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Running the Inlet

Updated: May 17, 2019

Author: David Norris, PhD

Clients of the Resonance Program are sometimes experiencing a life transition.

Some are confronting a career change. Others may be adapting to retirement,

the loss of a loved one, or a move to a new city.

Sometimes the transition is not so apparent; but the client is, nevertheless,

moving to a new identity and a new episode of their life. Life passions, strengths

and values change as we progress through life. These changes result in a new

identity, and as our identities change, we move to new episodes in our life.

Transitioning from one episode to the next can be a tumultuous experience.

Sometimes there is a latency period when the particular passions, strengths, and

values guiding our life diminish before our new identity comes into focus. These

latency periods can be marked by anxiety, depression and a loss of purpose.

Ironically, as we approach the threshold of our new life episode, we can feel a

surge in anxiety and confusion, and a yearning to return to the familiar life we

knew before. When I reflect on this process of development and growth, I am

reminded of some of my experiences with coastal sailing, and transiting from the

familiar waters of the rivers and sounds to the clear blue water of the ocean.

A friend and I kept an old sailboat moored on the Carolina coast. Shallow draft

boats with a swing keel can find many great places to sail in that area. We

enjoyed the inland waterway excursions. But real sailors are blue water sailors,

and we were in a popular harbor where real sailors would birth large sailing

vessels while transiting from northern harbors on their way to the Caribbean


Since we were determined to be real sailors, we weren’t going to be found

motoring our boat around like the fair-weather weekend sailors we saw at the

marina. We were the real deal. We had a sailboat, and we would sail it like it was

(or should have been) built to sail. Of course, that decision was helped along by the condition of our 20-year-old 5 HP Chrysler outboard that hung off the

transom and only ran on random days of the month.

So, after dreaming for months about getting out to the blue water with our little

boat, the day finally came to go for it. We paddle our dingy out to the boat, tied

up to the mooring float, and clambered aboard. After we rigged the jib and main

sails my buddy released the shackle on the mooring line. The jib and main sheets

were loose and we are in irons until he gave the word that we were clear.

Heading off a little and pulling in some jib and main sheets and we were once

again sailing in the creek. Piece of Cake.

But the clear blue ocean was out there waiting and this was our day to experience

it. We eased our way around markers, boats and shoals in the creek to approach

the inlet and our new identities as blue water sailors. It was about then that all

hell broke loose. The wind was whipping around the opposite banks of the inlet

making it impossible to get a good set on the sails. There was little room to tack,

and the rudder and keel lost bite. What’s going on?

My shipmate, explained how we have wind, tide and current fighting each other

in the inlet and our little old boat is being pushed and pulled in every direction

above and below the waterline. But we had sight of the sea buoys out beyond the

inlet, and this was our day to get out to the number 2 buoy and head for the

Cape. Besides, I doubted we could come about and avoid a sandbar and a broach.

Being the determined (and stupid) sailors we were, we tacked 10 or 12 times until

we found better air and made it out to the sea buoys. We were greeted by the

slow swells and the steady wind of the Atlantic. That first broad reach to Cape

Lookout on an old, slow sailboat was an exhilarating experience. It was better

than our fantasies. We were fortunate to repeat that ocean sail on a number of


I think about those sailing experiences and how they apply to any time we

transition from the old familiar experiences to new, untested waters. The brown

water sounds and creeks of life are safe and familiar, but may not be fulfilling.

Our passions change, and when they do, it is time to transition to a new life

episode. Nevertheless, it’s normal for us to feel increasingly anxious and fearful

as we get closer to the portal to our new life.

So, the only game in town is to keep tacking and stay in the channel until you get

to good air. Or better yet, break down and get a good motor for that boat like

really smart sailors. That’s what we do at Resonance NC. We enjoy helping

courageous sailors find smart, safe transitions to their own blue water


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