Sailing lessons

When T and I were preparing for our move to Florida last month, we spent so many days organizing, sorting and packing. The hours of work and piles of stuff seemed endless, and there were so many  things we had accumulated over three years of marriage that had never been used or appreciated.   So, as we made our way south, I made a promise to myself to spend the next year diligently trying to live more simply and be less attached to my stuff. 

Yesterday, I was forced to put my money where my mouth was. T’s family is visiting this week and we chartered a sailboat as a Father’s Day gift for his dad. The moment of truth came when I climbed onto the boat…and my iPhone did not come with me. Instead, it tumbled out of my hand and into the water; gone, ruined and without hope of retrieval.

As you might imagine, my first thought was to throw myself my very own pity party. I had, after all, just lost one of my most cherished things and it felt as though an extension of my hand had gone missing. As we set sail, I made a mental list of all the terrible consequences that would result: no email, missed messages, lost photos.

And then, I looked up.

I was sailing. On a beautiful boat, across a beautiful ocean with a beautiful family. The view, the breeze, the feeling of floating effortlessly across the water…all of it was breathtaking, and I was sulking about a very replaceable piece of technology? It suddenly felt quite ridiculous and shallow.

That’s when I remembered the promise I’d made a month ago. I want to use the things and spaces in my life to connect to and forge relationships with those around me. In that moment, I was doing the exact opposite, allowing an object to keep me from truly enjoying the experience right in front of me.

We all fall into that trap, of course. So often, we get caught up in shopping for, purchasing and caring about things that we forget about the truer, richer purpose God has placed in our lives: to connect with and care for people. We say that having more things—more technology—helps us to do more, know more, connect more. All the while, we know that, in fact, unplugging and distancing ourselves from those devices is what brings true, authentic connection.

But there’s a difference between knowing these truths and putting them into action. And sometimes, it takes a phone at the bottom of the ocean to remind us that the emails can wait and the world won’t come crashing down if a couple of text messages go unreturned. Granted, losing a phone isn’t a wake-up up call I hope to repeat anytime soon (filing a claim for a lost device is less than pleasant). But it was one that I needed in that moment.

For the rest of the trip, I focused on truly seeing and listening and being present. As it turns out, the lack of fancy, shiny technology is the very thing that makes sailing so captivating and refreshing. When the wind and the sails are the only factors determining your course, it’s easy to notice and appreciate subtle changes and details otherwise missed. When there’s only ocean for as far as the eye can see, it becomes automatic to find joy in those who are on the boat. In seeing this, I was reminded that when we have the opportunity to live in a moment of simplicity and stillness, we shouldn’t think twice about taking it. And that’s a sailing lesson I won’t soon forget!

Until next time,

M

Here are just a few photos from our day at sea. If you’ve never seen the ocean from the bow of a sailboat, add it to your bucket list…and leave your phone at home!

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