Sailing into the Unknown

Art by Foster Turtle
The Heritage Schooner, art by Foster Turtle

We sailed for a week. Island after island welcomed our boat, their shorelines waving to the lines of water we sent their way. It was the summer of 2018. My husband and I were aboard the Heritage Schooner, a hand built 95-foot historic vessel. I had everything I needed. Layers of clothes, and a copy of Traveling with Pomegranates

I felt adrift in my life. Earlier that year, my husband and I had walked alongside our teenage daughter’s downward health spiral. Over months of watching her deteriorate, I became more listless, afraid, and unsure of myself. My relationship with my daughter was strained after months of doctors and dead ends. She planned to leave for college in a week. I felt a mixture of relief and dread. When I carried Traveling with Pomegranates aboard the boat that summer, I was stunned to learn that the book was about Sue Monk Kidd’s own journey transitioning into empty nest, as well as an effort to mend the relationship with her own daughter that had become distant. I had read some of her earlier works and liked them. But this time, I found solace in the pages of this book that became my traveling companion. 

Somewhere along the way, I lost my ability to write. When I started this blog several years ago, it felt like a natural part of me. Each post came easily, and I was delighted to share the experience of gratitude with all of my readers. But after my mother died, I could not write without tremendous effort and anxiety. I worked with several therapists and tried EMDR as an attempt to jump-start the process again. But, to no avail. 

But then, we set sail. The land fell away in the distance, land that had somehow come to represent the burden of having to carry the world everywhere all the time. I started to ease my grip on the world, bobbing this way and that to the rhythms of the water, listening to the slosh-sloshing sea slapping the sides. The ocean comforted me in a way I had not experienced. This was more than a vacation. I was setting sail from the port of my old life as a home-maker, adventuring into the unknown, a voyage that would require going the most important destination of all: deep inside myself.

“We cannot fill up our emptiness with objects, possessions, or people. We have to go deeper into the emptiness. Then we will find beneath nothingness the flame of love waiting for us.” John O’Dononhue

During the first full day of sailing, I began to meet the crew and other passengers. We shared hours amid quiet conversations taking in the beauty of the Maine coastal islands. Our vessel cut through the cold, fresh sea air leaving the taste of salt on our lips. Snuggled up in an oversized hooded sweatshirt, I felt myself begin to unravel, let go, and open to the aliveness of each moment. Plus, I had a good nap.

And then… the dream…

I was about to embark on some sort of expedition, and I was in a hurry to be on my way. I was carrying my dad’s old 1950’s Underwood typewriter. Very heavy thing to lug around. I stepped outside while lugging the bulky typewriter. About halfway up the sidewalk, I looked down at my feet. No shoes. I was stunned. I set down the hefty typewriter and went back inside. I opened a closet door to discover a sizable pile of shoes. I searched desperately for several minutes, but then discovered that not one of the shoes had a match. 

And then there was a dream interpreter. Seriously. I had a vivid dream on the boat, and there waiting for me when I awoke was a dream interpreter.

Out of about thirty passengers and crew on the Heritage Schooner, one of them happened to be a Jungian Analyst from California that specialized in dream interpretation. She was not surprised that I had experience such a vivid dream the night before. After all, we were sailing on an old ship on an ancient ocean that represents the collective unconscious. We were dots in a huge sea. She assured me that all that is needed is to be still and allow whatever comes forth from the sea. 

Be still and allow whatever comes.

Her advice was to “Be as gentle with myself as a mother holding her baby. Just be curious.” She then smiled and shared that she could not tell me the exact meaning of the dream, but there were some telling archetypal images. The old typewriter could represent old parental typing, rules, and roles I still carry. 

Be still and allow whatever comes.

It may have something to do with trying to leave the stuff from my past behind. 

Be still and allow whatever comes.

And the shoes? I need shoes for my journey. But not just any pair of shoes. I need the right shoes. However, I have not found a match pair, not just yet. The dream appears to be some kind of “in-between space.” I am torn. I am in a hurry to move forward and cannot move until I find the right shoes. As I set down the typewriter in the dream, it appears that I am beginning to set down the old rules and roles as I become aware of them.

The dream offers a gift. It reflects my sense of wanting to hurry forward without truly understanding the impact of my past or the conditioning underneath my motivations. I was being invited to pause, become aware, and wait. The dream held a promise that there was another shoe, as well as the possibility that I could continue on my journey when the time was right. 

Be still and allow whatever comes. Which is what I did. Thus, fast forward now to 2021. 

Three years have gone by since I sailed the Atlantic Ocean on the Heritage Schooner. Three years of being still, waiting, and watching. I wrote one time at the beginning of the pandemic, but then decided to wait again. 

Over the past three years I have sojourned deep within myself, met incredible healers, and learned to walk directly into my fears. I have experienced overwhelming bouts of terror as well as beautiful moments of healing. The Heritage Schooner was only the beginning of a long-awaited adventure.

But then, three weeks ago, I had another dream. 

I was trying to get out of a large building. All the exits were blocked. I found myself cutting through office spaces and closets until I finally found my way outside. Once outside, I could not find my car, and somehow came to the realization that I had left it a few miles away. “The dream” was kind to me, conveniently handing me a bus schedule. Thank you, dream. But still, I was a little frazzled, unfamiliar with the bus routes. 

But then it hit me: The dream was showing me something. In order to get where I want to go, I am going to have to traverse paths that are unfamiliar and new. 

Be still and allow whatever comes.

The old familiar paths will not cut it anymore. 

Be still and allow whatever comes.

At the end of the dream, a stranger pointed to a door and inquired, “Is that your shoe?” I glanced over at an Ugg boot hanging over the doorknob. I looked back at the person and replied with a smile, “Yes, it is. I just found my other shoe.”

2 thoughts on “Sailing into the Unknown”

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