Tuesday, December 6, 2016

A Three Hour Tour

"Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip...[The] passengers set sail that day, 
For a three hour tour, a THREE HOUR TOUR!"

This last August I went to our family reunion in Aptos, California. That’s a little town just below Santa Cruz and Capitola and north of Monterey where, back in the day, my grandparents bought a beach cabin. Being raised in San Jose, CA, my siblings and I grew up going to the beach cabin pretty frequently. This was our second official family reunion since we’ve all grown up and had families of our own.

This time we decided that one of the activities would be a whale watching boat ride in Monterey Bay. I can’t remember whose idea it was originally but I am responsible for organizing the whole thing. Guilty as charged. So when I talked to the skipper on the phone, she told me that people often get sea sick and so we may want to come prepared with the appropriate anti-seasickness meds. I informed everyone of this possibility and also purchased the meds myself (pharmacist recommended), which turned out to be plenty for everyone who wanted to take them.

When the day for the boat ride came, we all drove down to Monterey, parked, and walked along Fisherman's Wharf to get to the dock where all the boats were. Such a cool pier lined with restaurants that serve hot clam chowder and fresh baked bread as well as a bunch of other tourist shops. So far this was looking like a great idea!

We paid for our 3 hour tour and then boarded the boat. All of us taking the meds, took them then. After much instructions, which included how and where to throw up, we were off. The first 30 minutes were fine. We were all out on the deck looking at the seals on the rocks and the shoreline getting further and further away. I was on the front deck with a lot of others from our group. We started getting splashed a little too much when the wind picked up. The waves became more choppy, which caused the boat to rock and roll a little too intensely. Everyone standing in the bow of the boat was instructed to go inside the cabin to reduce this effect. So we did. But most of us weren’t sitting there for longer than 2 minutes before we couldn’t handle it anymore. Nausea hit. We all headed out to the back deck, holding on to whatever we could because the boat was still rocking so much.

I stayed on the back deck for the rest of the ride. About 50% of our group got sick. Matthew and Laura (my son and daughter) threw up over the side of the boat. Matthew repeatedly. Chris (my other son) was fine. I was sick but I didn’t throw up, probably because of the meds. I think the meds were actually making me feel worse. I was cold too. We had stopped by Walmart on our way to Monterey and bought a few heavy sweatshirts because they said it would get pretty cold out on the water. I was standing in one spot on the deck near the side of the boat in a hooded sweatshirt, with the hood up. I was shaking pretty bad and trying to deal with the constant upchucking feeling. There was nothing I could do to make this trial go away. A few others were suffering but I couldn’t help them anymore than they could help me. There were two more hours left on the boat. I had no one to blame. I’m the one who planned the whole thing. I was in fact responsible but the cause was inexperience. I didn’t know how bad it would be. I didn’t even know if any of us would get sick. I was fine on Lake Powell boats but apparently not fine on this boat.

What was going on on the inside.
I had no desire or inclination to blame it on anyone. Yet I couldn’t just exist in that terrible state without starting on some kind of conflict resolution process. My brother Will and all his kids were fine. He was walking all around the boat, changing places often. He suggested I try this as a resolution process. But moving just made it worse for me. So I just stood there shivering. But internally, spiritually I was actively reaching up to God in prayer. I told him I could do nothing to make my situation any better. I had two hours to endure and I was unable to do that on my own.  I asked him to help me. I just focused my mind on him and stayed with him. I could feel him with me, comforting me. Tears were streaming down my face, not because of the pain, but because it was so apparent I wasn’t bearing this burden alone. I didn’t want anyone else to feel sorry for me so I tried to keep my face relatively hidden. I knew that the only sympathy that would make any real difference for me would be the Lord’s. Chris came over and put his arms around me for a bit. That was soooo sweet of him. I don’t know if it’s just me or if everyone is like this, but I needed my main line of support to come from inside me—from that place where I always feel the Lord’s presence. So even as my body was racked with so much turmoil, it was like I was somehow separated from it to a certain extent, standing outside of it, removed from it. Wave after wave of nausea was matched with wave after wave of this unbelievable love. A microcosm of peace and comfort in a macrocosm of stress and panic.

What was going on on the outside.
It makes me love my Savior incredibly intensely when he saves me like that. I don’t often get myself into situations where there is nothing I can do to save myself but pray and reach for His atoning sacrifice in faith. At least I don’t often look at my conflicts like that. It was pretty much all grace and very little works. I usually am more than willing to do whatever I can when there are conflicts to be resolved. Perhaps I’m even imbalanced to that side—trying to do too much, putting all my efforts into figuring out how to actually get off the boat and out of the tough situation when faith in Christ while I have to endure the situation for a time is the answer.

