I am a truly terrible boat driver. I was born into a family of sailors and boaters on both sides. You’d think it’s in my blood—my grandfather crossed the Atlantic on a sailboat called the Ann Gail, and my brother circumnavigated the globe on a forty-two foot sailboat 50 years later. I’ve spent all my life on the water, and I love it. I love the sounds and the smells and the routine. I can tie all the knots—bowlines and squares, hitches and half-hitches. I can wrap cleats and make dinner down below without getting the slightest bit queasy. I can shower off the back without complaining and the towel trick is an oft-used part of my routine. I’m a boater.
But I cannot for the life of me drive the boat. Any boat. As I understand it, the core of boat-driving is small corrections: driving a boat requires just teeny-tiny adjustments in steering on an ongoing basis, to account for the sway of the water beneath you. I know this, because whenever I do drive a boat, everyone aboard screams in unison SMALL CORRECTIONS! For the love, SMALL CORRECTIONS!
This is the thing: I’m not a small corrections kind of girl, not on the water, and certainly not in my life. I like to make whole-sale sweeping changes all at once and all or nothing. I’ll eat nothing but enchiladas three meals a day and then plunge my poor system into a six day juice cleanse. I’ll travel every week for a few months and then swear on my life that I’m burning my suitcase and never leaving my house again. If I start to feel like the clutter is overwhelming our house, I’ll take everything out of every drawer, swooping around the house on a cleaning-induced high…and then I’ll lose interest when I finish about half the drawers.
What I’m learning is that there is indeed a lot to be said for small corrections—for adding in a salad instead of six days of juice, for saying no to one trip but not all the trips, to tidying the junk drawer and letting that be enough for now.
You don’t have to change every part of your life in order to make a positive, helpful difference. If I just get myself to bed before midnight two nights in a row, it’s amazing how fantastic I feel when the baby starts squawking at six. Running for twenty minutes seems like it’s hardly worth changing your clothes, but that twenty minutes can shift the tone of your day.
This is not my natural style, as I’ve mentioned. I prefer grand plans, ambitious undertakings, dramatic pronouncements. But what usually comes after those pronouncements, for me, is boredom and failure and a thousand abandoned plans.
I’m one of those people that has a guitar and a lacrosse stick and a yoga mat. I don’t play the guitar or lacrosse or practice yoga with the kind of regularity that would warrant owning my own mat. But once upon a time I was going to Be A Musician. And then I was going to Be an Athlete. And then I was going to Be a Skinny, Bendy, Grounded Person. All big intentions, all abandoned along the way.
And so I’m giving those big intentions a break these days, and I’m working on small corrections: a glass of water, a phone call to a friend I should have made ages ago. I walk around the block, an hour earlier to bed. Instead of waiting a year and overhauling then, I’m trying to adjust a little every day, closer now, closer now, a little left, a little right. Actually, I suppose I should say port and starboard, sailor’s daughter that I am. Another small correction.