Accepting the Challenge

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Photo by Stanley Zimny – click photo to go to his photostream on Flickr

Fundraising is hard.

But, so is rowing an ocean. They say that the pre-crossing process of getting sponsors and getting prepared is harder than rowing the ocean itself. It seems rather unbelievable. How could posting on the internet, writing proposals, talking to people, and maybe throwing a party or two be harder than experiencing the pain, exhaustion, physical and emotional vulnerability, and fear that is felt on a daily basis on the ocean? I’m not really sure. Obviously, it’s a different kind of hard. I am not the kind of person that’s good at marketing, but I am the kind of person that can have the patience to row 3000 NM across the ocean. Also, ocean rowing is straightforward. Point the boat west, you’ll land somewhere, eventually (hopefully). And since I don’t actually know what I’ll be experiencing out there, this challenging process of raising money is turning out to be great practise.

This may sound weird, but, one of my life intentions is to fully accept what-is in any given moment. It’s difficult to explain because people tend to equate acceptance with giving up. And that couldn’t be further from the truth. The present moment is-what-it-is no matter what we think about it – it cannot be different. Future moments, sure, they will be different depending on what is done along the way. The present moment is both unchangeable, and continually in flux. Acceptance of what-is is where the magic happens.

Ocean rowing is an extreme way to test your ability to accept where you are and to feel good about moving forward. Life is hard for everyone. Different kinds of hard, for sure. And some of us get to experience more joy and happiness than others based on birth, upbringing, karma, and who knows what, an infinite number of factors. But, always there is “hard”… challenge. And so how do we deal with things that are hard? That’s the challenge. You can resist it or you can allow it.

In my fundraising process, I approached an organization that I deeply care about, seeking support with a relatively small in-kind donation and I’m turned down flat. That’s hard. I want to include them in my journey. I want to sing their praises. But, they disappointed me and aren’t I supposed to reserve space for those who “pay”? It’s frustrating.

Imagine this: One thousand miles out at sea, after sleeping only 2 hrs in a 48 hr period, then vomiting all the food I ate over the side of the boat, I sit at the rowing seat to continue pulling my way across the ocean. With every slide of the seat, the salt sores on my body send electrifying pain throughout my whole body. My mind can only think one thing: stop! That’s hard.

Some people say that dealing with this kind of challenge requires “mental toughness”. Suggesting that if you build your mind up strong enough then it will successfully fight off the pain and suffering. I’m not so sure about this. I think the key is total acceptance.

But, you can only practise accepting things that are hard when hard things happen. When I’m doing my ocean crossing I hope that if the wind blows me backwards I will feel my feelings, accept what is, and move forward at my first available chance. And today, if I ask someone for money to get on that ocean and they say no, then I feel my frustration, accept the situation (and my feelings), and keep going, asking someone else or maybe taking another tack, but always moving forward. This is my goal.

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