The winds on the western isles of Scotland are relentless. I viewed their impact on the Sound of Iona from the dining room of Seaview B & B, my accommodations in the village of Fionnphort. The owner, John, had previously been a fisherman and was expert at judging the wind and the sea. Knowing I had to check in at the Abbey on the following day he advised me, “I’d catch the early ferry. They might close it down.”
He was right. A group of those in our community of forty-one were caught when the ferry stopped after the second run. They arrived the following day when the ferry re-opened. At the end of our week, I remembered John’s words when I heard high winds were predicted. A small group of us walked to the landing through the blowing rain in the early morning darkness instead of waiting until the 9:00 run—that allowed for more sleep, a less rushed breakfast, and lengthier goodbyes.
Later, when I boarded the noon train in Oban, I saw the empty seats of those that should have been on that second ferry. I hated it for my new friends—their inconvenience and costs with changing travel plans, and felt grateful for John’s wise counsel that had helped me avoid those complications.
Since childhood, I’ve cut things close in my life, waiting until the last minute in order to accomplish more, seeing that as being efficient. I’d weed one more row in the garden, do one more load of clothes, add on another household chore—work up until the last minute before leaving for a scheduled activity. But what I was beginning to see, was that giving myself the space that left room for error, was a more gracious way to live.
Years ago, when going through radiation treatment, I also found that giving myself more time and space worked to my benefit. I scheduled the thirty-two treatments in one of the first appointment slots of the day. I dreaded having to start my morning with the reminded of cancer. I’d learned from my oncology visits that it helped to ‘pair the bitter with the sweet.’ Following my office visits, I’d do something enjoyable, like go shopping, get a manicure, or have a decadent treat. What if I applied that same principle to the radiation visits—pair that distasteful daily reminder with something enjoyable?
I decided to arrive for my appointment fifteen minutes early and write. I never took that time on a usual morning—always too busy getting myself and my family going for the day. Over those thirty-two mornings, I came into the radiation department equipped with a mug of dark roast and my notebook. By the end of the sessions, I’d written a short story and reframed the time as something I could partially look forward to– time for me.
Catching the first ferry and getting to radiation early come together for me now. They are ways of opening up time and space with more grace—not pushing up to the limit with no room to maneuver.
I’ll keep John’s advice, spoken in his lovely Scottish accent, “Catch the Early Ferry” as the voice in my head that reminds me to allow myself enough room for the uncertainty, not knowing if the waters may turn rough and catch me unaware.
What about you?
Do you allow yourself the time and space to live life with grace?
How could you let go of the need to accomplish more and give yourself the extra time that allows for interruptions or delays?
Are there areas of your life where you could pair the bitter with something sweet?