Rock with the Boat

ChangeAnother year is in the books. I blinked and 2015 was gone. Just like that. It occurred to me not long before the clock struck midnight just how eventful a year it was for our household. Some of the milestones our family experienced were the first of four high school graduations for our kids, the third of four driver’s licenses and the first bird leaving the nest for college away from home. If you have kids, you understand the excitement, as well as the emotional pings, that accompany the changes to how life looks as time moves along.

Something is always in flux around here. Change is a subject that each of us must make peace with as long as we continue to draw breath. This topic challenges and fascinates me. In my mind, change means opportunities for growth. I am fortunate to have learned over the years the importance of rolling with change. It has not been easy for me to accept and embrace life when changes are afoot.

My grandfather loved boats. He taught me how to drive a boat and the time I spent with him helped foster my love of all water related things. I remember going out on his boat to fish in Michigan quite often as a kid and have many fond memories of times with him out on the water. Except once. The first time I remember going out on his boat he taught me something I have never forgotten.

The lake had a pretty decent chop on it that day and I was hesitant and a little afraid of the rocking boat. I was concerned that I would be sea sick or fall in the water. He told me once I got out there that it would be fine if I remembered to just rock with the boat. I was not buying it and thought he was just trying to get me to stop talking long enough to get the boat on the trailer and get going.

On the way to the launch, I had time to figure out what he was trying to say and still was not convinced. Sure enough, after we got out on the boat I was so tense and fighting every wave that hit the hull. It hurt my insides each time the boat bumped on the chop. He saw I was struggling and put his hand on my shoulder and told me to stop fighting the waves. Rock with the boat. I needed to relax so that I could enjoy the ride, even if it was bumpy. When I stopped fighting the waves and the boat motion I actually understood what he tried to tell me before we left. On that day, my love of boats and appreciation for my grandfather’s wisdom was anchored.

Hardly a day goes by without reminders of this simple life lesson from my lake faring grandpa/boat captain. When changes happen waves kick up. We have a choice to make in those moments. Either we can choose to fight the motion of the ocean and become exhausted and sick or we can roll with the waves and enjoy the ride. In life, there is always wind ready to kick up the seas without warning or notice. Sure, some changes allow for some time to prepare in advance, but most are unexpected.

Our first instinct is often to tense up and brace ourselves when change happens. I used to watch the A-Team many moons ago and remember that Mr. T never got hurt when the team suffered car, plane or any other vehicle related mishaps because he was asleep and unaware of the need to brace himself. We could learn a lot from him. I am guessing that most of us do not have the luxury of sleeping through the shifts that happen in our daily lives. Becoming aware of how we react to change and learning how to ride out the bumps is an important ingredient in the recipe for peace.

For me, I have learned that resistance to change is a sign that fear is rolling around the deck of my boat just looking to stir up trouble. It is up to me to politely decline the invitation and throttle up the motor and slice through the waves. Trusting in the opportunity that can result when things change is my daily goal.

I know that many changes may be on the horizon for myself and our family. I am receiving great feedback from readers so far about my memoir. This is appreciated and a little unexpected if I’m being honest. My book Switching Teams is not just a memoir about becoming a lesbian. My intent was always to focus on the universal theme of change and how it played out in my life in the past five years. It is not a how to become a lesbian handbook, porn, or an instruction manual for converting straight people to the lifestyle, as some assume when they see the words “coming out” in the title. Rather it is my unique perspective about how similar we all are regardless of our circumstances, gender or sexual orientation.

I believe that our life experiences are like individual railway cars. Some have graffiti sprayed on the sides and may be dirty and others may look nicer than others but they each tell their own story and have a distinct feel. In my mind, the miles and miles of track our trains roll along is called change. Peace and love are found in the scenery that passes by as our trains chug along.

I know it sounds hokey, but this visual helps me to stay grounded and more ready to accept changes as they come, both good and bad. I hope that this year will bring more good changes than bad to each of us and that we will be willing to offer one another a loving hand as we navigate 2016.