Note: Though the article is focused towards seafarer’s wife, the content holds true for husbands of female seafarers as well (Every point may not be helpful, but most of them are).
It feels a part of you is going away every time he/she sets out to sail. Your heart feels heavy as a rock and pounds as you wave goodbye. With a glitch in your throat and the yearn in your eyes, you wish Bon Voyage to your beloved!
Each one of us- seafarer’s spouse go through this drill when time comes to see him/her off at the airport. The journey post that seems most dreadful; for that moment you feel your world has fallen apart and living through this phase of loneliness is the worst that has befallen upon you.
How does one prepare to stay calm, motivated and upbeat during such times when you feel beleaguered and all the more saddened to think about the days ahead?
Over years seafarer’s spouse have overcome their fears, struggled through the testing times, shouldered their responsibilities successfully and yet emerged as strong individuals enjoying a life of their own despite all the hardships. Let us consider what can be learnt from them:
Stay Positive: It is often advised to stay positive whenever you face challenges or setbacks in life while you tend to find it extremely difficult to be motivated and optimistic about your surroundings. However, making a conscious effort to train your brain to practice the power of positive thinking can come of help. Whenever a negative thought comes to your mind replace it with a positive one. You think you will not be able to do a particular task. Remind yourself of one such incident from the past when you performed a tough task exceptionally well. Always talk positively to your inner self: “I can do it”, “I am strong enough to face this”, “I will try”. With practice, your brain will get conditioned to think positive over a period of time and your outlook will change automatically.
Remember the old adage “This too shall pass”. When you inculcate faith within yourself that your current state is merely temporary, which will pass soon and will end the day you are together again in a few months time; you will automatically feel a spurt of motivation. You will feel the impetus to think about “what next?” That’s when you fill the void space with all the positive thoughts about what you want to do once this phase is over.
Missing someone is a part of loving them, if you are never apart; you’ll never know how strong your love really is. While you always miss your better half and yearn for companionship when he/she is out at sea, it is often the good times, those moments of joy, love and togetherness that you shared with the person that you reminisce. So, smile while cherishing those times, draw strength from your love, think and plan about creating many more such memories in future when you are together again. Whenever you feel low, shift your attention to something positive and dwell on that.
Take charge: Life is what you decide to make of it. You may decide to contemplate over your loneliness while he is at sea or may choose to keep yourself strong to face newer challenges. Brooding over the inevitable will only add to your misery. Instead believe in yourself and gear up to take everything in your stride. It is surely easier said than done. But channelizing your thoughts and energies towards achieving a happier self for the well-being of your own self and family is totally worth the effort. So, kick-start this time with a new-found liveliness and realize a harmonious and brighter tomorrow. Brace yourself to take the onus of all the responsibilities, tasks and activities at hand and strengthen the self-belief to carry them out efficiently. Remind once again to yourself; it’s your family, you are accountable for their welfare and you will do your best to keep things going in the best possible way as you have always been doing. Find bliss in this freedom of decision-making and act responsibly.
Prioritize: A lot of chores and responsibilities fall upon your shoulders when he/she goes to sea. The boiler generally runs and haunts you as to how you will cope when so much needs to be managed all by yourself; personal finances, child care, household chores, job, parents, family etc. How to do it all? The answer is effective time management and an organized approach.
Feeling overwhelmed when lots need to be done can be very stressful. So prioritize activities depending upon their importance and urgency whether at work or home. Begin with a “To-Do list”! Start making note of activities to be done and prioritize them on a weekly/monthly basis. Set reminders on your phone/calendar or place post-it around your work area. Make sure you keep a buffer of few days while you schedule to perform various activities with reference to say ‘last date of submission/payment/renewal’ etc. Keeping it for the last minute will only create havoc and leave you stressed out. EMI’s and bills payment, scheduled meetings, deadlines, planned hospital visits, social events, shopping etc can be tracked, managed and performed meticulously without fail. It will help you remain organized and leave scope for addressing any unforeseen events that require your attention at the 11th hour.
Planning your day every morning or a day in advance will help you keep control of all that needs to be done within the available time frame. You will also feel lot more confident about the pace of life when things are sorted and taken care of in the right manner.
Take care of yourself: Remember that you and your health are of paramount importance. You tend to play a pivotal role when trying to manage the house-hold, children, job and family when your better half is at sea. While trying to multi-task and doing all that is in your plate may weigh you down, it may be detrimental to your health if you do not invest in your well being.
- Stay calm! Do not panic if you have not been able to meet a deadline, or forgot something important or left it until tomorrow. It’s not the end of the world. Remember it is ok to not be perfect. None of us are. There is always tomorrow to set things right and start again. Do not let the self-imposed or external deadlines act as a deterrent to your mental peace especially if your priorities have been set sensibly.
- Exercise, Meditate and Eat Healthy. A healthy body and a healthy mind not only have immediate and long-term health benefits but also improve the quality of life. Increased fitness lifts your mood and often tends to make you feel happy about yourself and your life. Take time out from your hectic schedule and go for that 30-minute walk/run. It doesn’t necessarily have to be hours of sweating out to achieve a desired body if you are not after it. If hitting the gym is not your thing, do some basic stretching and exercises at home. Invest time in breathing exercise, meditation or yoga; it will have solemn influence on your system. Whatever works for you, make exercising a daily habit and stick to it. Having no time should not be an excuse. It will keep you fit physically, combat health problems/concerns, will boost your mood and confidence making you feel happier and more relaxed. Eating healthy is equally important. Skipping meals or grabbing unhealthy food items amidst work pressure or binge eating out of stress should not be done. Adopt a healthy lifestyle for your good.
