Struggling with the ebbs and flows of life…? Keep the faith! You never know what the tide will bring

Everyone loves it when the tide is going their way in life. But how do we react when the tides of life are flowing away from us? I recently wrote of my passion for classic stories with a moral that resonate across time and culture. I also collect classic movie scenes and lines that have a hidden metaphor or message for my own life-usually just at the time that I need it.

you never know what the tide will bring

you never know what the tide will bring

I am naturally a very positive and joyful person. But I have had periods of darkness in my life. I’ll bet many of you have suffered the same or know family members who have experienced dark moments that have tested their soul and character, especially in recent years since the financial crises of 2008. The psychologists say that in life you are either  “in a crisis, exiting a crisis, or getting ready to enter a crises”. Not an optimist’s view, but with a certain truth.

In January 2008 I experienced my perfect personal storm. In a matter of just a few months, my world came crashing down. The mortgage company that I work for as a regional manager went BK. I became separated from my wife. I injured my knee requiring major surgery. And my father became increasingly disabled with Parkinson’s disease. It surely seems that when it rains it pours.

As I sat on the couch all alone in my remote big house, my casted leg propped up, and a relentless winter rain storm pounding in the night, I wondered aloud how I had gotten to such a state. And how could I get out of it. I was feeling sorry for myself and terribly lonely. Wanting to avoid the silence and my own thoughts, I turned on the TV and flipped through channels randomly and I came across the movie “Cast Away” with Tom Hanks. Well, a man stranded on an island, challenged to survive and with no obvious escape seemed a good metaphor for my own feelings at the time. This movie came out in 2000 and in my opinion should have given Tom Hanks his third Oscar for best actor.

I assume that most of you have seen this movie and remember the premise. And even if you haven’t seen it, then you can probably figure it out. A FedEx executive in charge of opening new Russian and Asian branches goes down with the plane somewhere over the Pacific and washes up on a deserted island as the only survivor. He is not a competent outdoorsman, but he sets out immediately to survive and hope for quick rescue. He is resourceful and using some of the washed up FedEx packages and plane debris, but he struggles to survive and suffers increasing loneliness and hopelessness. But he has many small victories like when he discovers how to make fire. Even with the fire, he cannot attract rescue planes or ships and the months begin to tick by. The only thing that gives him hope, a reason to survive, is a locket with a picture of his fiancée Kelly. But even then he despairs, and even considers suicide. But he fails at this attempt… and goes on to mark off 4 years of living alone on this deserted island. Finally, one day the tide washes onto shore a broken port-a- potty that looks to me as of no practical value. But he gets the bright idea to fashion this broken plastic into a sail that he could attached to a raft and try to make it past the steady sets of waves that pound the shore.

And then the moment of truth comes, when the raft is ready and the tide is right, he makes a defining choice. He decides to leave the relative safety of the island and risk it all to make it into the unknown waters of the Pacific with a small chance of being sighted, saved, and returned to the woman he loves.

And no surprise, despite storms and near disaster, he does escape the island, is found, and is taken back to Memphis for a hero’s welcome. But one major problem-he has been missing for so long that he was declared dead  and his fiancée Kelly has since married another man and even has a small child. Everything that he had lived for, had hoped for four years was now gone. Wow-and I thought that I had it tough on my island! I was inside, with a fire, sheltered from the rain, and a few feet walk to freshwater and a refrigerator full of food, ice, and beer. How does a guy go on after what the Hanks character just went through?

And now comes the key monologue and key message of the movie, as Hanks sits with his FedEx buddy in Memphis and tells his story and what he has learned and what he is going to do now. By this time, I was mesmerized-he was talking directly to me, had a message for me as I sat on my own island. His words hit me so hard that I paused  the TV to write down every word :

About the island

I knew that I was never going to get off that island. I knew that I had lost her. I knew I was going to die….

But then a feeling came over me like a warm blanket. I knew what I had to do. I knew somehow I had to stay alive. Somehow I had to keep breathing, even though I had no reason to hope and all my logic told me that I would never see this place again.

So that’s what I did, I stayed alive, I kept breathing, and one day that logic was proved all wrong. Because one day the tide came in and gave me a sail”

getting ready to leave the island after 4 years

About being back in Memphis and losing Kelly

“…and now here I am, I’m back in Memphis, talking to you, and I have ice in my glass.

