It feels a little like I’m Little Orphan Annie or the Lone Ranger or some other 1930s-era radio hero, the way I’ve been slogging southeast against the increasingly strong southeastern trade winds in a 32-foot sailboat.
Not that I’m a martyr or anything. The co-captain and my kitty have been doing it too.
It’s just been weeks of tacking and straight-up motoring into the wind (check out the TortugaSailChart7.16) in an effort to get toward a protected anchorage in the Dominican Republic in advance of the first hurricane threat of the season. We’re more than halfway there, about to jump down to the Turks & Caicos.
Tortuga, our boat, does not point very well. For non-sailors, a quick lesson: Most sailboats with good sails and everything all tuned up can expect to point about 45 degrees from the direction of the wind. So, if the wind is coming from straight east (90 degrees), you can plan on sailing at 135 degrees or 45 degrees. That’s how you figure out tacking: You head in one direction, then switch and head in the other and you make way. But good old Tortuga, she points about 70 degrees to wind. So, it’s like north and south, baby. Going east feels like a straight-up slog.
What is a slog? Our buddies Merriam-Webster define it as “keep doing something even though it is difficult or boring.” Can you relate? Feels like the story of my life!
Why would we ever want to continue doing something difficult? Well, alas, that’s really
the only way to progress, isn’t it. Sometimes we catch a break and life progresses in this really magical and easy way, but that is so rare. Usually, it’s the no-pain, no-gain model. Things that are worth it take work.
What is worth it? Health is important, in all facets. If we want our physical bodies to be in great shape and free from disease, we need to eat nutritious foods in moderation and take regular exercise. We can’t just do it once. We have to do it all the time, even when we want to pig out on cheesecake. When we say, forget it and we eat the cheesecake, we fall off. Falling off is another sailing term: It means to allow the boat to let the wind push it away so you’re sailing on what’s known as a beam reach rather than a close haul. This is easier. You’re sailing along great, without having to pinch to keep the course. But you fall off course. And then you’re further away from your goal.
Health is just one thing that takes this type of dedication. Schooling often feels like this. Big work projects. Spiritual development can’t happen without it. So what type of person are you? Do you slog on, or do you fall off? Do you always keep the goal in mind?
I always try to keep the end game in mind. Starting with the end in mind is one of the Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, and it’s been something I’ve done for quite a while. Being a long-term thinker means being able to slog through, doing things that kinda suck now as to reap the benefits when the goal is reached. We’re talking about willpower, about character.
No doubt, slogging can certainly suck. That’s where the attitude comes in. This is why I’ve created this radio superhero persona for myself (it includes a theme song I sing loudly) when I’m at the wheel and I’ve just beating into the wind and trying to cover just a little more ground! (<– Yay! The blog theme song!)
In this episode, Slogging-East Sue must try to get the finicky autopilot to work so she can go to the bathroom and not wake up her co-captain! In the next episode, Slogging-East Sue wonders how her cat can so quickly go from panic to snoozing. In this episode, Slogging-East Sue dreams of completing the trip so she can enjoy a frosty glass of ice water and a cheap and delicious vegetarian meal in the DR that someone else prepares, for the love of Pete.
I have a lot of goals I’m working toward, and all involve the slog. I’ve been studying Spanish and currently slogging my way through the conjunctions of irregular verbs. I’ve been losing weight and slogging my way through two days of fasting a week (and, yes, enjoying the occasional cheesecake slice when one presents itself). I am working on my own spiritual development and slogging my way through a journal that requires me to own up to anger, sloth and other behaviors that are stopping me from progress. Accountability is a slog, man!
And so, I slog on … knowing one day the effort will pay off with an amazing experience in another country. No energy is wasted, and that’s the lesson of this episode of the Adventures of Slogging-East Sue!