Ode to Otis

I love the song “(Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay” by Otis Redding. No, not because Maverick’s mom loved it in Top Gun. Because there is something about the sound, the simplicity, the smoothness of the song that speaks to my soul.  


Otis wrote that masterpiece while staying on a houseboat in the San Francisco Bay.  


What is a dock? Seems simple enough. It’s a secure platform extending out above a body of water. We all know that.

Dock vs. water. Security vs. insecurity.

I often describe the differences between my personality tendencies and those of my husband using a dock analogy.

When (not if, because it happens on the regular) we are both standing on the proverbial “dock” my husband jumps in, fully clothed, with no boat in sight and starts swimming until he finds one. Never doubting.

Me on the other hand? You probably guessed it…

I wait patiently for the boat to come in, then I verify its identity (thank you Uber and Lyft!), wait for the captain to secure it with a couple of fancy-looking knots, before extending a hand to help me aboard. Second guessing repeatedly along the way.

Neither approach is necessarily wrong, mine is just more right. (I joke) It usually gets a laugh.

The thing is, Stan always ends up somewhere and so do I. We just get to those places different ways. Even more interestingly, rarely if ever do either of us know where the destination is at the start of the journey.

But what I’ve come to realize is that there is a time for both approaches when we weight what is at hand. A career change, a risk we want to take, a stirring in our soul, doing things differently than everyone else. But when given the two options, it is Stan who usually arrives with more learned and thus more growth as a person.

We always tell our kids “if we don’t come home with a story, we didn’t do it right!”

In the past month we blew a tire on a remote mountain road with no cell service for miles and dumped both kids in the middle of rapids on the Colorado River while rafting. On both instances, what could have provoked panic and fear in them resulted with them saying “Hey mom and dad, we’ve got a story, we did it right!”


Jumping off the dock.

Though you’ve probably sang it 1000 times, the second verse of Otis’ timeless song goes like this:

I left my home in Georgia

Headed for the ‘Frisco bay

Cause I’ve had nothing to live for

And look like nothin’s gonna come my way

So I’m just gonna sit on the dock of the bay

Watching the tide roll away

Ooo, I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay

Wastin’ time

Nothing to live for. Nothing coming my way. Wasting time. These simple lyrics will rip your heart out.

I’m a shadow of this person Otis wrote about when I wait for the perfect, safe, comfortable, _______ (insert your adjective) circumstances before I get on the boat. It’s easy to see reading lyrics someone else penned, but when you’re in it. When you’re waiting for that boat…that’s another story.

As much as I hate to admit it. I’ve learned to take up more of my husband’s approach in recent years. Outsiders may confuse it for reckless abandon. It most certainly is not. It is deliberate and calculated trust in the process.

My inner planner, checklist, itinerary maker still freaks out like fear in the movie Inside Out. (Heck, I even make an item on my checklist that says “Make checklist”, then I check it off when I’m done! C’mon, I know I’m not alone!)


But my outer “trust in the process”, “embrace the adventure” self finds freedom to explore and a different confidence not cultivated by knowing or controlling. Slowly, that trust and perseverance are getting more airtime in my head than the former.

Otis Redding never heard his legacy song after it was recorded. He died in a plane crash days before it was released.

We know our time on earth is finite. So, I ask myself, do I want to live in the false comfort of the dock, or live trusting the process in the water?

I want to live with a story to tell. Maybe it’s time for you to jump in with me.

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