Ships that pass in the night, and speak each in passing, only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness; so on the ocean of life, we pass and speak one another, only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
It is easy to be a ship that sails alone on the ocean of life.
Well, to be honest, I happen to think it is the most difficult way to go about life.
Perhaps I should rephrase and say that I think it is painfully easy to slip into the pattern of sailing alone. Even when we’ve made it a point to try and look around and be there for others, reach out a helping hand and be aware of the other ships sailing out in the ocean besides us.
It’s still hard. We are conditioned from very early in life to “Stand up for ourselves.” “Be Tough.” “Be Independent.”
We all know that “When the going gets tough…the tough…Get going.”
That’s right. You knew the answer. No way did your mind start to fill in that blank with start hollering for help!
We aren’t conditioned to ask for help, and we feel uncomfortable when kind help is presented to us. Many of us aren’t trained to keep our eyes out for those in need, and if and when we do stumble onto someone who looks like they could benefit from a helping hand, we hesitate, not knowing if we should get involved for fear of insulting them or making them feel bad.
Somewhere along the line, we’ve been sold a bill of goods. Somewhere we picked up some erroneous belief that if we “handle life on our own” quietly and without complaint, that we will have achieved some Zen-like courageous level of success on par with the famous Lone Ranger and Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry character.
I’d like to go on record as saying I think both of those men’s lives weren’t worth the dust on their shoes.
They were both lonely, empty characters who didn’t know how to share their lives with anyone. They harbored hero complexes and carried the weight of the world on their shoulders, without being able to depend on anyone to be there for them. They kept all of their emotions locked up tight inside, sharing with nobody, and in the end-they rode off into the dusty sunset–ALONE.
This isn’t Zen. This isn’t heroic. This is afraid.
Afraid to reach out, afraid to be less then perfect, afraid to be needy, afraid to be needed, afraid to intrude, afraid to be hurt, afraid to hurt, afraid to look foolish.
Living in fear stops us from living an abundant life. It stops us from living a life filled with love and relationships that are rich and full and meaningful. It certainly stops us from living inspired. And, it stops us from making a difference in our work and in the lives of others.
I challenge us to be more daring than that. I challenge us to be bold. We all have the exact same fears. None of us are exempt from fear. We hesitate before reaching out. What will people think? Will it be okay? Will it even matter?
Yes, we should.
Take a chance. Reach out. Don’t let those fears guide your ship. Don’t let isolation keep you from living the life you were meant to have. It would be a tragedy.
Don’t let that ship pass you by.