“it not matters how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the Master of my fate, I am the Captain of my soul.”
William Henley

ID-10055232. Stuart Miles

If you imagine my life as a ship, with me the Captain of my ship; then I have control of my ship. It is up to me to steer my ship in the correct direction and to ensure at all times that the ship does not sink.

Some time ago my ship ran into a hurricane. It was necessary to shelter in safe harbours for a while, undergo required repairs and maintenance and, as it was completely blown off course, set a new safer direction. Now the storms have passed, I have stocked up my ship with supplies, boarded my passengers (kindness, empathy, fairness, optimism, courage, wisdom) and have once more set sail.

I have discovered that I have picked up some unwelcome passengers on my ship:

1. Unwanted feelings of sadness, pain, fear and disillusionment
2. Negative thoughts of “I do not matter”; ” Something else will go wrong”, and “Its not fair”
3. Confusing memories

In the past I have dealt with these ‘passengers’ by various methods:
a. Worried
b. Ignored them
c. Distracted myself.
d. Engaged in meaningful beneficial activities
e. Thought positively. .
f. Called on one of my support people and talked things through.

Most of these methods (except the first two) work a little. Some of them work a lot. Indeed, I managed to rid myself completely of guilt, bitterness, desire for revenge, feeling like a victim and ‘what did I do wrong?’. As for the others, if I engage in positive activities and spend time with my loved ones on a regular basis, it seems that they disappear. That is why I felt it safe to continue my journey. However, after an unexpected trigger, here they are making an appearance again. I have come to realise that these methods are important activities for making me feel better, relaxing, enjoying life and distracting me. However, they do not rid my ship of unwanted passengers. .

What I believe now is this:

In life things happen. Sometimes these ‘things’ can be catastrophic or traumatic. Occasionally one catastrophic event can pile up on top of another. This is what happened to me, with the ending of my marriage coming on the back of several fairly major life-changing events in the years prior.

For over two years I tried to rid myself of the negative memories, thoughts and feelings surrounding the ending of my marriage. I wanted them to disappear. I willed them to disappear. I worked really hard to make them disappear. Yet they are still there. Sometimes they remain in hiding. At other times they come out and cause havoc by becoming unruly and obnoxious. Occasionally they try to get me to change directions.

I can wait no longer. I must continue on my journey and accept that I have to carry these thoughts, feelings and memories with me. I do not have to listen to them or pay them attention, but I need to accept they will not go away. Just as people who need to live with chronic pain, disability, or illness; just as a person tending a loved one with a deteriorating disease; just as those who have lost loved ones and must carry that loss for the rest of their lives; so must I accept these passengers. I too must carry these thoughts, feelings and memories with me.

Despite their presence, I can still take my life in a worthwhile direction. What is important now is not to waste any more time or energy in trying to get rid of my passengers but rather deal with them in a graceful and dignified manner whenever they surface. While they will come and go in uncontrollable waves, they cannot hurt me.

I am the Captain of my ship. It is only me who can make the strategic decisions as to where my ship will sail. It is only me who can act and If I do not act on unwelcome thoughts, feelings and memories then they cannot hurt me. If I do act on them, I can make sure that I act in a positive manner.


Image  courtesy [StuartMiles]:FreeDigitalPhotos.net


  1. So true. So true. You may need to harbor them for quite some time still, but it may be best to keep them in steerage rather than the upper decks! Treat them kindly when you see them but don’t let their dark thoughts sink your ship!

    • Thanks I will keep that on board, well aware that they could certainly sink the ship if I let them – and for a while I thought that they would! Thank goodness for life-boats. 🙂

  2. What you say is true, and I myself have used the analogy of the voyage to describe the ups and downs of life many times. … When I went through a painful divorce several years ago I found it helpful to explore my “baggage” with an objective third party. It was the best thing I did in terms of learning how to drop those bags, and the passengers to whom they belonged, overboard. Now that drama is just a drop in a vast ocean that I rarely encounter and when I do it has little, if any, effect on me at all. It’s buried at sea. I wish the same for you. May you free up space on your beautiful boat to make room for more life affirming passengers. 😉 … Be well and Bon voyage. Dorothy 🙂

  3. Love the metaphor, Elizabeth. You paint a clear picture of your feelings with your words that I can identify with. I am sure many of us have unwanted passengers that we have no other choice but to learn to live with, without giving them too much control. Great post.

