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Boats, Bunnies and Bleeding Out.

Every time Jonas suggests we take the boat out, I have this funny reaction.


Pit of the stomach, leave my wallet in the car so they can identify my body-fear.

It doesn't make a lot of sense. I'm not afraid of the water, and I love to swim. I like being out on the water, but getting there creates a dilemma.

I seem to spend a lot of my time thinking about things I can't make sense of, so I dove into this puzzle.

When you reach a certain point in your life,

hopefully you have most of your basic stuff figured out. You go out of the house, buy food, feed yourself- maybe you're one of those magical people who manage to do this for your children too. Everything is relatively easy. Or safe. We learn ways to make things easier and safer.

I've created a very safe world for myself. And, I am a fear-based person. It sort of, sucks the big one. If you've met my mother, you will know I had little choice in the matter. As a child, I was shaped by her and her fear. And I KNOW, except for immediate family, very few of you will have met my mother. She lives in a different world, of her own design.

I learned to always expect the worst outcome, because the world was presented to me as an unsafe place. So the disasters I constantly find myself envisioning can be elaborate, unlikely and when you boil them down (in a coping mechanism kind of way), funny. These scenarios are not really restricted to boating, but for example I consider every person at a boat-launch watching and waiting for me to make a heinous error so they can all point and laugh while I bleed out. I picture myself heroically trying to tow my burly, unconscious partner to the shore of Keats Island using my rusty, twenty-five year old life-guarding memories. I picture us adrift, shriveled, too weak to fight off the sea birds pecking at our eyes... just a few meters away from shore.

I know putting in the time will help make me a more confident boater. But it is worthwhile for me to have realized meeting my edge in general, has meant recognizing my reluctance around the element of trust.

I have to trust that I can tie a knot so the boat doesn't float away leaving us stranded, trust that we've brought enough supplies for our time away from land, trust I can avoid rocks, not drive onto land, trust I will know exactly what to do and have planned perfectly... if the unexpected happens.

But it doesn't work like that. Not on land and not on water. So it's also trusting that my desire to learn and my basic competence is enough. It's very especially trusting the universe isn't conspiring to create unimaginable disasters at every turn. It's trusting that being happy isn't the magical equation for the sudden appearance of ominous clouds and loss of limbs.

There are really great reasons to be afraid of doing things you've never done before, especially on the ocean. I've realized it's not just the 'boating' that is freaking me out. I'm learning a new way to trust myself, and the world around me. That is why I'm afraid. Instead of relinquishing my survival to the next bravest person, or finding bravery in booze (my old friend who is ever willing to help a hand), I am accepting responsibility for myself and my partner and the boat he restored, from scratch, from a dirty old hull he bought for a couple hundred bucks, from a guy named Brad who pulled it out of the brambles at the back of his property in Langdale.

In some lines of thought, it's suggested we accept impermanence, embrace change and relinquish control in our lives. Those are big words and heavy duty goals. Heading out onto the ocean in a small craft demonstrates that for me. The ocean is vast, my mechanical skills few. (Although.. I was the one to notice the gas line was kinked, and saved us...that ONE time. Ahem.)

Overcoming, or at least recognizing my own thought patterns is one of my biggest challenges. I notice myself start solving problems before they exist. Every time I catch myself in a spiral, I become frustrated with myself. This? Again? I remind myself, the world is not inherently unsafe and I'm not alone. The boat probably won't sink and its unlikely Great Whites have migrated down to BC from Santa Cruz1. And even if they have, there are way too many sea lions around for them to be interested in me.2

1. Is it though?

2. Are there though?

I've been told by people that I am brave, for starting a small business, being self employed. While this seems like a dull reason to be brave to me, in those graceless pauses in conversation I stand in contradiction to myself.

Am I brave? Am I smart? Am I successful? Am I all those horrible things I tell myself I am, too? Are you? I am getting slightly better at standing in this contradiction. Maybe I'm just getting dotty, but I am finding comfort in accepting I can be both. Not choose sides. The ambiguity feels like, uh.. if you took both an upper and a downer at the same time. Like maybe coffee and cold medicine for the tamer readers. Writhy and awkward, seeking desperately to go one way or the other and putting a blanket over your head and screaming FUUUUCK!, for people more like me.

When people tell you something about yourself you don't believe to be true, what do you do? (please tell me your thoughts!)

I love being out on the water- once I get there. Every time, I get braver and learn more trust and even a few mechanical/navigational/ fisherly things. It's a great spot for me to do my thinking about things that don't make sense. I decided to write this because it has been important to recognize and accept this side of myself. And because it's important for us all to really, truly begin navigating life in every moment, knowing not everyone is just like you, and everyone is not how they appear- all the time.

I deeply envy and admire the fearless. Even if they are doing really dumb (imo) things. But despite wishing many times to be more predator-ish, I identify more often with prey- a flat eared bunny, a rearing horse or just a small and timid, resourceful little mouse.


rough copy

©2018 by Amber Stoby