As the weeks fly by since my return from sea, the details of my voyage are sadly starting to blend together. It’s a bit disconcerting how fast the memories are fading into a snapshot. Granted, it is a larger than life and oh-so vivid snapshot that is forever emblazoned on my brain, but from where I sit now in my comfy backyard sipping on a glass of red, it is easy to start romanticizing and capsulizing the whole experience. My voyage is surely deserving of some romanticization (is that even a word?), but it is more so deserving of being memorialized with radical honesty. Even though my sail across the Pacific transcends most things in my life, I feel the same about it as I do all of my life’s experiences: it would be nothing without all of its peaks and valleys. In my opinion, the valleys of any experience seem to produce the most gems and it is in those challenging and dark moments that I find my deepest transformation. Life is alchemy if I allow it to be so. This trip was certainly no exception and I am finding out more each day just to what extent I have been and continue to be transformed.
I cannot tell you how many people told me before I left things like “you will be different when you get back”, and “this trip is going to change you”. Because I agreed, (I mean, how could I not return a changed woman after over 2 weeks alone at sea?), I kept searching for the sure to be monumental change in myself as the days ticked away out there. I have kept searching for it after landfall…partially in order to be able to answer all of the eager questions to that effect. Was I changed? Am I somehow more evolved or confident as a result of this epic trip? Well, although I certainly feel something major has shifted, and continues to shift in me, to be honest I don’t feel that different. What I do feel, after much soul searching however, is a deeper sense of who I already knew myself to be. Maybe that IS what they meant by different, either way, it certainly is a powerful revelation for me.
As I have mentioned many times, my whole trip except for a few days was very rough. I think there was a part of me that was minimizing or doubting that fact based on my lack of experience with such things. I would hear my Dad’s and brother’s tales of their crossings…. relaxing book reading sessions on the foredeck, or peaceful sunset happy hours in the cockpit… echoing in my brain as I clung on to various handholds on my heaving vessel under stormy skies. No one said anything about being tossed about violently while barreling along in 25-30 knot winds, where trying to imbibe a sip of water let alone wine in the cockpit would be a challenge. Still, I rolled with it thinking that maybe I had heard wrong….or more accurately, maybe this really wasn’t so rough after all. Thankfully I didn’t have to rely on my videos to validate anything, because they make my trip look like a walk in the park (I still don’t get why). Upon my arrival to Hanalei, the magnitude of the atypical conditions was promptly corroborated by two 5-time veterans of this race. One said, “you sure picked the worst year ever to do this race”, and they each said to me separately that it was the roughest trip they have ever had. Bittersweet, but the good news to me was the confirmation that I was not losing my marbles or exaggerating the intensity of what I just went through in my mind….PHEW! When I look back on it, I am not sure how I ever questioned myself, because there really was no respite from Haunani’s violent movement for most of my trip. We rarely saw wind under 20 knots (it was more like 27-35 most of the time).
When I decided to join this race, I was acutely aware of the fact that I was a greenhorn. I had no offshore experience, not even on a crewed trip. At that point, my longest and roughest trip had been a sail with my dad from Maui to Hawaii Island in 1985. In fact until I arrived in the SF bay, I had only sailed in wind over 20 knots a handful of times, most of which were in the last year. To be honest, I was probably more tuned into what I lacked in experience than I should have been, to the point of being really tough on myself (one of my bad habits) and feeling like I had to justify my choice to pursue this goal to the more experienced sailors in my life. At the same time, however, I also had a deep sense of the fact that I would be able to handle it. I had my fears of course, but as I have said before, I knew that “it was in me”. This deep knowing is what I believe has been deeply strengthened and elevated above the doubts as a result of my journey, because what I found out out there in the “watery disk”, is that exactly what I needed is indeed in me…and then some.
What I am about to share is hard for me to talk about, because of my aversion to sounding cocky, aka: playing big, but I think it is important. I think that so many of us, especially women, downplay our innate strengths as a result of societal conditioning and consequential bad habits. I am certainly guilty of this. I can say now that the (at first unknown) underlying reason for setting out on this journey was to unravel this habit. I have been called out many times for playing small, as well as for being critical of myself and downplaying my strengths. One of the last things Thomas said to me before I left was “ your capabilities are far beyond what you think they are Margie”. I heard various versions of the same thing from people close to me as I prepared to leave. I didn’t fully take it in because it was more comfortable to be invested in some deep-rooted negative belief (that could oddly co-exist with my innate confidence). So here is the nugget that I have come away with and I believe I finally truly understand. Tears actually come to my eyes as I write this. My investment in playing small and the fact that it can co-exist with my innate confidence is all because of a deep fear of how people might react if I rise into the biggest version of myself. I have craved the ability to step into my power and confidence and have strived dilligently for it over the years, all the while undermining it with aforementioned stupid habit. Well, maybe it’s not totally stupid because I am sure it served to protect me on some level as a kid or adolescent, but as I approach the mid century mark, I see it for what it is: complete and utter bullshit! It serves no one, least of all me. My time at sea has pulled this into sharp focus and has made me realize something huge: The reason I like to sail alone is that I do not have to play small. I knew I could not accomplish this feat of sailing to Hawaii by doing so, even though I clung fiercely to it until the moment I pulled away from the dock. And when I am around others, especially those I perceive to know more than me or have more experience than me, I all too easily step away from my own power and into that small place. When I am alone, I do no such thing. My wish for myself is to be able to integrate these two things and live my daily life the way I lived at sea, where I felt safe and entitled to be the full version of myself. No apologies, no explanations, no rationalizations, no tiptoeing.....just full-on unadulterated me.
What I saw clearly out there was a strong and capable woman, who despite some moaning and groaning didn’t get rattled by much. People keep asking me if I was scared out there, and my honest answer is no. I wasn’t, and it wasn’t because there did not exist scary things, it was because I knew in my guts that I could handle it all. There are people who have questioned my abilities and expertise, but at the end of the day, I knew, and then just to be sure, proved it to myself, that I could take care of business out there. Of course I had support and needed encouragement sometimes. Its like life….just because I allow myself to be vulnerable and ask for help or support, does not mean I am weak or incapable. In fact I think asking for help is one of the bravest things we can do. Admitting our human-ness and embracing vulnerability is a huge strength. My tendency to do so is often mistaken for weakness, but as I sailed alone out there in the great blue, I felt no weakness….only wholeness. I realize that I need to now embody that wholeness in my daily life. I think that the reason people might mistake my vulnerability for weakness at times is because I allow it, and even play into it. My commitment to myself from now on is to STOP IT (seriously, watch this video...its hilarious!). I hope anyone else who struggles with this will join me. We are doing a disservice to the world by not living from and sharing the full version of who we are. I believe that as a result of this voyage, this is finally shifting in me. If by sharing my struggles and successes with this huge change, I can offer even a morsel of inspiration for even one other person to step into the glory of themselves, I will be so happy. We can all keep reminding each other!! Deal?
**If you want to read more about the power of vulnerability, please do yourself a favor and check out any and all work by one of my heroes, Brene’ Brown. Here are a few links:
Her TED talk on the topic that went viral
She has written many books on the topic, but my favorite is Daring Greatly