- Take a moment to yourself. Have been too occupied with activities one after the other, running around at work or at home, driving in crazy traffic and yet loads to be done! Hold on. Grab a cup of coffee, sip through it while you put things into perspective, re-organize your thoughts, get your focus back and then do the next activity. Our mind and body often needs these moments of revival to perform better. Pamper yourself if you are worn out after a stressful week. Indulge in a savory, go for a spa treatment, order food at home or treat yourself with a shopping spree. It is ok to do what you like doing or whatever pleases you once in a while. It will help you rejuvenate and instill new energy to follow your work schedule once again effectively.
Budgeting and Personal Finance: Money matters must be handled and taken care of judiciously. It is always hard earned money irrespective of the fact how much each one of you is contributing towards the expenses. Separate needs from wants. There can be no end to splurging money on eating out, buying luxury items or expensive shoes/watches/mobile phones. Use your judgment to differentiate between items of necessity/importance and extravagance. Spending huge sum on your child’s education may be important than getting him/her an expensive watch. Discipline is the key. Budget your expenses on a monthly basis and track them to stay within the budget. It does not mean that you resort to extreme frugality. Maintaining a balance is prudence. Allocate funds to different buckets of your expenses in a well thought out way to take care of everyone’s needs simultaneously. Pay all your bills/debts in full and much in advance to avoid last minute hassles. Avoid indulging on credit cards for it’s you who will be paying those credits at the end of the month.
Develop and practice the habit of saving. Do it yourself and inculcate it in your children too. Keeping yourself financially secured for the unforeseen circumstances is essential. While long-term investments may be made in mutual conjunction with your spouse; short-term investments and savings must be made by you on a regular basis. It is often these funds which prove most handy in times of need. Judicious treatment of personal finances will not only render mental peace, it will also carve out a smoother and comfortable life for you in the long run.
Keep Yourself Engaged: Remember the old adage “an empty mind is where the devil resides”. Keep yourself engaged in any constructive or recreational activity when relatively unoccupied with work. While you thought kids, job or household chores may seize the opportunity to actually let you avail any free time; more often than not you will still find ample time at your disposal beyond your daily routine. Devote this time in doing what you always wanted to do. Pursue a hobby or a leisure activity. Reading, writing, listening to music, watching a movie, learning to play an instrument, drawing, painting or just spending time playing with kids or chatting away with your parents. If you are good at something, try taking it to the next level. You can also end up making little money out of an activity you are exceptionally fine at. It could be anything that pleases you. It will help you keep all your negative thoughts and energies at bay. As a result of which you will find yourself more productive in whatever you undertake.
Socialize: It is imperative of us to mix around and socialize. The fact that your spouse is not with you in person, does not mean that you distance yourself from the outside world and its people. Confining yourself to just work and routine may make you feel lonelier. Do not hesitate to get out, meet people, hang around with friends or invite them over. Attend office parties, team building activities or excursions. Make friends in whom you can confide or just vent your emotions. Sign up for events and gatherings of like-minded/varied people or interests or lead one of them. For example try getting together a group of sea-farer’s spouses in your city/area, plan monthly outings, play games and enjoy yourselves. If necessary, vexing friends or relatives can be limited to adherence of social protocol only. Keep yourself surrounded with positive people as much as possible. They will be instrumental in bringing happiness and learning to you.
Communication with Spouse: You are the pillar of strength and support behind your spouse’s successful career at sea. While s/he works hard to provide for the family there, you facilitate the smooth functioning of the family on land. Amidst these lives, it becomes imperative to understand the importance of communication that happens during this time period. With the advent of internet on ships, text/video chat, email exchange, instant messaging tools and other such mediums, maintaining contact with him/her has become much easier than before. They yearn for love and togetherness being far from home and often feel helpless too when matters relating home and family run berserk. Impending payments, inadequate upbringing of children or neglected parents build up the stress levels in him/her as much as it may do to you. So, next time when you tell him how much you love and missed him/her, do make it a point to share about specific tasks that you have completed for the month too. Same goes for other aspects of importance, be it related to home, children, parents or finances. This provides solace and a feeling of security and contentment in your better half that things are sorted and taken care of behind his/her back and s/he can focus on work better. Even without internet or any regular ways of communication, these little fillers whenever you get to interact, help providing the much needed mental peace to him/her.
Life may not be that easy and you may not really be able to handle a lot of situations coming your way. You will tend to vent or shatter in front of your most beloved one when things are not right. In such instances try to project a stronger self by the end of the conversation. It is easier said than done. But just think twice as you may only leave him/her feel vulnerable while s/he may not be able to do much. So continue to be his/her strength as much as possible.
It is true that while your better half is at sea, you might feel miserable at times, may miss him/her every moment, yearn for togetherness and love in your life. This does not mean that resorting to bad habits is in anyways justifiable. Indulging in smoking, drinking or drugs will only damage your health in the long run. Those who may even tempt to get disloyal or take to infidelity will only end up causing damage to their relationship and consequently their life forever. It is extremely important to maintain the right frame of mind and a positive outlook.
It will be interesting to note that research has also found women looking forward to these intermittent phases of separation over a period of years. It has greatly resulted in strengthening and adding charm to their bonding and relationship. It has also helped them getting back to the normal pace of life where children are more obedient, house-hold is well-managed and she is productively engaged in activities/jobs important to her.
Try finding happiness in whatever situations you come across and make the most of it. Keep up your spirits high!!!
Over to you all. Feel free to share what you do to keep yourself kicking when he/she is at sea…
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