I don’t know where I’m going with this.

I used to listen to a great musician turned conman named Garth Brooks, and during the days that I could say his name without wishing to stamp on his stetson and spit in his pina colada, I would mull over the words of his songs and associate with many of them.

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Such as “If tomorrow never comes, will she know how much I loved her?”   There is a time in everyone’s relationship that you start taking your partner for granted, and stop making sure they know you still love them.  So a few years ago, I decided to actually go out of my way as often as I could to make sure my loved ones know.   And now, I’m fairly certain that if that fateful day came at short notice, I wouldn’t have to worry that each and everyone of my family knew where they stood in my heart, so to speak.

But another, more difficult task was following the message in what was for a long time my guiding light – so much so, I would play this song to children at a school where I was governor, to try to inspire them to reach for their particular stars.

Some of you will already know what I’m referring to:

You know a dream is a like a river
Ever changing as it flows
And the dreamer’s just a vessel
That must follow where it goes
Trying to learn from what’s behind you
And never knowing what’s in store
Makes each day a constant battle
Just to stay between the shores.

Too many times we stand aside
Let the waters slip away
‘Til what we put off ’til tomorrow
It has now become today
So don’t you sit upon the shoreline
And say you’re satisfied
Choose to chance the rapids
And dare to dance the tide.

There’s bound to be rough waters
And I know I’ll take some falls
But with the good Lord as my captain
I can make it through them all.

I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry
Like a bird upon the wind
These waters are my sky
I’ll never reach my destination
If I never try
So I will sail my vessel
‘Til the river runs dry.

When we started out married life, we didn’t have many plans, and we had little in the way of direction.   We knew we wanted to be together, we knew we needed a house, we knew eventually we wanted children, and we knew that we had to pay for it somehow.

The first few years were great, we didn’t have to worry about where our vessel was taking us, we were riding high on the wave and happy to be in motion.   But soon, expectations and desires took hold and life got hard.  We had to cut to the bone to achieve our ambitions. We sailed close to the wind a few times, took the rough with the smooth, fell out a lot, said sorry a lot, and occasionally found ourselves caught in swells and troughs, currents and eddies which would try to pull us in different directions.

But we held on tight and rode them all out.

We could see the shores getting a little too close for comfort at times, and we indeed had a hard time steering a central course without running aground.

Later on our beautiful children appeared, and while I can’t say hand on heart we had it all charted out in advance, we had learned enough to recognise when we were on a steady course, with no rocks on the horizon and sufficient water around us that we could comfortably take the next leg of our journey.  And while we haven’t exactly “sat on the shoreline” I think we have been guilty of being too satisfied at times, and we have let more adventurous looking waters trickle by due to a fear to chance the rapids.

I don’t think anyone sits and plans their whole life in advance (ok, maybe I can think of one person who allegedly has every step of their journey plotted) and I don’t particularly think its the best way forward – is there any room for spontaneity if you hold to a fixed course for the whole voyage without slipping into the occasional bay or estuary to see what the other streams look like?

But, now we are well underway, and the inevitable final port of call, while nowhere near on the horizon hopefully, is at least now a distant certainty.

So it doesn’t take much to imagine how the rest of the voyage is going to go.

Everyone has some pre-conceived idea of their perfect journey, and possibly no-one ever achieves it, as your vessel meanders along the river and has no choice but to change course when the river requires it.  But we make the best of what we have.

So we spend much of our days contemplating on how the journey so far has met with our ideal, and what landmarks and waypoints we will hope to see on the final leg of the voyage.

And I find myself more often than not studying my own navigational chart and asking three important questions:

  1. “Is this where I expected to be by now?”
  2. “Is it where I WANT to be?”
  3. “Is the next part of my journey heading where I want it”?

The answers are troubling,  to say the least.

The journey we have had so far isn’t exactly what we had envisaged and hasn’t quite followed the course I plotted in my mind, but that said, the voyage so far hasn’t been a bad one.  There have been unexpected hidden treasures along with some significant rocky outcrops.

Looking forward, I worry that the horizon is hiding our final port, and we may wake up one morning and see it within sailing distance.

But more so, I see more obstacles in the water than we had originally anticipated, and tributories which may entice some of our crew along different paths, leaving us drifting and alone.

We have to make sure that every obstacle we face is navigated successfully so that we can try to stay on course.  But already, some obstacles which have been put in our way are forcing us to choose a new course which inevitably will lead to a final destination, but not the one of our choosing.  And it is clear that no amount of navigational skill is going to fix it.

There is nothing worse than standing on the bridge of your vessel, holding on tight to the wheel, and realising that the rudder has just fallen off and you no longer have control of your destiny.





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