    • Yes, I have become weary of trying to get rid of them and so I have concluded it is much better to accept their presence (but only simmering in the background) and then get on with what I want to do anyway.

    • Yes you are right. It becomes exhausting trying to rid them when they will not leave me alone. It is interesting but I have found that accepting them when they appear (but not letting them overtake me) has been a weight off my mind.

  4. I also love this metaphor. Jennifer says it well. Yes, it is a great post, and we have to learn to live with unwanted passengers and not give them control.
    Wishing you many, many more lovely very welcome passengers to make your life very enjoyable! 🙂

    • Thanks. I suppose I have tended to write about the negative aspects over the past year or two. however, there have been many joyful times as well.
      Thanks for your encouragement and support of me.

  5. I love the ship metaphor! (That’s one of the things I mean when I say you’re a poet; you think in metaphors.)

    Like icebergs, there’s all that stuff below the surface, and sometimes we are navigating along and it gets a little dark, and we have no idea that iceberg is there. Bump.

    Good thing our ships are metaphors, and when we need to, we can change our metaphors, we don’t have to stay with the laws of physics–we can muster up the imagination to sail on and not sink.

    • I LOVE your added metaphor about the ice-berg. That is brilliant and, regarding life, so true. Yes, I have for a long time been trying to work out whether I am a ship sailing forward on the journey of life; or a tree, with roots planted firmly in the ground, growing upwards.
      In the literal sense; am I moving onwards or standing firm? you are correct, that it does not matter as I can switch metaphors (or explore new ones) when it suits.
      Thanks for your supportive comment.

      • I think one of the most useful concepts to embrace, when dealing with the complexities of life, is “and.”

        How was your hiatus? I enjoyed, and needed mine…

      • Yes the hiatus was great. A break from work and a break from my ‘problems’. Ha-ha.

        Now back to reality. Oops, oh dear, problems are still there. That is why I figured that I have to take some of them with me as I will never get anywhere if I wait for them to disappear 🙂

  6. what a beautifully written post, filled with wisdom and love of self – so important for steering through life. What a journey this life continues to be with passengers to be dealt with, provisions to gather, and new horizons to set sail for.

  7. I love this metaphor. Are you going to make those truly unwelcome, disruptive passengers walk the plank, and drop with a huge splash into the sea of oblivion? Sometimes they go away all by themselves, believe it or not, when they find they aren’t getting the attention they seek.

    • Well, being Captain I suppose I have to be both fair and forgiving (which is not all that easy); but hopefully the ship is large enough that they will hide away from me most of the time and leave me in peace.
      But if all else fails……….

  8. You are so eloquent in describing your feelings and experiences, Elizabeth. I admire your perseverance in creating the life you want. Not many people hang in there and do it. Thanks for sharing, and thanks for stopping my blog, too.

  9. Pingback: Stripping Back The Layers | Almost Spring

  10. I love this, Elizabeth. I feel this analogy 100%.

    I was surprised by the opening quote though as I thought Mandela was the first ever to say he was captain of his own ship. This was enlightening, to learn those words had been earlier spoken.

    A good post! Touche!

  11. Pingback: The truth shall set me free | Almost Spring

  12. It is hard to let go of resentments sometimes about what someone has done to us, but if we don’t let it go, we give that person free rent in our heads that only hurts us, not him or her. It took me many years to let go of the results of my ex-husband’s actions, but it was a great relief when I did. I like the quote from “Invictus.” We need to steer our own ships, or else someone else will take over the helm and we find ourselves on the verge of another wreck. Courage!

  13. What a great way to put it – “they do not rid my ship of unwanted passengers.” I too have unwanted passengers on my ship(feelings) that I try to rid myself of by keeping busy or ignoring them. as you said – none of our coping mechanisms “rid us” of these unwanted passengers (feelings).
    I am learning each and every day how to better cope with these unwanted passengers in my life. Sometimes I handle them better than other times.
    Thanks so much for putting this struggle into such eloquent words.

    • Thanks for your support and encouragement. I really appreciate it. Yes, it took me some time to get to that place, and for me to stop fighting these feelings of sadness and angst. Fighting them simply compounds their control over me. Allowing them to just be and simmer away in the background is more freeing.

  14. Pingback: Photo challenge # 5 – safe in port | Almost Spring

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s