And I’ve lost her all over again. I’m so sad that I don’t have Kelly, but I am so grateful that she was with me on that island.

And I know what I have to do now, I have to keep breathing, because tomorrow the sun will rise and who knows what the tide could bring.”

Here’s the short two minute video if you’d like to see the words spoken by the master Tom Hanks. And if you watch further you will find out that in the last scene the tide does it bring a new opportunity for Hanks.

(Click here to see the video clip of the above closing scene from “Cast Away”)

That’s powerful – no matter how bleak my situation, no matter my loss, my suffering, my pain-now I know what I have to do in my own life…” I have to keep living, I have to keep  breathing, because tomorrow the sun will rise and you never know what the tide will bring”. This is a clear message of hope; a belief that the future will be better, and that good things can come from even bad circumstances. It is an optimist viewpoint and that of a future oriented person. And this is a message that I’ve taken to heart, taken as my own mantra. I now look for positive tides each day and try to learn from the ones that knock me over. Like the tides on the shore, I am destined to have ebbs and flows in my own life. The secret is to enjoy the flows while they are happening and to learn and grow when it is moving away from me.

Are you attracting positive tides into your own life? Would you know them if you saw them? Here are 5 secrets to attracting positive tides into your life

  1. Pay attention!-There are potential tides all around you that could either sweep you to success and happiness or drive you to the rocks of failure and misery. The answers and the help that you need are all around you if you only have eyes to see.
  2. Focus on attracting new tides into your life. The Buddha said “we become what we think about most of the time“. What are you thinking about most of the time?… The circumstances, events, skills, and people that could help you? Or all the things that are wrong and all the reasons that it won’t work? To change your life you must first change your thinking and focus.
  3. Be resourceful- you may not think that you have the tools, money, and connections that you need to overcome obstacles or get to the next level. But like Hanks, who used random scraps from the fallen plane to survive and a broken piece of plastic to form a sail, I would tell you that you have many of the pieces and connections either in place or 1 degree of separation from you, that could turn defeat into victory. Play the cards you’re dealt-Use what you have.
  4. Get moving -get out your comfort zone. First decide that you are going to get off the island, then take immediate and massive action. The tide isn’t likely to come in to exactly where you’re standing. Move to meet it. The FedEx man isn’t going to deliver you the perfect job offer, your future bride, or $1 million to start your business. Get unstuck by taking one step toward the direction of the new tide by moving and making things happen. The universe opens doors for those that move toward it.
  5. Put in the time and learn-despite his best efforts, Hanks did not succeed in attracting rescuers and getting off the island in the early weeks. And he had trouble even feeding himself or getting fresh water in the beginning. But after four years he had become an extremely competent outdoorsman and had the skills and knowledge to build the raft that eventually saved his life. So, it may take months or even years of hard work to gain the skills and resources to finally break away from your island. But the alternative is to not learn, stay stuck, or die spiritually on your island.

Quote of the week:   There is a tide in the affairs of men. Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life Is bound in shallows and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, And we must take the current when it serves, Or lose our ventures. Brutus from Julius Caesar Act 4, scene 3, 218–224, William Shakespeare

Question:  have you been on an island recently? What did you do, or what do you need to do to get off? Think of some positive tides that have helped you in your life. Now, what new tides do you need to attract to build your raft?


2 Responses to “Struggling with the ebbs and flows of life…? Keep the faith! You never know what the tide will bring”

  1. Ingrid December 14, 2011 at 5:28 am #

    Interesting and insightful post. You are right on with your points Mike. We all have a road to travel with many windings and curves. At the end it is how we prevailed against the odds, using the gifts that God has given us to overcome or to grow and share. Your analogy is with the sea… an uncontrollable median- a powerful, unforgiving and untamable force. I see life as safer … a solid road although sometimes not just difficult but hard, or the burden heavy. Other times, love, laughter and light abound. The key for me is in knowing that I’m on the right path with the right guide and making a positive difference. One of my favorite quotes: “Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid: for the Lord thy God is with thee where ever thou goest.” Joshua 1:9 Thanks for your positive influence. ~i~

  2. Georgeann Berti February 2, 2012 at 7:00 am #

    Great set of inspirational material, thanks for sharing.