Sometimes You Need to Be The Lighthouse

Lighthouse on the High Sea by Jean GuicHRD

Lighthouse on the High Sea by Jean Guichard

“There are times when the ocean is not the ocean – not blue, not even water, but some violent explosion of energy and danger: ferocity on a scale only gods can summon. It hurls itself at the island, sending spray right over the top of the lighthouse, biting pieces off the cliff. And the sound is a roaring of a beast whose anger knows no limits.” 
~ M. L. Stedman – The Light Between Oceans

Perhaps you know of the following exchange, which may or may not be urban myth:

This is the transcript of the ACTUAL radio conversation of a British Naval Ship and the Irish, off the coast of Kerry, Oct 95. Radio conversation released by the Chief of Naval Operations 10-03-02:

Irish: Please divert your course 15 degrees to the South, to avoid a collision.

British: Recommend you divert your course 15 degrees to the North, to avoid a collision.

Irish: Negative. You will have to divert your course 15 degrees to the South to avoid a collision.

British: This is the captain of a British navy ship. I say again, divert your course.

Irish: Negative. I say again, You will have to divert your course.

British: This is the aircraft carrier HMS Invincible. The second largest ship in the British Atlantic fleet. We are accompanied by three destroyers, two missile cruisers, and numerous support vessels. I demand that you change your course, 15 degrees north, I say again, that is 15 degrees north, or counter-measures will be undertaken to ensure that safety of this ship.

Irish: We are a lighthouse. Your call.

This is a post for those of you going through difficult times, or difficult relationships. (Actually they can often be the same thing.)

Even though this is a post about Lighthouses I am NOT going to advocate all that New Age feel-good stuff about shining your Light and being a radiant example of unconditional love, peace and incredible oneness in the face of hardship.

Sorry about that.

Not that those things aren’t wonderful and admirable. But sometimes it’s simply not possible to hold that space.

I have a friend going through a very difficult divorce right now, after years of being married to a man who is one part Prince Charming and one part emotionally manipulative bully. Her husband has a fearsome temper. He’s a narcissist. And right now, now that she’s really left him for good (and yes, she’s somewhere safe), the charm is gone – he is battering her verbally and emotionally to get his way.

She knows that is what he does. And usually he wins because other people eventually give in, worn down by his behaviour. She has always given in, worn down by his behaviour.

In the midst of all of this (when her own lawyer began to realise what this woman had been enduring and took her to a Domestic Violence Support Group) my friend wanted to know how to best hold her husband in love and come from that place of Love and Light. Should she pray for him? How should she help him?

Meanwhile this man is raging around her like the foulest of tempests. And she thinks she needs to stay ‘open’ to him, to engage with him, to support him…

“Be the Lighthouse,” I said. “You know, the one you see in the famous picture where there’s a storm and the ocean is smashing down upon that Lighthouse, and the Lighthouse just stands, immovable?”

She nodded.

“Stand your ground. Be well prepared. Let him rage as much as you like, and know that eventually, like any storm, he’ll blow himself out. Don’t engage him. Don’t try to help or fix him. A Lighthouse does not engage with a storm, it simply endures, and goes on honouring its true nature.”

That’s what we need to do with some people and situations in our lives. It’s not our place to be the healer or the fixer. In fact, it might be what is needed is for us to walk away.

Sometimes we can’t walk away – from a job, an illness, a relationship. Instead we need to stay and find a way to make the situation work, or find a way to better cope with that situation. We have to find a way to endure because something in the equation is important to us; important enough for us to need to find a way to deal with this less-than-ideal space.  Like a good friend of mine who puts up with his sister’s rude spouse in order to maintain a relationship with his sibling. Or my friend suffering through chemotherapy and radiation to prolong her life long enough to give her a little more time with her precious partner and children. Each of them ‘enters the Lighthouse’ when they deal with these issues. They batten down the hatches, and let the waves crash around them until the storm is passed. The Lighthouse is their coping strategy.

Or maybe we can’t walk away just yet – although that might be our end game. Instead we need to reach a settlement, have our day in court, finish the job, get to the end of the treatment, submit the final paper. Then we can pack our bags and get on our way!

