When I was little, my family spent a lot of time at my grandparents’ cabin. It was about an hour from our house and we would drive there for the weekend so Dad could help Grampa with the property. I think Dad likely resented having to give up his weekends to labour away, but I have nothing but warm memories of my time there. I remember how I always, always got carsick on the drive, and the smell of the canvas life jacket I had to wear in the boat, and having a bath in the kitchen sink before I was old enough to have a shower in the stall. We would play cards, roam the woods in search of adventure and chase minnows and frogs from the dock. Now that both of my grandparents are gone, these memories are particularly sweet.
After a long weekend of work, it was finally time for some fishing and relaxation in the boat. We would all clamour in to troll around the lake, and I remember so clearly being invited to sit on my Grampa’s lap and steer the boat. I am pretty sure I beamed at the very idea of doing such a grown-up thing.
I would always get excited and madly turn the wheel, tilting the boat so it looked like it was about to flip over, which made my Gramma yelp and hold onto the seat. My Grandfather would patiently remind me:
“Make small turns, and let it straighten out.”
(I remember him being patient, but I have a feeling there may have also been some very-loving shouts.)
It turns out my Grampa was pretty brilliant.
Yes, it made the ride in the boat smoother, and kept my beloved Gramma from heart failure, but my Grampa’s message resonated far beyond our boat ride. It is something I apply now to my life, my relationships and also my work.
Do we often see what we want to be different and then dive in, too far, too fast? Do we take the wheel and make a sharp turn that can’t be sustained without tipping over?
You bet your sweet ass we do.
It’s great to want to shift things in your life. It’s wonderful to want to be your very best self for your relationship. And it’s never a bad idea to try and transition and improve.
The key in making any of these changes is to make them gradually and at a sustainable pace.
What does this mean for your relationships?
If you want to prioritize spending more time together as a couple, start with 15 minutes a day of connecting and talking about more than groceries and soccer practice. Ask your partner what they would have you do to support them in what they are wanting to do and who they are wanting to be.
If you would like your family to be healthier, avoid the drastic changes in diet and change one thing at a time. Find something fun for you all to do together.
If you want more physical intimacy in your relationship, start with non-sexual touching throughout the day; greet your partner warmly when they arrive home and tell them how happy you are to see them.
If you think you’d like a whole different career, don’t just quit your job: that could be seen as irresponsible. Instead, be intentional about your spare time, choose hobbies that are connected to the field you want to transition into, and make incremental (and sustainable) choices.
And most importantly, remember that it’s all in the recovery. When you do oversteer, gently return to centre, and then keep going. Keep that boat upright.