Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A Parallel between Marriage and Sailing - by Livia Jepsen

Greg and I just came back from vacation. It was the perfect week to take time off because during the winter time the business slows down and it was the week of his birthday and also valentine's day.

The only gift he wanted for his birthday was my company while we make a fool of ourselves in a regatta. I haven't been sailing for very long, in fact, I went to this regatta very panicked. My last experience in a sail boat before this was a crash at the "ice-cold" Lake Tahoe in the end of October 2011, when we almost died of hypothermia during the 1:30h long drive back to the beach.

 Since it was his birthday, I could't say "no" to this one. But I was very nervous. I see sailing as a FIELD TRIP OF MARRIAGE COUNSELING. No wonder someone told me that their boat was called "The Divorce". Not much different than us, we "almost" named ours "The Counselor". But why is that?

I have been watching couples all week sailing together and bringing up all their emotional problems to the boat. I have noticed that sailing, for some reason, brings up every little hidden emotion that we have been putting underneath the carpet. Maybe your husband/wife is too controlling? Or maybe he/she doesn't listen to you? Maybe you are both too independent and just have to do everything by yourselves? Maybe you have a problem trusting each other? Maybe you don't trust yourself? Maybe...maybe you don't even know if you have a problem but if you do, don't worry, it WILL come up during sailing.

 This is because during sailing you both MUST listen to each other and you MUST work together. You must trust each other. You both must keep calm during waves and tides and wind shifts. Pretty much like in your married life. If you don't, you...crash! And the water, I'd say, it's darn cold!

I was thinking that this was happening only with Greg and I until we went to this event. This past week, I have heard many couples complaining about their communication issues, about spouses not listening, about trust issues and about how their spouses make them nervous when the boat is heeling. It is interesting.

Every time I asked a guy why he chose a certain boat over another, the answer would always come out the same way: "My wife wanted more space." Or "My wife prefers small boats because they are easier to set up." "My wife doesn't like heeling so I got a more stable boat" Or  even "My wife wanted a brand new boat because she wanted to know the history behind each scratch!" - that one was cute!  It was very interesting to see how the wife's preferences are so important in sailing, more than any other sport that I have ever seen.

I was born in Brazil, which makes me a little....dramatic when I am scared. Greg and I were not doing so well at sailing together until this event. We pretty much came back divorced every time we went sailing LOL.

The day of our very first race came up and I was so nervous that no one could even talk to me. I could not even see the boat turning 10 degrees that I would panic remembering our Tahoe "disaster". So Greg called a professional racer to crew with us during the first race. There you see, our little "trust" issue here!

The professional was VERY calm watching our little boat tilting in the wind, and this made me calm too and trustful that everything was ok. This is because the calm one was somebody ELSE other than Greg! If I see Greg calm during sailing I certainly do NOT calm down because I always thought of Greg as a little.... "wild" ahaha. If he tells me that something is safe, I feel that I still need to use my best judgment, after all, he has been flying airplanes, hang-glides, doing acrobatics and... you know, killing bugs and catching snakes with his own hands. The guy is FEARLESS!

 After all that tilting and turning and panic, the professional was very impatient because our little Com-pac 16 is not a racing boat and we were pretty much in .... LAST PLACE! Like...2 HOURS LATE!

Watching all those boats passing by, running even more sideways than us, I found myself hoping for more heeling and started to enjoy it. And on the sudden, Greg and I were "friends" again and not enemies, after all, we were in the SAME boat! The enemies were the OTHER boats!

After being stuck in the canal for 2 hours later than everybody else we were talking about how to fix the problem and about what we have done wrong. It was cool. We talked to some people that had the same boat as ours and, for the first time, I was interested in the conversation and even went with Greg to the "boring" West Marine" twice that day to tune up our little Popeye-style boat ORION.

We also attended the seminars and they talked a lot about aviation and wind - all that stuff that Greg talks about all the time and I never listen! It clicked to me how ridiculous it is for me not to trust my hubby sailing, with his such expertise in wind and flying hang-glides and airplanes, and mastering every single sport than you can think of. He even got to windsurf my aqua-glyde in the very first day, while I still struggle with it. No one could possibly understand more about sailing than him.

Next race came up and we were confident. Greg was the skipper. This time I was so proud and trusting him more than I could ever trust anyone else. We knew that our boat was the slowest kind in that event, so we didn't care about winning, but we certainly didn't want to be the last again. And we weren't! Greg had studied everything he could about the Compacs and he knew everything to get the most out of it. It wouldn't help to have any professional racers with us that have very different and way bigger boats than ours.  The important thing is to know how to sail YOUR boat and if there was one person who could sail that thing better than anyone else was...my Greg! (Besides, he looks really handsome with that Captain hat!)

So we worked together during the second race and trusted each other and we brought the best that our little Orion could possibly perform.

Greg and I finished the race proud of ourselves as a team and Greg was proud of me as a woman because I faced my fear, overcame my panic and was comfortable with the heeling of the boat and with being the skipper again...sometimes! We had an awesome race and we are still thrilled about it until now.

Valentine's Day, after dinner, we grabbed a bottle of wine and went to sit inside our little ORION. Watching the stars, the moon and the beautiful London Bridge in Arizona, full of lights. It was the most romantic Valentine's Day ever! This time we no longer were mad because our boat was not a racing boat and was slower than most of the boats, we were actually proud of it. We no longer wanted to sell it for something faster, and we remembered the very first reason that made Greg to choose this boat: "My wife likes stable small boats that are easy to set up and toll, but won't turtle like our old capri." And I felt important.

So I can say that the same way sailing almost "ended" our marriage a million times before, sailing also saved our marriage BIG TIME! It was exactly like a field trip of marriage counseling. After this race, the rest of the week was absolutely fantastic in every way. We felt closer to each other as a couple and I feel like we used to feel 9 years ago when we first got married, that Greg is the most awesome guy in this planet, my best friend, my lover, my partner. The one who is fearless and holds my hand to help me to overcome my fears, and I thank God that he is exactly the way he is, because he is perfect for me.

With Greg I am always growing, I am always overcoming difficulties and breaking through my fears, one by one. But I am also always safe, because he is always there to pick me up and help me out when I make mistakes.

During the past 3 years of our relationship we have passed through a lot of problems that almost led us to a divorce (for real now, and it has nothing to do with sailing!). And now, after this magic week sailing, I feel that we are once again in the same team, and once again in the same BOAT!

 Livia Jepsen