To herald the publication of my next book, Stop Drifting, Start Rowing: One Woman’s Search for Happiness and Meaning Alone on the Pacific, I am revisiting some of my blogs from the Pacific crossing, adding a postscript either with additional details or a kind of “if I’d known then what I know now” comment. Here is the second day’s blog from my doomed attempt of 2007….
Day 2: The Power of Pigtails
13 Aug 2007, The Brocade
It was one of my big hopes for this Pacific row that I wouldn’t fall into so many of the psychological traps as I did on the Atlantic. I really struggled out there, and a lot of the trouble was of my own making. [Comment: so true!! As John Milton said, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven”. My mind definitely gave me hell on the Atlantic.] Three examples:
1. Instead of looking at the challenge one bit at a time, breaking it down into manageable pieces, I looked at the whole 3,000 miles that lay ahead of me and felt utterly overwhelmed. It took me a while to realize that it would be much better just to take it one day, one stroke at a time.
[I still think this is one of the most important life lessons I have ever learned, and is applicable to all kinds of things. I know of people who have applied it to everything from a marathon to chemotherapy. I still regularly remind myself, when overwhelm threatens, to just take it one oarstroke at a time.]
2. I allowed myself to get distracted by other people’s objectives. My one cash sponsor had offered me a bonus if I broke the women’s record for the fastest crossing, and I put myself under a lot of pressure before I remembered what MY objectives were, which were nothing to do with speed.
[I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, in connection with the transition I made in my mid-thirties from management consultant to ocean rower. I’d gone into management consultancy in 1989 because at that time I thought “success” meant a glamorous job and a big salary. Belatedly I discovered that while I’d been climbing the ladder of success, I’d leaned it against the wrong building. I’d been pursuing other people’s definition of success, not my own. Money and prestige weren’t fulfilling objectives for me. So what were? – making a contribution and challenging myself to overcome my limitations.]
3. I wasted a lot of emotional energy asking myself: “CAN I do this?” To which the answer was usually No. Better, I realized, just to get on and DO it, instead of asking myself whether I can.
[Haha, this is one of life’s little paradoxes. You don’t know until you’ve done something whether you can do it. And when that thing takes a long time (like rowing the Atlantic) that gives you plenty of time for questioning and self-doubt. Rather than ask yourself if you CAN do it, so much better to tell yourself “I’ve got no conclusive evidence that I CAN’T do this”.
If you like these three self-help ideas, here are some other things I learned on the Atlantic.]
This time around it helps that I already have that previous experience. I’ve decided to call it my Pigtail Power. I only ever put my hair in pigtails when I am on the ocean – it is practical and stops my hair getting too tangled. So like Samson with his long hair, I am stronger when I’m in pigtail mode.
[Hmmm, haven’t been in pigtails since 2011. Maybe I should try it again. Or is that just plain inappropriate for a 45-year-old?!]
Other: Weather clearer today after yesterday’s fog. I can still see the land, but am slowly moving further from it. There is a bit of swell, and I have to row across it, which is uncomfortable. It is also making cabin life more uncomfortable. I thought I’d got away without being seasick this time, but I may have been too hopeful, too soon.
[photo: I was glad of my bimini (not, not bikini) today, as it’s been seriously sunny. Picture taken during a sea trial in Hayward, California.]
Other stuff (posted in 2013, not 2007)
Commiserations to my friend, Dave Cornthwaite. Injury forced him to abandon his latest Expedition1000 endeavour – to ride around Europe on an Elliptigo elliptical trainer. (Is there no form of transport Dave WON’T try?!) He managed 1970 miles before a back injury forced him to retire early, thus amply meeting his minimum mileage requirement of 1000 miles. Well done, Dave, and wishing you a swift recovery so you’ll soon be back on the road (or water, or wing) on some other crazy form of conveyance!