For Gosia who taught me wisdom is in empathy and not necessarily in advice.
“I can book us on a plane home today, if that’s what you want,” my husband, Keith, said.
I could hear his voice but was having trouble focusing on him after a night spent with severe motion sickness on our cruise. This was a night for the books! Seriously, I made amends for the last seventy years, made sure my son would get my 1969 VW and finally fell asleep after taking a motion sickness remedy I found buried at the bottom of my purse. I put it there for,“just in case.” Well, that night was definitely in the category of, “just in case.”
After offering a prayer of gratitude for the ship being docked upon awaking, I told him I didn’t think we should make that decision so fast until we had a cup of tea. We got dressed and went for a breakfast of toast and tea.
There were several people in the breakfast area looking as if they hadn’t weathered the first night very well either. While eavesdropping (I admit it), I learned that in fact the sea had been rougher than usual that night. When I shared my experience too, there were many voices encouraging me to take Dramamine. I don’t tolerate Dramamine but there was no use trying to explain. I felt hopeless as they all insisted this was the only way to go. Their intentions were good and I knew that. But, that course of action would have rendered me asleep throughout the trip. I knew that was not right for me. I felt if that was my only choice, it was best to fly home.
At a table right next to us, sitting by herself, was another lady. I recognized her as she had introduced herself the previous afternoon. Her name was Gosia. She and her husband, Ali, provided entertainment for this cruise. They had been on this ship and this cruise before. She said she understood and she too had a difficult first night. She told us that normally this cruise was fairly smooth, and there were some great sights to see should we choose to stay.
She added, “I am not offering you advice.” And she wasn’t. She was extending an empathetic ear. I found her gentle nature and sweet countenance alluring. I asked her how she copes with working on a ship if she gets motion sickness too. She shared some of the remedies she found helpful. I listened and realized that there may be a way for me to enjoy my trip without motion sickness or the somnolent state produced by medications.
I took her non-advice and went shopping on shore to collect items such as essential oils, non-drowsy Dramamine (which I did not know existed) as well as ginger ale. I’m delighted to report I did not have one more motion sickness episode, even on a night when there was more than a little rocking of the ship.
I’m so glad we did not cut and run. Gosia was right. This turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. If we’d returned home early, we would have missed meeting people we hope will be friends for a long time to come, hours of scenic tours, history lessons, schooner sailing, lobster boating, explorations of military forts, shopping in charming New England towns, and so much more.
To me, one of the best parts was being entertained by two extremely talented musicians, Gosia and Ali. They not only had us dancing and doing conga lines, but educated us on the history of songs, song writers, genres and musical time periods.
After the trip, I reflected on my new friend Gosia’s words that proved useful in making the right decision. I don’t think those offering me advice on taking Dramamine were in any way intrusive, but they did not know all the facts, including that I can’t tolerate most pharmaceuticals. And I remembered the way Gosia just stood in the discomfort with me, offered no advice but only tremendously valuable help.
I pray that is an example I will keep before me as I encounter others who may be in a tough spot and not looking for advice but just someone to understand how they feel and are in need of authentic empathy – a purer recipe for figuring out solutions. And I pray that when I am in that situation again of thinking a quick solution is the answer, I will recall the benefits of saying to myself, “Not so fast.”