-sailing contexts too) as if there’s a kind of fuzz between me and comprehension. I perceive something on the other side, but there is a lack of clarity, a welter of interference.
That I perceive the fuzziness at all is (actually!) an accomplishment to celebrate. 🙂 In the past, either I would assume I did understand (and be wrong), or I would assume the other person didn’t know what they were talking about (and be wrong). Neither attitude led to satisfactory relational outcomes. The fact that I now realize when I’m not clear on something is a measure of significant growth. Next, I need to get better at developing a range of strategies for interacting with others while I am in this ambiguous condition. My primary tendency is to just accept that this is where I am – probably an overreaction of passivity to counter the myriad of instances in the past in which I would attempt to exert control over confusing situations.
However, I suspect that relaxed stance might lead to more confusion or misunderstanding in the relationship, as it interacts, communicatively, with the other person(s) perceptions and strategies.
My peak achievement, on my last sailing day, was to manage both the tiller and the main sheet simultaneously. The Captain and I had perfected a tandem routine in which she would work the tiller and tell me when to pull in or let out the sheet, including how much or how far. Coming in to harbor from Rome Point that day, she was just unwell enough to give both tasks over to me. Uh oh, I thought, another test! 🙂 But this time – finally – I actually had a sense of what to do, how to combine the priority of keeping the sail full with adjustments in aim. Yippee!
Last but not least, I learned how to flemish the lines.
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