Those early misty mornings on the Hudson River on the Marist College crew team were filled with life lessons. Especially the ones where the fog was so thick you couldn’t see beyond a few feet in front of you. We had to rely on each other for safety. We had to trust our instincts and be open to cues that we usually ignored.
Propelling the boat of eight full steam ahead – or even at half-power – without being able to see what was in front of us was frightening. We’d often lose track of where we were in relation to the shore and the other boats. This offered a lesson in listening and trust. To navigate our boat in the river, I listened for cues to guide me. Are those cars, I hear? Isn’t that the highway that runs parallel to the river that I can listen to just a bit to my right? Ah, I think those areas of brightness above us just ahead are the lights of the Hudson Bridge.
Listening to the volume and the direction of the sounds around me – the coach’s voice through the bull horn and the other coxswains yelling instructions to their crews around me – became beacons offering essential cues about our position among them.
These beacons of sight and sound allowed me to trust that we were headed in the right direction despite not being able to see where we were going entirely. We were safe. We could carry on forward.
As an observer of life, I watched. I learned. I examined the relationships around me, absorbing what I saw. As a college co-ed, I witnessed all sorts of heightened relationships – the “mating” dance we do to attract the attention of someone we want ( or maybe have convinced ourselves need) and how infatuation ultimately blinds us to the truth. I saw the delicate dance of vulnerability and control. I witnessed how small acts of kindness can light up a face that appeared stoic and possibly sad moments earlier. I learned how our beliefs about ourselves determine the kind of relationships we get in and out of.
As I got older, what I witnessed helped me understand how important developing a currency of trust is to building healthy relationships. Trust not just in another but in ourselves.
Unlike steering that crew boat upriver in the fog, there are so many moments when we are unsure of our next step. We feel as if we are on a precipice, and to move forward, we must risk putting parts of ourselves out there without knowing what is ahead.
We must listen to not just what we hear with our ears but listen to what we feel inside. To our instincts. Our intuition.
I’ve been fortunate to see and experience what it is like when a safe space exists between two (or more) people. It offers the rare opportunity to reach out and risk revealing parts of ourselves – even growing into new selves. It takes work to build this space of trust and safety, yet it is where we ultimately heal ourselves and become who we are meant to be.
Our relationships hold us securely so we can step onto that razor’s edge into the unknown. Risking exposure of the mistakes in our past or the parts of ourselves that we are ashamed of so we can create space to safely experiment and test out who we think we want to be. In this place, we find who we aren’t and eventually grow into who we are by trusting ourselves and those around us. When we can feel their support and love, we know we are in the right place — heading in the right direction.