I've been thinking a lot lately of an often referenced quote as I approach my goal of giving up alcohol for a year, "Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore" (Andre Gide). When I think of this quote as it applies to my life today, I find myself asking, "What is my shore?" and "What are the new oceans for me?"
I can't think of the quote without thinking of comfy slippers. They go hand in hand. For me anyway. I gave up wearing my comfy slippers last year when I made the decision, on July 30th, to give up wine for a year. At the time, I wasn't aware that I'd actually have to yank off my slippers and go barefoot for the duration of my "experiment". I think I thought I'd just make one change in my life, but be able to basically keep the rest of my life as it was, and keep wearing my slippers. I was mistaken.
As the year has progressed, I've come to see how my slippers are basically the shore I had to leave in order to do what I needed to do. They are my coziness and my predictability, my routine comforts. They are the known, the tried-and-true. They are the ways I have dealt with discomfort, sadness, irritation, anger, and all the other yucky stuff that life sometimes brings. They are a light and breezy glass of white wine, or a smooth and soothing red. They followed me into many a lounge booth and hugged my feet at family gatherings and other outings, always comfortable, and always familiar. They were on my feet a long time.
And the new oceans, what of those? They are me, floating on a raft in the middle of the unfamiliar, alone and wondering, "What in the hell have I done?!" They are me leaving behind those things that I was able to hang onto. They are the place with no handles. In fact, in order to survive here, I've had to release quite a few attachments, both literally and figuratively. But as chaotic as things have sometimes been in the middle of this new ocean, there has also been at times a rich calmness and depth of experience that was often lacking when I was a slipper wearer. As scary as it feels to have not much to hang onto, it also feels liberating. There is an authenticity in being in these waters that I didn't feel enough while at shore.
It's not that complicated to understand though really. Anytime you leave the shore and venture into the ocean is to go into the unknown (unless you're a sailor or a captain of a well-traveled ship of course!). You do this when you decide to make major changes in your life. And any time you do this is to catapult yourself into the chaos of the unknown, so this act requires courage, on many levels. But the first act of courage, as Gide said, is to "lose sight of the shore", and I think he was right about that.