We did see whales and other sea creatures. They were neat-o. But feeling like I did, I really didn’t care about any neat-o things. “Oh another whale. Nice. Okay, how long do we have left?”  

When we finally got back to the dock, we all started feeling better immediately. We disembarked and headed for the car, but lo and behold, all the restaurants were giving taster cups of their clam chowder. So we bought a bread bowl of it and all my kids and I shared it as we explored the pier. Now that was neat-o! So warm after shivering for so long. We will never forget this adventure. I will never do it again.

So there are other conflicts that have arisen in my life that are similar to this. I find myself in situations over which I have no control. Maybe I’m the one who got myself into them in the first place. That’s usually the case. But most of the time I have had no idea it was going to turn into such a rocking and rolling upchucking experience. When I compare my experience on the 3 Hour Tour Whale Watching Boat Ride with these other experiences, I am able to more accurately identify how to resolve conflicts like these.

First, I need to identify the source of comfort that is most powerful to me. This should be someone I trust and with whom I have developed a very close relationship. This is a person who knows me well and loves me so that He’s able to evaluate when I am not myself during a conflict. He knows I’m not always in a bad mood. He knows I don’t always respond to situations like I’m responding to this one. This is the person I go to unload all of my personal struggles, irritations, frustrations, and feelings of insecurity. I don’t take this relationship for granted by just using it as a place to dump. It’s usually a relationship of love, appreciation, admiration, attraction, respect, and Joy. So when I go through times when I have to wrinkle my nose, complain, and express how upset I am, He is well aware that the trial I’m going through must be very intense.

Second, if I do talk to others about the problem, I need to keep the communication objective. I talk to them in order to objectively resolve the conflict. But unfortunately, I don’t always keep it objective. On the boat, I knew there was no one else to whom I could go “to hear my soul’s complaint.” That was very plain. But when I have other life-conflicts, sometimes I try unloading on other people. Because I need their objective help to resolve the conflict, they are usually eager to help me deal with all of the emotional baggage I’m carrying as well. But the issue is, it ends up feeling like I’m violating someone else’s privacy when I do that. Often times it’s not a rocking and rolling boat that is making me feel like I want to puke. It’s a rocking and rolling relationship with another person.

So in order for my objective helpers to comfort me, I have to basically describe the cause of my conflict to them, which is the other person’s behavior and how it’s making me feel, how it’s making me react when I don’t want to react that way. I end up feeling like I have to justify why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling. It becomes a subjective analysis rather than an objective analysis. A blame game. A game of who is right and who is wrong. That just intensifies the conflict for me. I need someone who knows exactly what is going on behind the scenes because it is behind the scenes that I predominantly live. It is tempting to seek for comfort and support from others but just like on the boat, while I sincerely appreciate their support, it is never enough for me. I have to go to that one person I trust the most. He is the person I rely on above all others. Over an extended period of time I have developed a relationship with him that I have come to depend upon implicitly. I want to hear his opinions. I want his presence. I don’t want to do anything in my relationships with other people to make my relationship with Him rock and roll so that he would rather be anywhere else than with me. I don’t want him to be counting the minutes left before this whole Boat Ride Relationship with me will be over.

Oh, it’s so hard for me to give “just the facts!”

“O wretched [wo]man that I am! Yea, my heart sorroweth because of my flesh; my soul grieveth because of mine iniquities. I am encompassed about, because of the temptations and the sins which do so easily beset me. And when I desire to rejoice, my heart groaneth because of my sins; nevertheless, I know in whom I have trusted.” ~2 Nephi 4:17-19

The cool thing about trials is if I can just shut up and take it, let others evaluate me in Pride and Envy despite my sincere intentions to do good to them without turning and reviling again in Pride and Envy, and go to my Savior alone for my comfort and support, I will be able to feel his love in that intense amazing way that I did on the boat.  And that love is more intense than what I experience when everything is hunky-dory.

"And now my beloved brethren, I would exhort you to have patience, and that ye bear with all manner of afflictions; that ye do not revile against those who do cast you out because of your exceeding poverty [or because of your reaction to whatever weaknesses and sins which do so easily beset you], lest ye become sinners like unto them; But that ye have patience, and bear with those afflictions, with a firm hope that ye shall one day rest from all your afflictions." ~Alma 34:40-41