Book Excerpts Part 6: We Can Change Our Stories

Following on from my last blog post, I am continuing the series of offcuts from my forthcoming book, “Stop Drifting, Start Rowing: One Woman’s Search for Happiness and Meaning Alone on the Pacific”, due to be published on October 15th this year. Please drop me a message if you would like an email reminder when the book becomes available.

Part 6…..

 

Bearded adventurer

I used to believe that I could never be an adventurer. Adventurers were almost a different species, those steely-eyed, square-jawed bearded men who sailed around the world, conquered mountains and trekked to north and south poles. I was short, unathletic, and not particularly brave.

Then one day my story changed. I met a woman who had rowed across the Atlantic Ocean, completing it alone because her six-foot-five, athletic husband was unable to cope psychologically with ocean life and had to be lifted from the boat just two weeks into the crossing. This woman was no taller than I was. Suddenly it dawned on me that the size of my physique mattered less than the size of my self-belief.

I have discovered over the past few years that I am capable of so much more than I had previously imagined. I discovered a powerful motivation – to spread the environmental word – and that has enabled me to overcome all kinds of fears and obstacles. When you’ve got a powerful enough reason why, you’ll always manage to figure out how. You just have to believe that it’s possible.

As children, teenagers, and even as adults, there are things that we are told that we absorb into our self-concept. Some are true, some are not. Parents, relatives and teachers can say odd or quirky things that have a much deeper impact on our impressionable childish psyche than was ever intended. Many are matters of opinion rather than objective truth (e.g. that we are timid, or artistic, or athletic) and yet often we internalize them, choosing to believe them as fact.

The same applies to humankind collectively. There are things that we tell ourselves about who we are and what we need that may not necessarily be true. Some of these ideas that we have absorbed into our collective self-concept used to serve us well when times were different – for example, that we need to have as many children as possible so that at least one or two will survive to take care of us when we are old – but now that more of the world has access to modern medicine, and many countries have healthcare for the elderly, such a belief is outdated and needs to be re-evaluated.

We are often afraid to let go of the “old” way of doing things, because that is all we have ever known. We act as we do because we don’t realize we have a choice. But we do. We have free will. We might feel trapped by the myth of perpetual economic growth, or the perceived need for more stuff, more money. But these are all things that we have created. And we can un-create them. It is a leap of faith to try a new world order – but starting is the hardest part. Once we’ve taken that first step, subsequent steps become easier.

Some of our leaders tell us that we can’t take action on climate change, or on industrial pollution, because it will cost jobs, and affect the economy. This is to underestimate the resilience of the human spirit. Since the dawn of human time our economies have evolved, so that as one sector wanes, another one waxes. We can do much more than we think we can, if we just choose to make it so. Instead of hanging onto the past we need to embrace the future.

Hopi Elder

The Hopi Elders say it more eloquently than I can, “There is a river flowing now very fast. It is so great and swift that there are those who will be afraid. They will try to hold onto the shore. They will feel they are being torn apart. And they will suffer greatly. Know that the river has its destination. The elders say we must let go of the shore, push off into the river, keep our eyes open, and our heads above water. Look around, see who is in there with you and celebrate.

“At this time in history we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment that we do our spiritual growth and journey comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves! Banish the word struggle from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred manner. And in celebration.

“We are the ones we have been waiting for!”

 

Next blog post: focus on happiness.


 

  • Gary

    Great stuff,,,,keep it flowing.

  • Martha Kaufeldt

    There is a quote I often use from “Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change” by William Bridges (2009) Chapter 3 “Before you can begin something new, you have to end what used to be. Before you can become a different kind of person, you must let go of the old identity. Before you can learn a new way of doing things, you have to unlearn the old way. So beginnings depend on endings. The problem is, people don’t like endings. Yet change and endings go hand in hand.”

  • Jessi

    Lovely quote. You are such an inspiration.

  • rozsavage

    Wise words, Martha – thanks for the reminder.

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