When we can’t retreat, we can choose to be the Lighthouse, standing firm in the storm.

We make preparations, or follow our emergency plan. When bad weather approaches we put up the storm shutters. We lock down the doors and windows to make them watertight. We make sure we have candles and matches, a warm jumper, supplies and a good book. Where necessary we use a support crew. We do all we can to keep ourselves safe and give ourselves the best chance for a bright future.

As to shining your Light? Why not do that for YOU? Turn your Light inwards for a while. Put your own needs first right now, attend to your wounds, conserve your energy, nourish yourself.

When the storm has passed and the weather is clear and fine – then we can have that New Age chat about Love, Light, Rainbows, Puppies and Unicorns. Okay?

But for now, if you’re weathering that storm because there’s no way to chart another course then my advice is to look after you. Be the Lighthouse.

Plenty of time for other things once the storm has passed.

You might also find these posts useful:

How to get through the hard stuff

How to deal with toxic people

17 thoughts on “Sometimes You Need to Be The Lighthouse

  1. Just what I needed to read. I am going through a marriage separation. Its has been nasty at times and emotionally draining. I keep thinking I need to be this that and the other, be positive, be forgiving etc. I AM NOW A LIGHTHOUSE! Thank you beautiful lady for shining your light in my life xx

  2. I can’t tell you how much this resonated with me. What a beautiful analogy – strong as a lighthouse, and reflecting that light inwards. I think I can do that! And that image of the lighthouse standing strong while the storm rages around it would be a great mental image to focus on when times are particularly rough. Thank you.

  3. What a great way of putting it Nicole. I once asked a wise friend why I couldn’t stop ‘helping’ my (now long-ago-ex) partner out of his self-generated negativity and drama, when he was being so vile to me. My friend said it was because something in me believed he needed ‘help’, when in fact all my actions were achieving were to circumvent the lessons he needed to learn by the situations he was creating. As soon as that penny dropped for me, I was able to allow him to chose his own behavior without having to help him or fix the situation. I became the lighthouse, became free of the effects of his behavior, saw that I didn’t want anything to do with it and left. Fantastic lesson for me and it felt so empowering. I hope anyone going through a tough break-up right now finds the best way to preserve and nourish themselves and the strength to keep moving towards their own happiness. xx

    • I hear the sound of a penny dropping…. I have struggled with a misguided fear of ‘abandoning’ him and have indeed been abandoned instead. I am making a list of all the things that need to STOP. Thank you for sharing your story, it has helped +++
      1st of March, new day, new Life dead ahead. XXX

  4. Thanks for this great post, and in particular the fact that in going through divorce there are many storms (emotional, financial, legal, practical) to pass before we can get on our way.

    PS. I hope that you are feeling better now. 🙂

  5. Thank you – just what I needed to hear today (and for a while…) It is agony trying to “be the best person I can be” and navigate through those raging seas. I have felt like a lonely traveler in a tiny boat & have struggled not to just let go and sink to the calm underneath. Thank you too for talking about ‘puppies, rainbows & unicorns’ – I feel less alone in my understandable cynicism, they too can be part of the storm. I can see the lighthouse and I will head towards that and stay there. Much love to you on your journey and to all those facing raging seas.

  6. Thanks so much Nicole. I am in a difficult job situation right now (Teaching in a remote NT school – I know that you understand) and while I love the challenge of the teaching the behaviour of kids leaves me feeling helpless at times. I am going to write myself notes (such as you had in your bedside drawer) and pull one out whenever I feel like throwing up my hands and walking away. This is also the sort of thing that my students would benefit from. Maybe we could have a class bag with encouraging messages in it. To keep trying, to never give up! Your reason to go on through your treatments is so that you can keep writing posts like this. The difference that you are making is immense. Thank you.

  7. Darling Nicole,
    One thing I will always treasure about you is your ability to cut to the core of issues that are affecting so many on so many levels. And yes, you do this when you are so under the weather and pushing it uphill, yet your clarity and brilliance can’t help but sneak out under that corner of the doonah and burst its way out to the masses. Unstoppable and magnificent you are!!!! I haven’t responded for a long time but I check in regularly and send you loads of love, light, kindness and kick-arse energy to come. Mwah! xx

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