We must free ourselves
“We must free ourselves of the hope that the sea will ever rest. We must learn to sail in high winds.” — Aristotle Onassis
Whatever else might be said of Aristotle Onassis, he certainly learned to make the most of adverse circumstances. His family’s experiences could have led him into poverty. Instead he became one of the world’s wealthiest men, though the details of his biography suggest his ethics were not equal to his determination.
Ethical questions aside, I appreciate his words quoted above, because I have found them to be true again and again. It might seem strange that a blog called “Defeat Despair” would highlight a quote about freeing ourselves from hope. But freedom from false hope can actually be an important part of overcoming setbacks. It allows us to adjust to misfortune or grief rather than denying it with wishful thinking.
When Jeff was first diagnosed with stage IV adenocarcinoma, we read up and immediately came face to face with the bluntly unfavorable prognosis that was confirmed by his doctors. A blessing we did not expect was the upbeat attitude of those who have provided his treatments. They are candid in discussing the battle he faces, but many of them have encouraged us to look at cancer as a chronic condition rather than a death sentence; to resolve to live with cancer rather than focusing on dying from it. To the extent that we have done this, we have been more able to weather the many difficult days, and cherish the relatively easy or peaceful ones, no matter how few and far between.
The next time you find yourself using the words “if only” or “I can’t wait until” or “when things calm down a bit,” remember the words of the Greek shipping magnate who harnessed the power of the unruly seas to bring himself legendary fortune. Don’t wish for easier circumstances that may never arrive. Learn to sail in the high winds. It will be good experience — and perhaps it will be unexpectedly invigorating.