Linda took a writing class in the Clear Lake area that led to her essay for KUHF's "This I Believe" which explores her basic philosophy of life...a defining lesson learned onboard a sailboat that now defines her life.
"In 1987, a friend invited me to help celebrate her 40th birthday aboard a catamaran on Galveston Bay. I wasn't a sailor, but I accepted the invitation. Driving to Galveston, I never imagined I was cruising toward a new conviction that in difficult or challenging situations, the best questions always begin, "How can I?"
As we loosed our lines that hot August night, there was a freshening breeze. The sun touched the horizon...stars emerged and I felt a sudden impulse. I asked the captain, "Do you teach people to do this?" "No one's ever asked." he said. I asked again. He gazed into the darkness a moment before saying, "Fine. But you're going to learn it all."
He was true to his word. No one "learns it all", but I learned enough to know the joy of competence, and the discipline of the sea. In bays and waterways, offshore swells, we practiced navigation and mended sails.
I learned my most important lesson the first day aboard when Tom asked me to remove the canvas cover from the mainsail. The boom was well above my head. Looking at it, I spoke the first words that came to mind: "I can't reach it." Bent over the anchor, Tom spoke and his tone was clear. "Never again will you say, 'I can't'. If I tell you to do something which seems difficult or impossible, ask, 'How can I?' The answer may be that you ask for help, or find someone else to do it, but that's not where you start. The only way you'll succeed is by asking, 'How can I?'"
Over the months, there were difficulties to spare. Each time I hesitated, Tom would grin and say, "You know the rule." When difficulties arise, the rule says: relinquish pessimistic "I can't" for optimistic "How can I?" Then, begin again.
Over the years, Tom's question convinced me of one thing. No matter how fearful the unknown, no matter how difficult life's challenges, there always is a way forward.
Today, I believe the satisfaction and joy of discovering that way forward is grounded in the simplest of questions: 'How can I?'"