Notes from an empath: Calm seas never

… made a good sailor. That’s how the saying goes. I grew up seeing these words every day in the kitchen, posted up by my mom on the wall next to the phone. The words were on a small card written underneath an illustration of a sailboat floating on calm waters. I have thought of these words many times in my life, finding reassurance in their simplicity.

This phrase was the inspiration for the tattoo on the inside of my right wrist. A few years ago, when a traumatic chapter in my life was coming to an end, I felt like having this sailboat inked onto my body would be a helpful reminder that I have the strength to navigate rough waters as and when they arise.


It feels like these words serve to recognize our powers of resistance and resilience. When we learn to maneuver through challenges, we resist succumbing to the storms we face. When we experience difficult times, we build the resilience to push through, knowing that the storms will eventually pass.


The thing is … it feels like we are in endless rough waters at the moment.


Recent news headlines crash like waves in a raging storm. Mass shootings in Georgia and Colorado. Stabbings in a library in Vancouver, Canada. The violent coup in Myanmar. The horrific killing of Sarah Everard. The attacks on peaceful protests. Poverty and inequality surge around the globe. The world is serving up chaos, and we are all still reeling from a year of the pandemic and the ongoing climate crisis.


It feels hard to find comfort in this phrase right now. For crying out loud -- actual rough waters caused the Ever Given ship to veer off course last week and block the Suez Canal, thereby disrupting pathways of major global trade. In some moments, I want to forget being a ‘good sailor’ and wish the world could have a dang minute of calm to catch its breath.


Calm seas may not make a good sailor, but constantly combatting rough waters depletes us too.


So, how do we renew our resilience and recharge our powers of resistance? I know that this can feel impossible in the frenzy and fury of stormy times. When my anxiety swells, I often feel a frantic need to swim harder and faster against the tide, desperate to grasp onto anything solid. However, we do need to seek out moments of calm.


Maybe that comes from a minute or two of some deep, restorative breathing. Maybe it comes from a short walk outside. Maybe it’s a couple of hours not looking at social media. Maybe it is sitting for a few minutes munching on buttered toast with jam (personal favourite). However, wherever and whenever we seek out stillness, we need to remember that it is a vital part of the voyage in the ever-changing seas.

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