Making a fool of myself

April 2, 2009

I can hardly believe the journey I’ve had since March’s Inspirer. Physically, I’ve been to Houston to the Families in Global Transition conference for the fifth time and then on to the Virgin Islands to take part in a girls’ sailing trip with a bunch of people I had never met before. So, I guess that counts as one hell of a trip. But the emotional journey I’ve been on has had a greater impact. I told people that I had agreed to the holiday specifically to expand my comfort zone. It worked!

Until three weeks ago I had never spent a single second crewing a boat of any kind. I knew port and starboard meant left and right and that was about it. Yet, there I was, going to crew a 49foot yacht with a bunch of strangers thousands of miles from home. Before I left, I was numb with dread. My greatest fears were that I would be a hopeless sailor, that I’d let everyone down, that my lack of experience would put us in danger. And I was scared that I would be really really scared and unable to simply get off the boat again and go home.

‘Right, then, Jo,’ said Glenda, our skipper. ‘You can be dinghy captain!’ Apparently that’s the job she reserves for the wimps and the lily-livered newbies. I hardly dared admit that I’d never done that either. I’d never even pulled the starter cord on a lawnmower, for goodness sake. I’d never even mowed a lawn! Add that to the fact that I am terminally muscleless, and it is no surprise that I was a jibbering wreck before we even left the harbour. But Glenda would not tolerate a wuss and I had no choice. Dingy captain I would be. And so it was. By George, I did it! What’s more, I was one of only two people who could actually summon the strength to pull that pesky starter cord! The size of the grin on my face as I steered us all to shore once or twice a day was not insignificant.

By the end of the trip the wonderful Glenda had forced me to hold the helm in 20 knot winds, gybe, tack, furl the mainsail, winch, catch moorings and learn about luffing and sheets. And do you know what? I did not make a fool of myself. Not once. My comfort zone expanded wider than the envelope of a hot air balloon and my spirit soared higher than I’d have dreamed possible. In risking that I may have made a complete idiot of myself, I had, in reality achieved the opposite. After that massive feat I began to feel I could conquer the world. Maybe I’ll even learn to ski.

On the day before the sailing trip I took another risk. Again I stood in fear of making a fool of myself. Again I exposed myself as my first book of poetry was published and the proof copy landed in my hands, courtesy of DHL, on the last day of the conference. As I looked down at the cover my kneecaps began to wobble up and down. Just as they had on my wedding day. It was quite something for me to admit that I write poetry. You see, poetry is the ultimate way of showing your weakness. The best writing comes from a place of heightened emotion, so here I was, showing the world that when you cut me I bleed. Filled with fear, and with a nervous smile on my face, I held A Moving Landscape high.

‘I did it!’ I cried. And all around me people clapped me on the back and congratulated me. For though this is my 26th book, it is the first that runs the risk of showing me in my true colours.

Five minutes later, Craig Toedtman, President of Options Resources Careers in PA, blasted that fear out of the water by ordering 200 copies on the spot to give to his clients. He said that it was just what he was looking for. A book that would speak to new expatriates about how it really feels to live abroad.

So now I have taken you on my journey. I have shown you my fears and vulnerability and I have demonstrated, I hope, that it is when we take the biggest risks that we have the chance to achieve the most.

Isn’t it time you let your spirit soar too?

A Moving Landscape, price £10, is available on Amazon.