June 5 , 2024 /


I had a friend named Stan who had a small sailboat on Martha’s Vineyard, a 19’ O’Day Mariner. He had it rigged with a self-tending jib that changed with the wind and the position, no outboard motor, only the sails and the wind.  A sailor needs to be able to read wind and tides to be successful.

Stan gave me the benefit and pleasure of sailing his boat from the mooring in Edgartown all around the harbor and beyond when the sea was calm. I was always nervous coming back to the mooring, knowing there were eyes on me from the adjacent yacht club. There were only the sails and the wind for power and controlling speed.    I missed the mooring one or two times and got better with practice. Stan had the same kind of boat on Virgin Gorda and I enjoyed sailing that one too.  Its name was “Jumby”, a spirit, ghost, or minor demon especially in Caribbean belief and folklore.  I sailed Jumby in the North Sound across from “The Bitter End” and not far from Necker Island. We could wade from the shore on Anguilla Point where Jumby was moored.

Back in Edgartown one day, a storm filled that sailboat with water and it sank at the mooring with just the stern sticking up out of the water with only its name visible, “Now What”.   The dingy that we used to get from the shore to the mooring was called, “So What” and the picture of the sunken boat was on the front page of the Vineyard Gazette.  Boat names are chosen with forethought. Now What?

When something unexpected happens, especially when that something causes a problem that needs an immediate response, “Now What” is a good introduction to consider a plan for next steps to move forward.  Most of us can remember a time or an event that surprised or shocked us into a state of suspended belief while we tried to grasp the meaning of what happened.  It could be as upending as the death of a loved one or as trivial as the sinking of a small sailboat.  In either case, what we experience in those moments following is a sense of loss and how to deal with it immediately.

The United States is looking toward November when there will be winners and losers.   It is the nature of political contests that those who lose will inevitably respond with “Now What”. Some will even express doubt about the validity of the results, a behavior we witnessed in large measure from a defeated Presidential candidate in the last general election in 2020. He continues to fan those flames into a frenzy with his cult followers opposing the results.  No need to comment here on his recent convictions.

The first stage in grief due to loss as laid out by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross is denial.  Not everyone agrees with her five stages of grief ending in acceptance because for many people there is no expiration date to grief and loss.   It is always there and learning how to live with it is the challenge. What Kubler-Ross says is “you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss…You will be whole but you will never be the same again, nor should you want to.”  That some get stuck in the state of denial (or anger)  means that they cannot make progress toward learning how to live with the loss.  It’s like a wound that will not heal because they refuse any kind of healing or treatment and they tend to infect others around them.  I could go out on a limb and call it an epidemic.


We need to find a way beyond “now what” to “so what” can we do to recover from the loss. Whether personal or political we can move on and not be stuck in the past.  The past has gone away and will not return as it was.  We can shift our perspective from past to present and look for strategies to rebuild and perhaps even find help from others.  We can put ourselves on solid ground on which to make repairs whether to the boat or to ourselves. That is what will help us engage with life again in new and different ways. When we do that the days are brighter, more hopeful and promising.  We need what Jack Bogle referred to as courage.

““The courage to press on regardless – regardless of whether we face calm seas or rough seas…”  John C. Bogle


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