Browsing the archives for the ship tag

Living in Daytight Compartments

Life as it is, Spiritual Journey

Have you ever been exposed to an idea that seemed mildly interesting, but then later helped you grasp something vital? That’s what the concept of daytight compartments are to me. I first heard of them in a Dale Carnegie class, many years ago, and loved the mental image of doors sealing off each day one from another so I only had to worry about today. I was already familiar with the idea of watertight doors on a ship, and always wondered what the doors between days would look like.

Daytight Compartments

Thinking about it now, I imagine there comes a time in many sailors’ lives where the idea of watertight doors stops being an interesting idea and an occasional threat to the skull, and instead becomes a necessary reality. On ships, these doors prevent a leak or flooding in one compartment from threatening the other compartments. What is a disaster in one part of the ship is stopped from being a disaster in other parts of the ship because of these doors.

So in my case, my life was much the same as a ship that is in danger of sinking as crises were overwhelming me. Things in the past would leave me a wreck and before I could recover, there was another disaster approaching fast. I would hear people using the slogan, “One Day at a Time” and try to reach for some sort of serenity about the present day but I could never just force this to happen through an act of will.

And that is when daytight compartments stopped being an interesting bit of wordplay, and became a necessary part of my life. The term “daytight compartments” was first coined by Sir William Osler as a way of describing how the following quote changed his life when he encountered it:

It is not our goal to see what lies dimly in the distance but to do what clearly lies at hand.
— Thomas Carlisle

Sir Osler’s many achievements were attributed by him to this idea of never looking more than 24 hours ahead or behind right now. Dale Carnegie included this concept as part of a strategy of dealing with worry. For me, this is what allows me to continuing jumping through the hoops of a single-father, IT-professional, and artistic life with regrets and fear running off my back like water from a duck’s back.

Most of my fears are about things that have nothing to do with my immediate task of crossing this daytight compartment and making it to bedtime. And most of my regrets are about things that happened yesterday or before. Living in a working space that exists only from now until bedtime is just too small for my many fears to get too large – and yet it’s large enough for me to focus on what is at hand.

Those who know me and hear me talking about my “next right thing” are seeing me working in such a compartment. I can only deal with so much between now and bedtime – the rest I have to leave in God’s hands. And in the meantime, if a disaster has happened or will happen, I am safe in today. And when I am safe in today and can then focus only on the day around me, I can find some wonderful things.

Before IT started me working late-night maintenance windows again, I loved my dawn walks with my dog. I would time them so I was always on the west side of the lake for sunrise so I could watch it reflected in the lake and imagine today’s doors opening, often reciting this along the way.

Salutation to the Dawn

Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course
Lie all the verities and realities of your existence:
The bliss of growth
The glory of action
The splendor of beauty
For yesterday is but a dream
And tomorrow only a vision
But today well lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore to this day!
Such is the salutation to the dawn.
–Sanskrit Poem

What about you? How do you “seize the day” and stay focused in the present? And what does it do for you?

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The Choice to Abandon Myself

Life as it is, Spiritual Journey, Vulnerability

While I was in Dallas for my daughter’s hospitalization, I attended several support meetings. In one of these, someone read a small chapter of a book. It didn’t hold my interest, but caught me in the last sentences. They said in effect:

You may feel abandoned by those who you counted on. But we still have choices – only we can decide whether to abandon ourselves.

And this hit me pretty hard. Because I had been feeling pretty abandoned by my former bride and her decision to leave the state and move thousands of miles away while I raise two teens, one of whom has special needs. But it was that last idea – the one of abandoning myself that I had never looked at.

But it certainly fit to some degree. I had gone out and bought a video game to escape into from the hotel room after the first few days. In very little time, I found myself wanting to play rather than attend to phone calls I needed to make or e-mails that needed to be written. I told myself that as hard as everything had been, I deserved these breaks. I needed the escape.

Looking at the word, I found the following:

a·ban·don
tr.v. a·ban·doned, a·ban·don·ing, a·ban·dons
1 – To withdraw one’s support or help from, especially in spite of duty, allegiance, or responsibility; desert: abandon a friend in trouble.
2 – To give up by leaving or ceasing to operate or inhabit, especially as a result of danger or other impending threat: abandoned the ship.
3 – To surrender one’s claim to, right to, or interest in; give up entirely.
4 – To cease trying to continue; desist from: abandoned the search for the missing hiker.
5 – To yield (oneself) completely, as to emotion.

It was this first definition that caught my attention. Sure my life was difficult, but one of the things that keeps it difficult are all of the things I keep telling myself I will do – and then never get around to doing. Or worse, doing the first 95% of the task, and then deciding that was enough for now – time to go play a game. And then never returning to the task….

Isn’t that abandonment? In that first definition it talks about duty and responsibility as what is being spited in this stuff. An I saw my poor inner child being left behind, not by others but by myself.

So this past week, I have been trying to stay in the present moment with myself. Paying bills when medical expenses has stripped the accounts to the point that there isn’t enough to go around. Making calls, sending FAXes and signing documents that need it even though it hurts to do so.

And in doing so, I have been reminded that this shit hurts. Nothing like turning into the storm and trying to hit the waves bow first (to avoid being capsized) to see just how big they are and want to be somewhere else. No wonder I keep wanting to escape! Abandon ship!

But me and my life is the ship….

So maybe there are those who captain their lives and navigate storms and fair weather and this just seems like basic lessons. Captaining Onje’s Life 101 is a course I never saw advertised. Are some just born with this ability? Or does it take something opening our eyes to the way things are to show us what we do to ourselves?

I don’t know, but I believe there is hope through the storm. After all, look at the word, “abandon” when it stops being an action and becomes instead a thing of substance. That is, a noun:

a·ban·don
n.
1 – Unbounded enthusiasm; exuberance.
2 – A complete surrender of inhibitions.

Imagine being able to captain a life like that. Until then, I need to keep bailing and staying at the helm.

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