Hotel Q(uarantine) – The emotional hardship of 21 days has sailed

The broad window in my Sigh-ing Pun* hotel boasts a great harbor view. I often sit on the broad windowsill watching the busy waterways between Hong Kong Island and Kowloon. It strikes me how fast and lineal some of the ferries plough through the waves. Sailing boats are rarer and more interesting to look at.

Some sail more smoothly than others. All find the same conditions, but some clearly master what they come across with more skill than their fellow travellers. They artfully hold the vessel steady and gain momentum in the elements – independent of size or shape. 

Understanding emotional meteorology

I wonder how I can keep a stable course throughout my journey of 21 days. Like the solo sailors who conquer an ocean – always fearing to capsize on a whale – I am afraid to drown on account of the inert mass of my body and mind. The Highs and Lows of my internal weather have frequently interfered with the moral compass.

Any emotion can be used to gather way. I can even sail against the wind at a pointed angle. It’s not going to be fun, but it can be done. I knew that I will face sunny days, stormy, rainy and calms. Part of my self-care was to allow any weather to arise without fighting it. Accepting the fronts to pass.

Key to survival is a sound sense of the elements. A ship sails better with the wind and the water, not against it. I am well advised to feel the breezes of my mood and to detect and accept the undercurrents of my emocean. But how? How can I bear gusts of anger when I read the news? The spray of unfairness, like a slap in the face?

Using what you have aboard

When I feel the elements getting at me, as best I can, I try to decenter and defuse from thoughts and reactions that appear in my mind. I do so by shifting attention away from myself and towards things I am grateful for, feel joyful about or just to things that are more relevant to my life right now, like helping people with my work as a counsellor in Hong Kong.  

I was grateful for being greeted by the frigate of HK admin, operating smoothly as usual. Holding up a massive pandemic undertaking seamlessly with solid organisation and politeness. Thank you to all the people working day and night to keep our normal life going – efficient at the airport, caring at the hotel and the jolly-friendly testing staff – in particular on NYE!!!

Alternatively, I bring back the focus of attention to my body and expand awareness from head to toe. Connecting with any sensations in my body helps to feel what is already there, honing in on pain, tension, heartbeat, heat and the breath. With the awareness of feeling I settle in with the here and now. Being fully present with the elements, the emotional weather – outside and inside.

“So maybe that’s what all that advice to live in the present moment is getting at: If you can invest more attention in the sensory world than in your narrative overlaying it, you might identify the former, rather than the latter, to be what’s true.”

Drake Baer 2017

Balance is important, intention is paramount

Balancing ourselves becomes easier when we know how we steer, what our sails are and where, understanding which ropes to hold tight and where to best place us and our crew in order to keep gliding steadily. I remain agile by moving around from bathroom to desk, from bed to window ledge and from yoga mat to the door.

Only by actively handling the pushes and pulls of the elements, can we stabilise the boat. Drifting is never an option, unless we do it on purpose (aka sober). Daydreaming can be positive-constructive, whereas the shallows look guilty-dysphoric or with poor attentional control.

We can choose different modes when sailing through life. We can cruise having pleasure in mind, we can be competitive in Regatta-mode having winning in mind or we can set sail having a destination in mind. It helps me to know what I am sailing for. My motivation is the mastery of navigation in order to arrive at shores I thought I could not reach. Competing only with myself.

*Sai Ying Pun intended!

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