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  • Writer's pictureJennifer Strube

Ships At A Distance Have Every Man’s Wish

Want to wake up your wildness? Notice which dreams you’ve hoisted on the ship that’s always just off your shore, that pesky and alluring boat just beyond your wading.

For this week’s musings, I’ve been thinking about longings. Longings are a core of the human experience. The lover longs for the far-off beloved. The actor eagerly awaits their audition call-backs. The woman who waits for the results of her pregnancy test after years of trying to conceive. We live for the “not yet” and get upset when it never arrives. We then find ourselves further confused when the “not yet” lands on our feeble hands and it feels vastly different than anticipated.  Is this what we’ve been waiting for? Why does what I wait for arrive so strangely?

Our longings are beautiful. We need them as they are what stir our spirits. They are whispers from God, implanted from heavens itself. Our hearts pry open for such musings, for all that we do not yet have.  The key actions to longing are this “not yet,” the waiting, the anxiety. Longings stir us because of their unknown qualities. We need these wishes to keep us up at night, to wake us up each morning, and to move us into an uncommon experience of life.  We need to yearn. However, the wishes we long for are often the things that are remiss in our own souls. We search for jobs to ignite our creativity when it our own artistic side we have left in the dirt. We search for partners to unlock our hearts when it is us who keeps our souls barricaded from the risk of opening up. We look for ecstatic experiences to reignite our connection to Source when it is us who has forgotten to believe. We look for our children to provide us unconditional love when we have yet to fill the holes in our hearts, still unable to believe we are worthy of undying affection. 

When we place the things we long for outside of us, we surrender our power. But when we tap into those longings and seek creative ways to embody that which we do not possess inside of us, we not only get what we long for, but we become a fraction more whole.  Author Robert Goolrick wrote, “If you don’t receive love from the ones who are meant to love you, you will never stop looking for it.” We were born with a restlessness in our souls, but life is a balance of longing and receiving. Of reaching for the stars and noticing how they have already fallen into our hands. We were taught to never settle and indeed we shouldn’t, but getting in touch with our longings means growing them up and growing them backwards.  We must reconnect with our childhood longings. We must return to our childhood dreams. And then we must remember that, as children, we didn’t understand the whats, whys or hows. We must separate our youthful longings from the specificity of how they could show up in our adult lives…  And then we must grow up our longings into action-packed realities where we, as true superheroes, save ourselves from our fantasies.

Flip fantasy upside down to get reality. You need both to complete the word.

At first this may sound defeating, but growing-up our longings returns our power. We then become the painters of our landscapes. We get to be the ones to infuse life into our longings. We are open enough to receive the mind-blowing ways the universe delivers our deepest dreams. We get to crawl on our far-off ships, sit down, drink the best of wine and rest.  We’ve all wished for things in life. We all must keep dreaming for them. But we all must also learn to recognize when they show up at our shore. We may not even recognize it all, thinking, “This is the ship I’ve been waiting for?” I thought it would look different. I thought it would feel different when the pregnancy test came back positive. I thought Prince Charming would never annoy me; in fact, why do I actually want to hit him with my glass shoe. I thought if I believed in a higher power, my life would turn perfect. I thought, I imagined, I don’t understand…. Our longings are just that: fantasies that we do not know how to fully grasp because they are far away. We can put on our spectacles and roll out our telescopes, but still, the ship is far off; it’s outline blurry.  Our ships will come in. But the spectacular wonder of them will surprise us.  When the far off and impossible arrives on the sand, it is neither far off or impossible. Which will feel very different in our bodies. In fact, it can make us question their very existence, even though, for the first time, they are actually within reach. Fernando Pessoa wrote, “The feelings that hurt most, the emotions that sting most, are those that are absurd – The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.”  We need to be stirred in these ways. Please keep longing. But trust that what you long for may look very different than what you thought. You may not even recognize it when it comes close, because the very essence of longing is the “far away” quality. Up close, will your vision blur? Will you be able to hold it? Or will you need to throw it back into the sea to realize what treasure just washed up before you? Keep the longings. But unravel the longing from the HOWS and WHATS and WHENS. Separate the longing from the fantasy of  HOW it will show up. From the WHEN you think you are ready. From the WHAT it will look like, feel like, and how it will “floor” (or not floor) you. 

And be careful what you wish for, as when it comes true, the change will not come from others. The source of your dreams will stare you in the eye, from just inches away, and ask you to change. You will have to become a bigger person to hold bigger dreams. Especially when they are now within arms reach. And if you can open your palms to them, they will be more than you’ve ever imagined. We all love surprise endings. Don’t push yours away as it may be the very thing you’ve been dreaming of since the days when your feet could barely brush the ground. I leave you with a poem I wrote this week about longings. The first line I borrowed from the fabulous book Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. The rest is my own:

WHAT PETER SAID Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. In the mornings, we rise and cup our palms to our mouths, drinking deep the water from the common bowl. We splash our faces until the husks of our cheeks turn violet, the crusted salt bleeding droplets into the corners of our cracked lips. The bitter taste, proof that we have harnessed another morning. From far off, you are an apparition. By day, I consume water from clay goblets as you, with your clay heart, consume me. At night, I grasp the cross around my neck and stare at your picture on my bedside wall. I hung you as there as they did the Christ, your gaze outstretched between two single nails into the plank of the cedar beam. Everything appears precious from far away. And you the loveliest of all. I close my eyes and dream of the one I cannot touch. To have and to hold will dampen the holding. To open my eyes will bid me sleep. So I write paper dreams on throw-away napkins and carry them long in my pocket. This is the longing of weary sailors, the stirring of hearts made whole by absence. Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. It has been 40 days since they hung the Christ – he too an apparition on the water. I remember the dawn he bid us walk. The crazyness, the immanence of the sinking. The single and wholehearted risk. Soon we will arrive on shore. Soon, we will remove our shoes one last time and fall mouth-agape before the burning bush. Soon, we will become Moses. We will lay down our stammered voices, raise our rod to herd the voices of angels and with the strength of knighted commoners, we will throw the remains of our tattered clothes into the sea. We will become again like men-children, our feet on solid ground awaiting the full resurrection. All this time we have been staring at ships at a distance when we, in fact, were the castaway. We, the restless souls needing dirt under our ankles. We, the little ones, beckoning the kingdom of heaven on earth.

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