Six months in a leaky boat

Last week I wrote about some of my experiences regarding building community and the importance of relationships when it comes to the process of change. Transformation is a continual process, where when once you reach the end of something, and either celebrated or grieved, and then recognize that you are on the cusp of something new. Thus we are continually in flux, which means so are those relationships.

For example, any one of us at any given time are perhaps standing on the shore of an island looking across at a distant shore, and getting ready to get into a boat and start our journey. Once we have gathered all our necessary tools and provisions, we look around and sometimes invite others into our boat because we recognize that we might need help to help us row to the other shore. Certainly we sometimes undertake a solo journey, but for the most part our efforts are communal and buoyed by the relationships we have. Finally, before we get in our boat, we make sure it is sound, solid, and ready for the anticipated rough and stormy waters ahead. And as we row, we constantly measure, assess, and evaluate the progress of our journey, adjusting to a new course if necessary, and quite possibly having to row back to the first shore, but doing so knowing that transformation is a process, not a destination.

But here is something we often forget: we are in someone else's boat too.

That's right. We might be sitting in someone else's boat. And that might not be where we need to be.

Just as we look around and constantly re-evaluate our journey and hold ourselves accountable, we must be willing to recognize that maybe we've gotten into the wrong boat. That despite our best intentions and best efforts, we are not helping but hindering the person whose boat we are in. And while the person we are with looks to the shore off in the horizon, we look down and notice that we are sitting in a leaky boat. And it's time to get out of the boat.

Now because we don't like to be seen as abandoning the person who we are trying to support we do any number of things while they row, we:

  • try to bail out the water, and despite the futility of this because no matter how many handfuls of water we scoop out there is another handful of water waiting for us;
  • try to patch the leak with whatever we happen to have on hand, such as our hands, duct tape, gum. But patching one leak is a temporary solution, especially when the tools we have are inadequate; and all the time we
  • try to communicate to the person rowing that we are now bringing on water and it might be time to abandon the boat. 
Okay. So we've done all those things, yet the boat is sinking. Fast. For some of us (including myself), it's in our nature to try to "fix" things (people, circumstances, jobs) even when it isn't our "job" or responsibility to fix anything, let alone another person. In addition, because we don't want to be seen by others as a failure, or have the person we are with think we are selfish, we continue to sit in the boat, water now up to our ankles, and try to figure out a solution to stop the boat from sinking. 

Here's the simple truth: you can only be accountable for yourself. This means recognizing that the person you are in the boat with is travelling on their journey. And your part in their journey is over. You shouldn't have to spend six months in a leaky boat to recognize it. So get out of the boat. With as much grace and dignity as possible, get out of the boat.

Let me repeat that. Get. Out. Of. The. Boat.

As said last week, we are all creative, resourceful, and whole. We don't intentionally want to impede the journey of the person with whom we are traveling, but perhaps we do without knowing it. Being kind, compassionate, and caring to others is important. And I think all of that is a positive. But sometimes it actually isn't. Because it stops the person with whom you are sharing a boat do anything for themselves. Because you are doing it for them. Knowing myself as well as I do, not only am I bailing out the boat, but I've probably been navigating and rowing as well. And it's not my boat. My generosity while meant in a caring way isn't received as such. In fact, that's probably what created the leaks in the first place. Because we fail to let the person whose boat it is be who they are supposed to be. Which is why we need to get out of the boat. 

Here's another difficult truth. We are often afraid to get out of the boat because we feel if we do then the person with whom we are travelling will not notice we have left the boat. Sadly, this happens. We stay too long because we value the person, job, circumstance, more than we value ourselves. After all, we've invested emotional time, effort, and energy. We want to believe that all of that had importance and worth. But sometimes it just...doesn't. And we don't want to admit that while we were in their boat doing everything we could to help them...they didn't notice we were there in the first place. Hey, they didn't even notice the boat was leaking! Again, which reminds us, we need to get out of the boat. 

Each and every one of us are in our own and someone else's boat. Ask yourself this: 
  • who is in my boat? Have I listened to them when they've told me there is a leak? 
  • Whose boat am I sitting in? Do they recognize, acknowledge, or value my contribution? 
  • Do I show them or let them know that I value their contribution? 
  • Do I treat their contribution to my journey with respect and care? Their time is valuable and they are sharing it with me, so have I said thank you? 
  • Have they said thank you to me? 
  • If they tell me something, even something I don't want to hear, do I listen and acknowledge their opinion? And vice versa of course. 
If they have to leave my boat, because I have failed to do all that, I shouldn't be angry or disappointed. Just as I don't want them to be angry and disappointed in me because I have left their boat. Because I have to leave their boat. To be able to continue my own journey, I have to be in a boat without leaks. We should all be thankful they we were able to share part of a journey together, wish each other all the best, and look forward, not back. 

Most of all we should all give ourselves grace. An ending is a loss. You may need time to grieve the end of that relationship, job, or circumstance. After all you willingly got into the boat and were probably reluctant to get out of the boat. Even though it was the right, best thing to do. 

Transformation is a journey, not a destination. We all have to be prepared to get our feet wet along the way. Besides:

"You cannot help men permanently 
by doing for them 
what they could and should 
do for themselves." 

1 comment:

  1. Great post Myrdin, I am very grateful that I have the opportunity to learn from great women, you being one of them. Thank you! I am reading your post and I know that I am very grateful of my recovery. When I look back I know that miracles happen and I am humbly for friends that help me and care for me.Love you my friend and wish you the best time in DC.