Friday, August 27, 2010

Sailing, Butterflies and the Pursuit of Happiness

I looked out over Point Hudson Harbor and watched the sailboats skim across the ocean. The sun was unusually bright, but a cool and gentle breeze wafted across the water creating an ideal temperature. It was a perfect day.

As I watched the sailboats it reminded me of joyful butterflies flitting about in a graceful dance.

Years ago I had the romantic notion that sailing would be great fun. My only experience had been aboard a small Hobie Cat off Waikiki beach. My then-husband, John, manned the little sails. My job was to lean to one side or the other, and not fall overboard. The only equipment we needed was a life jacket (which the rental company supplied.) This nautical adventure was great fun.

Years later I divorced John and remarried. My new spouse, CB, loves the water and entered our partnership with a 22-foot Catalina sailboat. We live close to a lake (and yes there is water in Arizona) but unfortunately CB’s boat was parked in dry storage at Lake Pleasant in Peoria, Arizona - nearly an hour’s drive away.

Sailing was not a one-time event for CB. We spent numerous weekends taking the 60 mile (one way) trek to the boat, untying the covers, loading up the equipment we would need, hooking up the vessel to the trailer hitch and dunking the little Catalina into the water. This process usually took an hour. That may not seem like much, but when it’s hot, it’s not a lot of fun. My job was to back the truck into the water, wait for CB’s thumb’s up that the boat was launched, then drive the truck and boat trailer back to the parking lot, then walk back to the dock and climb aboard the boat.

Once I was aboard our little sloop, I could enjoy the desert scenery, glimpse wild donkeys and their babies, glimpse fish jumping out of the water and wave to other sailors as they caught a breeze and sailed across the man-made lake.

However, I soon learned that sailing is not a spectator sport. CB did most of the work, but I still had some duties. Sailors have to be vigilant as you are always adjusting the sails to catch the proper amount of wind. There is no cruise control. You also have to watch out for hazards, such as trash, other boaters or a submerged rock or tree. I had the mistaken belief you just adjusted your sail now and again and flitted your way across the water. When you were done, you parked your little boat and went merrily on your way – like parking your car in a parking lot.

That is sooooo not true. There is cleaning, schlepping gear, getting the boat back on the trailer (I hate getting cold and wet, so even when it’s 100 degrees I prefer using lines to corral the vessel so I can stay dry) not to mention all the preparation done in reverse when the sailing day is done.

Sailing may be enjoyable, but it IS a lot of work. The same is true in life. Sailing (and probably the life of a butterfly for that matter) may look carefree and effortless, but it’s not. Happiness is not something you grab like the brass ring on a merry go round. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a brass ring on a merry-go-round. No doubt lawsuits and liability issues would prevent any carousel owner from installing one. But I digress.

The point I’m trying to make is life, work, relationships, and even the pursuit of happiness, is something you have to work at. The same is true of erasing negativity. My co-author, Jackie and I firmly believe erasing negativity is a crucial step in achieving happiness.

The following is a snippet from my book, Erase Negativity and Embrace the Magic Within.

“It is impossible to go through life without encountering difficulties. From a baby’s first cry to the last dying breath, the human experience involves a series of struggles. While encountering challenges is an inherent part of life, it is not so much the problems, but the attitude you take while facing these difficulties that shapes how you view the world.

It would make sense that an energetic and optimistic approach to life would produce better results, but that is easier said than done. An infant who is lovingly welcomed into a kind and caring family is more likely to receive positive messages than a baby who is born into a home where the environment is critical and angry. While there may be exceptions, by and large, you are the sum of your experiences, and generally this is the determining factor of whether you develop a positive or negative mindset.

If it were simply a matter of flipping a switch to receive a positive or negative attitude, most folks would opt for former. Unfortunately, many of us grew up in a negative environment, or suffered physical or emotional trauma that tainted our outlook. Bit by bit, negativity became a way of coping with life. Many pessimistic individuals claim that while a negative outlook may provide fewer positive results, it also protects them from disappointment. Unfortunately, negativity is more like a cancer than a protective shield. It starts small, and may seem innocent enough at first, but if not kept in check the negative mindset can spread and wreck havoc in all aspects of life.

“I’m not negative,” you may say to yourself (or out loud). “I’m just calling it as I see it.” Maybe so, but, if your approach has resulted in some depressing results and evolved into a downright unhappy life, perhaps it’s time to consider a new, happier perspective.

The approach to erasing negativity is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. Like anything worth having in life, it is going to take work. However, if you read the material in the book, follow the exercises, vow to never give up on yourself and stay with the program long enough to see it really start to work, you will see positive change in your life.”

Not long ago CB sold the boat. I was initially relieved, but I know there will be a bigger boat in our future. Our adventures on the lake will be traded for coastal cruising along the Pacific Coast.

Watching those sailboats off Point Hudson made me smile. It looked like effortless fun, but I know better. The same is true in life.

It takes work to erase negativity and embrace the magic within. But isn’t your happiness worth the effort? In conclusion I would like to remind you that life is not meant to be a painful austerity. Life is meant to be enjoyed. But my fellow navigators of life, that doesn’t mean that it will always be smooth sailing.

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