Riverside born, and calling ocean – home, I have long visualized myself and my life as a Ship. Too many marine species to just choose one for my representation, so a human-made object it is.
I have never given it much thought why The Ship was drawn to and thriving in the storms and chaos. Why the very first – and possibly the only – poem by a classical Russian poet I actually enjoyed having to learn by heart as a kid, was literally, a learning by heart. It is about a sailboat that was seeking out the storms. Why “safe harbor” never seemed appealing beyond “adding some variety” and a quick nap to recharge the high energy. Why understanding the forces and navigating them is more important (and fun) to me than “sitting it out”.
Until the pandemic. The little virus that sent everything “human” into chaos, plunging many into the bottomless wells of anxiety, depression, and panic. Including my partner. Spur of the moment me, I was borderline bubbling with excitement for the unknown that was looming ahead, unfurling the sails impatient to be filled with the fresh winds; while planner-ahead and organizer partner, he found himself in front of a constantly expanding dark abyss, ground cracking under his feet.
Why was our reaction to the external circumstances so different? We had long talks about the feels, the wounds, the heals, the underlying currents, the going forward, and the sitting still. Somewhere in that time it occurred to me.
I was born into the chaos at the very beginning of one of the major crises of a state: the collapse of the Soviet Union. Not that it was all bed of roses in the USSR prior to that, or ever; but it went from “no bed of roses” to “the grass is way greener on the other side so that’s where we’re headed”. And it set out without any navigation tools or the sea charts. The crew was a mess, half of them sea-infatuated romantic landlubbers. The ship barely stayed afloat or was perpetually sinking, with mutiny on board every waking hour. The expired paint, slapped haphazardly over the years on top of the rotting wood, is peeling off. Sails ripped, but the flag is bright and loud. Passengers, the lucky, crafty, or clever ones, who fled, are hailed as Survivors by other ships, but genuinely don’t understand what all the noise is about.
When this is the norm from age 0 and through the formative years, this is the norm. It’s everything else that’s not that which is outside of the norm and therefore needs adaptation to. That helped explain a lot of our above-described behavioral differences and preferences.
Before I dive into it further, I want to explicitly state that I have no intention of judgment and I have put an honest effort into not passing one in the language of this article. I do not believe in the binary of good-bad traits; only in how they affect us under particular circumstances and how they form our decisions and choices.
Comparatively speaking, my partner was born into a greater degree of stability, both in the sense of general state of the state, and more personal sense of family welfare. That doesn’t imply an obstacle free road then, or now. We all have our own wounds to heal and battles to settle, as well as present and future challenges to tackle with the tools that we have and we pick up along the road.
However, due to the inherently different perception of what is normal, we were reacting to the disruption, also, differently. For him, the stable norm has taught him that to function well in his norm, one had to plan and organize to achieve an expected, projected result. For me, the disrupted norm has taught me that in order to
function well survive in my norm, one had to be able to pivot at a moment’s notice and have a bunch of rough plans in hand, instead of one detailed one, for a few possible outcomes, not just one. Expectations? Yeah, you don’t get to have too many of those when the norm is disruption.
So when the covid disruption prevailed in an otherwise more or less orderly state (again, relatively speaking), my inherent habits and traits put me in a more favorable position, psychologically speaking, than my partner. This, we found, was actually a great asset to utilize in our RelationShip (get it-get it?). By dissecting the “why”s and the “how”s of navigating (and even enjoying) the tumultuous seas that came naturally to me, we were able to work on shifting his perspective and on my deeper understanding of a perspective diametrically opposite of mine. The result was a much smoother sailing, with me not jumping at every gust of the fresh winds, and with him being able to build a bridge over that dark abyss and to the RelationShip (if that’s too much cheese for you, put it in the fridge and save it for later 😉 ). We put our heads together to sketch out a few different plans for possible outcomes, not too detailed, not too numerous.
By dissecting the “why”s and the “how”s of the “disruptive norm” skillset, I have come to realize something else that hasn’t occurred to me before.
This very skillset of “my norm”, while seeming like not a big deal to me, is, in fact, a valuable skillset. It is, in fact, a strength, a tool that can also be sharpened and fine tuned further. Looking at it through someone else’s eyes (such as my partner’s), has helped me appreciate its value instead of disregarding it as “just the norm and hence no value”. I’ll keep adding new tools to my toolbox, but I will also appreciate and tune my old ones.
As a side note, this realization was yet another example how something has been a constant conscious effort in my physical practice, both as a coach and a mover, but it is only now that I have made the extrapolation to a more general area of my life. The message that only something you had to work very hard for has value, is prevalent in our society, and that’s gotta change. I’ll start with me.
(There is probably a whole another post-worthy story about how to build a RelationShip and navigate it with more than one Captain on board sharing all the tools, but that’s another story, for some other time.)