“We are all in the same boat.” Hmm…. Sounds like such a wise and profound analogy for the COVID-19 “experience,” and even for life in general. As human beings, we are all born, live, and die. No one is immune and our common experience (in this case, some type of suffering) unites us all.
An even better nugget of wisdom that I have heard recently takes the sailor analogy to the next level. It is something along the lines of, “We are all in the same storm, but on different boats.” I like this! It addresses the fact that COVID-19 is like a global storm casting a dark cloud sweeping over everything (I think of “The Nothing” in the 80’s movie, The Neverending Story). It affects everyone in the same way in that none are immune. There is currently no vaccine or cure available to anyone. Likewise, the social distancing rules, and lack of access to “non-essential” businesses and services apply to us all.
The boats in this analogy refer to other externals that may impact the experience: size of home, financial stability, access to nature, personal space, abundance of food and supplies, etc. Clearly, a married mother who is part of a wealthy family of four, with two children in their late teens, in a home with three bathrooms, a large backyard, and internet access will experience the storm in one way. A single mother with three children under five in a one bathroom, eighth floor apartment with no internet will recall these times in a way that is altogether different. Same storm. Different boat. Very different…
Now let’s take the analogy to an even deeper level. Try to picture it this way: We are all in the same storm, but on different seas, in different boats. The externals I described before are the different seas. The first woman is riding out the COVID storm on a small lake encircled by tall, protective mountains. The gusts of wind barely penetrate the lofty peaks and the lake’s surface merely ripples under the force. The second woman’s boat is in the middle of the ocean with huge tidal waves crashing on all sides and sharks circling in the dark depths below.
The boats, the most crucial elements as they are the only things over which there is any control in this analogy, are OUR MINDS.
I like to apply this analogy to the current state of things, but also to life in general. We have no control over the forces of nature or the grander issues plaguing society. The body of water on which we sail, however, is to some degree within our control based on choices we have made earlier in our lives. Some are lucky to have been born near gentle surf, and some have even left the ponds and rivers for the excitement and thrill of the high seas.
The vessel in which we sail, our mind, is within our control. If you are riddled with anxiety, anger, and self pity, you are riding in a rickety dinghy made of rotting wood, and the slightest ripple can cause you to sink. If you remain mindfully in the present, with optimism and gratitude you are riding a massive yacht capable of traversing any raging ocean.
If this is you, coasting serenely, remember that you have an obligation to help smaller vessels that are in peril. Reach out to those who may be experiencing depression and offer optimism and cheer or a helping hand if it is safe to do so via community service and outreach. If you are the one sinking, remember self care (meditate) or send out and S.O.S. (pick up the phone). Feelings of isolation and disconnectedness, especially during times like these when we are advised to keep our distance, make it important to reach out for help.
Remember, as we are all in the “same storm,” we also have the same ultimate objective in life which is to stay afloat in the shifting tides.