True North.

Posted by admin on August 15, 2016 in Life Lessons |

I’ve been sailing along now in life for almost six decades. There have been many times I’ve been without a compass, certainly a moral compass. I’ve been shipwrecked, sidetracked, hornswoggled and downright lost at times. I’ve let others tell me where north is, well, at least the north they wanted me to sail toward and I’ve even let them grab my tiller a time or two and do all the steering for me.

Yes, I have been a pleaser. I have done things in life largely so others will like me, be my friend, love me, and even, on occasion, just put up with me. I have sold out so many times I should be on back order. All because I wanted others to enjoy their time, have what they wanted or get what they want out of life or me.

I’d like to blame it on a faulty compass, but it’s operator error. All this time I’ve been sailing toward magnetic north when I should have sailed toward true north, that place your internal compass points when you are aligned with your purpose and place in life.

You know it when it happens. It feels a lot like being on the deck of a sailboat. When you catch the wind perfectly, she heels over and locks in the wind, picking up speed as she goes.

Any sailor will tell you that this is hard to achieve, this perfect wind, but when it happens, you never forget it.

I found the perfect wind on Saturday. I finally shifted off my fixation with magnetic north, and felt true north again.

How do I know? Well, I’ve been there before. Like the sailboat heeling and locking, you never forget when it happens and when it happens again, you know it almost instantly.

For me, it was Saturday. I was over in Port Orchard to go sailing on the Lady Washington. That was my entire responsibility. We had no gig to play. No schedule to follow. No crew to babysit. And there was no one to please except me.

True north was bound to appear on the horizon. The conditions were perfect.

Now, there’s a funny thing in this life of mine. I get the rare honor of being a pirate entertainer. I get to carry around a sword, travel the world and become pirate Hurricane. It’s the E-ticket at Disneyland, if you’re old enough to remember those. It’s the best ride you can ever have in life; if you’re brave enough to get on it.

My own E-ticket on this particular day were the kids. Kids are so cool because they don’t have to pander to anyone, they don’t have to pretend they like you, and they don’t have to soothe any wounded egos of playmates. They just get to be in the moment.

Yes, the moment. That magical place where you are sailing on a true north course. You are who you are without apologies, without pretense.

I got to sail that course again. There are those in my peer group who like to think I am a snob or a bit of a prima donna. I’m not. Those who truly know me know that I will readily put others in the limelight and play the part of the buffoon. I certainly do that with kids. And I think that’s part of the secret to being a great entertainer.

I could have done something to belay that impression on Saturday. But I learned long ago that entertaining pirates is a fool’s errand. I’m there to entertain people; that’s what I do well and that’s what I was put here to do.

So that’s what I did. In the process, I found true north again, that place where kids get to always live because they are in the moment. No future to worry about, no past to consider. They are in the moment, right here, right now.

When I’m there, everything else just fades away. There are no worries, no random thoughts – it’s just the here and now. It is so cool to be there┬ábecause you experience stuff you could never otherwise. The world comes alive with stimuli, stuff you’ve never seen before, even if you’re in the most familiar of surroundings.

God, it’s fun. It’s damned intoxicating, being aligned with who you are and who you were meant to be. No worries about what others think because you don’t really care. You are who you are. It’s a bit of an out-of-body experience, really.

So there I was, standing aboard the Lady Washington. We had been sailing for about 90 minutes. Resisting temptation, I didn’t return the guitar to the car as always. Instead, I took it aboard ship. But I didn’t start playing until we were about a half hour from port.

True north! I couldn’t resist the temptation. I had been having a blast interacting with people and getting into a rather long, hilarious exchange of false oaths and comebacks with Long John who was aboard the Jolly Rogue as we exchanged broadsides.

But then I just had to play. The wind, the water, the luffing of the sails. It was all too perfect. I just had to sing a couple songs, with or without anyone’s permission.

Pirate. I just let go of life and lived in the ever-elusive moment. I didn’t have to worry what others thought. Hell, I didn’t have to even worry about what I thought. I just had to be.

And in that moment, I discovered true north again. In the ensuing day, all sorts of things were to become realigned, realizing that I no longer had to pander to the needs of others or put their happiness ahead of my own. I could revel in having my compass aligned with where I needed to go, with the wind to my back, clear sailing ahead and all the reefs and shoals that I once feared put asunder by a new sense of calm and direction. True north, dead ahead.

In the Emerald City, rising with the tide,

  • Robb

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