“If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right.”
— Steve Jacobs
THE doldrums is a phrase used by sailors meaning that part of earth near the equator where the winds from the northern and southern hemisphere come together (the intertropical convergence zone).
This sounds harmless enough but it was an area sailors of olden days dreaded.
Characterised by calm waters and violent storms, ships which relied solely on wind power at the time, couldn’t move and they could find themselves stuck there for weeks.
Sometimes we can find ourselves in the doldrums of life; when despondency with regard to achieving our goals set in and emotions are turbulent in a storm-like fashion.
Whether it’s in business, career or studies, it’s easy to focus on the difficulties.
In an effort to emerge from such times, I seek inspiration from different sources.
Women who defy the odds
One of the things I do is to examine the lives of women in history and their stories often give valuable lessons, showing that challenges can be overcome.
Last month on a day’s excursion to Morija I bought a book by Tim Couzens called, Murder at Morija; a captivating read that disrupted my life for several days as I couldn’t put it down.
The entire historical volume is woven around the 1920 murder (apparently by his own daughter) of Edouard Jacottet, a third generation missionary living at Morija at the time.
Even though the tale revolves around the patriarchs of that era, glimpses into the lives the missionary women led are fascinating and are real examples of perseverance and determination against immense odds.
Married at a young age the women accompanied their husbands from France and Switzerland to Basutoland at the time, with scant knowledge of their destination.
The voyage by ship took about 100 days to Cape Town and several months in ox-drawn wagons to Morija.
At a time when there were no telephones and letters took months to be delivered by ship, the nearest shop (a one room) was in Colesburg about 400km away at the time.
Trips to the shop were made about once a year and most of the time they had to make do with what grew in the garden.
For the purposes of teaching and living with the locals, they had to learn Sesotho and very quickly too.
This book made me think twice of some the things we regard as obstacles.
With all the resources available to many women today, such as the level of technology, information and modern modes of travel I can’t help thinking that it is possible to achieve our goals.
Rising like the Phoenix
There is something else I have noticed, from the doldrums one can rise like the mythical Phoenix, the bird which realised that the only way to transform was through the death of its old habits and defences.
In her book, Broken Open, Elizabeth Lesser goes into more depth on how difficult times can help us grow.
So even though the low times can come, the cycle of highs and lows should take the shape of a corkscrew.
We can go round in circles but rising ever higher so that we are not always starting from the same place, lessons are learnt and applied until the next challenge comes along.
But what specific things can one look out for or do to rise again?
When confronted with a challenge, we are inclined to ruminate, thinking of all possible scenarios often the worse.
We could try the opposite and imagine a favourable outcome, giving energy to that outcome.
It’s well documented that our intuition is often ignored at the expense of the intellect and this can be to our detriment.
Moments of inspiration are usually accompanied by waves of physical energy, in a few hours one can accomplish
something which would normally take days of uninspired effort.
So, as we journey onwards it’s worth taking a moment to ponder over Mary Oliver’s lines: “Doesn’t everything die at last and too soon? Tell me what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”