Maiden Voyages: Inspiration from Our Ancestors
I've been reading a fascinating book this week--Maiden Voyages: Magnificent Ocean Liners and the Women Who Traveled and Worked Aboard Them by English author Siân Evans. Not that I have ever, or very likely will ever, travel on an ocean liner, but that's part of what makes the book fun to read. And it has been fun to peruse a world of elegance I'll never know and to read stories of the remarkably brave, talented and determined women who served in various capacities on those ships. And the sometimes flamboyant, often amusing, celebrity passengers.
But there were quite a few difficult chapters as well. The golden age of ocean liners spanned a period which included World War I, the Great Depression and World War II. Those were extremely difficult times in the seagoing industries, often because people lost their jobs during those periods as travel of all kinds declined precipitously. Those women who did have work during the two wars (e.g., nurses, stewardesses for those who had to travel, those who accompanied minors in attempts to get them out of danger zones) lived in constant fear of submarine torpedoes, air attack, and the numerous floating mines. Some of them never made it back to land. For the Germans did not hesitate to bomb even hospital or civilian ships, including ones known to carry many children.
It was also difficult to read about the disparate conditions between those who could pay the premium price and those who were quite poor but had painstakingly saved enough for the chance to begin a new life in a new world. For the ocean liners not only carried (and thoroughly pampered) the wealthy upper echelons of society, but also huge numbers of people traveling Third Class, in "steerage" where conditions were often truly abhorrent.
In fact, the ocean liner companies packed so many people into third class (sometimes more than 2,000 per ship), and did so little for them compared to the excess of service for First Class passengers, that the companies actually made their money not from those First Class travelers but from the poor in steerage. The doors that might allow people to leave the Third Class decks were always locked, and sometimes guarded. Those on upper levels could easily pretend steerage didn't exist. It was an odd, compressed, microcosm of Western Society.
As time went on there was a growing middle, or Second Class, of travelers, and steerage conditions were improved to some degree but the vast gulf between the wealthy and lower classes remained.
As I read about these dangers and struggles and sufferings, I was frequently reminded of one of the first anti-anxiety tools I posted in the spring of 2020 in the "Third Anti-Covidanxiety Toolkit," near the beginning of the pandemic: "Inspiration from Our Ancestors."
If, as I said then, our ancestors and predecessors "could manage to make it through those horrendous periods in our history, perhaps we are more resilient than we think." When I use this tool, I try not to focus on the specific events--that could add more stress--but rather on the ways those ancestors of ours managed in such dire circumstances.
So, that is this week's "ease-ment"--remembering those who have who have gone before us, and survived some extremely difficult times. Not to compare or chastise ourselves, but to remember that they survived, they went on, managing somehow, in spite of great challenges and great losses. Perhaps we can too.
A Note About the Future of This Blog
I passed my three year mark for this blog back in October, having published (as of today) 170 posts, missing only two Wednesdays in that time period! Though it can be hard work, I still love doing it (most of the time) but I do invest quite a bit of time each week, averaging perhaps 8 - 9 hours, but on occasion logging in as many as 11, 12 or even 13 hours a week--writing, rewriting, finding pictures, and all the "housekeeping" chores (such as writing a (no more than) 140 character summary, choosing index categories, etc.
But I am yearning to spend more time on my fiction writing. Among other things I'm struggling up the rather steep learning curve of self-publishing my first novel. (More on this at some future point.)
I am also tending an embryonic second novel that is beginning to demand more attention. And then there are the songs I want to write, and the poems I want to finish. So, I've decided to cut back on my blogging.
Beginning in January 2023, I plan to share an ease-ment/anti-anxiety tool on the first Wednesday of the month, and a regular blog post on the third Wednesday. I also plan to take the weeks of Christmas and New Years off, so my last blog in this original series will be next week, December 14. Then on January 4th I will share an ease-ment/tool, and on January 18 I'll post a "regular" blog, and on from there.
I am very grateful for the wonderful feedback I continue to get from you, dear readers. We'll keep up this relationship, we'll just gather less frequently.
Until next time,
Maiden Voyages cover, Michael Storrings, St. Martin's Press
"Steerage", Alfred Stieglitz, public domain
Writer, Thomas Lefebure, unSplash