Adjust the sails

Sailing by Manhattan, May 2007

Sailing by Manhattan, May 2007

“We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails.” — attributed to Dolly Parton

Thirty years ago Jeff and I went sailing on the Santa Monica Bay with my lifelong friend and her roommate.  It was my first time to go sailing, and I remember being surprised at how much physical work was involved.  I suppose I had the idea that one just sat in the boat and let the wind do all the work, but learning the various ways to adjust the sails gave me a new respect for those who have mastered this sport.  It’s the sort of thing that could never be learned from simply reading a book; you have to get out there on the water, wrestling with the equipment in the face of real winds and currents.

Sometimes when I look back on my life, it seems to have consisted primarily of adjusting to unforeseen circumstances.  Few of the people I know have ended up exactly where they had planned to be, and there’s no way to fully prepare for what the years will send your way.  It takes a lot of mental, physical and spiritual stamina to get through the changing winds of even the most fortunate life.  But we can’t expect to sit still in the boat and let the wind do whatever it wants with us.  The sooner we learn to adjust our sails, the better equipped we will be to enjoy the trip and get where we need to go.

What are some ways we can adjust our sails so that the winds work for us, not against us?


  1. We often don’t try to do that and waste away our time blaming our fate. Let me adjust the sails and see if I can make the winds work for me.

    • I’m with you on this! It’s still a learning process for me, but hopefully we get better with practice.

  2. Great post! xo

    • Thank you, I am so glad you like it!

  3. God Morning, Julia and Family, for me it is the serenity i receive from praying “Our Father” submitting my earthly concerns to my Father’s will and seeking wisdom in the Serenity Prayer. Knowing that if i begin each day trusting; if i apply Proverbs 3: 5-6 to my day. Abba is ForeverFaithFather to adjust my understanding to seek what is needed change my initial fear that no one controls the ‘high winds that blow’ to an eternal perspective – God is God- that nothing is impossible for Him. ‘Miracle Do Happen’ and that tis His Joy to equip us with acceptance, courage and wisdom in any ‘strong wind that blows’. I am powerless against ‘winds that blow’ accepting this in my family provides me with Spiritual, mental and physcial stamina to change what i can change, the perception of an unfortunate life to a blessed life, a day with Serenity in the Trinity. To sail my boat into the Light, winds. Praying without ceasing for All this day.

    • Thanks so much, Kate. Proverbs 3:5-6 is a favorite verse that I have repeated to myself many times over the years. I am so glad you have faith to sustain you through your troubles. I appreciate your visits here and especially your prayers for us.

  4. Sheila

    Good Saturday morning, Julia. Your post made me recall the 1987 America’s Cup challenge, when Dennis Conner sailed the Stars & Stripes 87. The excitement was so great that recording it wasn’t enough. We had to experience the moment! And now LIFE is our vessel. I will try everyday to be more a soft breeze than a harsh wind. Sheila

    • Thanks Sheila, I have never watched any sailing but I would certainly see it with different eyes after being out there in a boat. While we lived in California I read of Kenichi Horie’s amazing solo trip across the Pacific, and read his book Kodoku which was fascinating. His tiny boat, the Mermaid, is on display at the San Francisco Maritime Museum. He has since made many more amazing journeys powered only by the winds and his own determination. It is an apt metaphor for life. I need to take to heart your last sentence about being a soft breeze instead of a harsh wind. I often have been inclined to be pretty forceful, especially when advocating for Matt, and as a result I’ve become far too reactive in many situations. Thanks for being here, I am always happy to hear from you! Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

    • Sheila/Julia,

      Do I understand correctly that their is a sailboat named LIFE ?

      • I’m not sure about Sheila, but my boat used to be named “Life” before I changed it to “OK, WHATEVER” 😀

        • Anon E. Moose

          I meant “their’s”. Do Sheila and Bill have a sailboat? Ask her.

          • Sheila, consider yourself asked! 😀

  5. Carlyle

    This is one of your best posts!
    I went sailing one time long ago with a pilot friend and like you, was surprised to find how much physical work was required. Great metaphor!

    • Thanks Daddy. I didn’t realize you had been sailing. It’s quite an experience; although I’m not much of a swimmer, I think I could learn to love sailing.

  6. Wonderful post! Thank you for the encouragement!

    • You’re welcome, I’m so happy you like it!

  7. Some days I am drifting without wind to change the course. Those are the days I struggle the most. At least with wind you are busy and as you said need to make adjustments to keep the boat afloat. I am praying all is well with you and your boys. I love you.

    • Amy, that’s a great point. We often think of the winds of change (in life) as being all about stress, but without them we might stagnate. One thing I have learned more and more as I get older, though, is that the quiet, still and “boring” times are also necessary. The older I get, the more I like “boring” times and the small pleasures of daily life. Speaking of which, we need to schedule some tea time; I’ll call you next week. Love you!

      • Fantastic observations by both you and Amy! I love quiet and boring also, but NEED the wind! Wish I could join you for tea!!! 🙂

        • Well we can have a pretend tea party any time until we can get together for a real one! Meanwhile I wish you a nice mixture of boring and stimulating, to keep things exciting but not too exhausting.

  8. Linda

    Amen! I am so humbled by your talent and your gift of writing! I so miss our discussions. Just think of all the people and experiences we would have missed if we hadn’t been diverted by the “winds”. I know I am a better person.

    • Linda, I agree. I really appreciate your kind words about my blog. I miss our discussions too. I learned so much from you, especially about being brave in the face of anxiety and staying the course through tough times. Thanks for being here!

  9. Sheila

    Julia, I would love to join you for that pretend tea party if I may invite myself. What a fun idea! Sheila

    • Sheila, you will certainly be welcome! Whenever I figure out the details I’ll let you know! 🙂 I don’t think Skype has a “tea party” mode yet, but maybe they will come up with one just for us.

      • Sheila

        Skype…. Oh,goodness! What to wear? Thank you for yet another smile. Sheila

        • After my computer crashed last week I got a new one that has a camera, and without my knowing, it took a photo of me. Yikes! At first I thought, WHO IS THAT? Then when I figured it out I hit delete about 50 times. Let’s just say these computer cameras are NOT flattering and I don’t know how anyone has the nerve to use them! I thought the whole point of getting together via computer is so you can come in your pj’s with bad hair!!! 🙂

  10. Great wisdom. Well beyond your years. Thank you again for your inspiration. Much love for you and your whole family!

    • Thanks Don, I appreciate your support and your kind words about this blog. It’s so nice to have you visit us here!

  11. We love sailing, and always take the opportunity when it presents itself. We enjoyed sailing in Chesapeake Bay on our visit to Virginia from the pier at the Tides Inn in Irvington. So beautiful and peaceful. It looks like you really had spectacular views on that sail.
    When I was faced with a divorce 22 years ago, I had to adjust fast just to stay afloat. I had professional help as well as community support. I also retrained for a better paying job so that I could support myself more easily. My stubborn refusal to allow my ex to say “I told you so” really inflated my sails (he wanted me to sell the house). I paid him out and never looked back. Hasta La Vista!

    • Believe it or not we have never yet been on the Chesapeake Bay in any kind of boat although we’ve lived here almost 9 years now. Maybe we will get to do that eventually. Many years ago I had a friend who had to make big time adjustments because of a divorce. When her husband left her, she had two toddlers and had no clue of anything financial, had never even balanced a checkbook. Like you she had the help of others to learn how to survive, and she went on to have a very happy life. Sometimes we are forced by circumstances to find abilities we didn’t know we had.


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