Been a wild couple of days, and that’s not just the weather, although it has been very bumpy with these winds and I’m getting weary of it. But that’s not what I’m talking about. As I’ve already posted here, we listed our sailboat with Vela yachts a week or so ago. Since then an opportunity has arisen for us to move into a housing co-op for a very low rent (although the co-op fee is exorbitant), and what’s more, we found a person looking to rent a liveaboard. It seemed a win-win: we get to move ashore and someone helps us with our costs.
But we saw the place briefly last night, and it’s not very appealing. We know one of the folks who live there and we went over a lovely supper and chat, but over the evening, I developed a bad cramp in my neck, and my mood fell. It’s a good thing we were watching a British comedy, but by the time we got home I was quite despondent. I tossed and turned all night but couldn’t figure out what was bothering me so much. Eventually Tracy and I talked, and it came pouring out of me.
The place reminded me of so many years living a safe, dull, empty life in the suburbs. For over twenty years I tried to do it as so many others did, which was living to own, living for a home. Where a safe and secure home was the be-all and end-all of life. An inward looking life, a small and safe life. At one point, I found myself with the feeling of just waiting to die. And I was only in my mid-thirties. That’s when Tracy and I broke up.
Unfortunately, I fell into another relationship that was the same, but worse. During the time Kim and I lived together, it felt like pretty much everything we did was about the home. Both of the homes we lived in were fabulous, but all our energy went into being home, decorating the home, or shopping for the home. Antique became a verb. I became one of those sad spectacles, an IKEA man.
My problem was that it was utterly empty for me. Meaningless. I tried to make it meaningful and at times it was, but so little of what made me uniquely me was engaged in it. Life was so fucking dull. I was waiting to die again.
How did I get there? I didn’t really know where “there” was because it just seemed normal to me; everyone lived that way, or at least appeared to. I thought there had to be something wrong with me that the “ideal life” seemed so pointless.
How I got there is a long story, but my world had been turned upside down when I was a teen. I went from an adventuresome, outward-looking and hopeful young man to a person who needed thick walls between him and the world. I lost myself for the next 20 years, trying to find meaning in a life behind walls. I suspect an awful lot of men find themselves here.
Ten years ago, I made some very significant changes to my life; they were very courageous changes, but still those walls remained. I reached out further and further but the feeling of imprisonment began to rise inside me again. When we moved aboard, that was me hitting the ground running, intending to never look back. I saw our new life as just the start to even greater movement towards a limitless horizon. Unfortunately and not surprisingly, a life of chasing an empty horizon is not what Tracy is about. She still needs those safe walls, and so after 45 months she is ready to return to them.
And that brings me back to last night. I looked at that suite and it reminded me of those decades lost to living in such places, of surrendering to fear. I was horrified. Needless to say we won’t be taking it. We will live aboard until we sell our yacht, and then I will decide where to go from there. I’ve talked about traveling in the bus. And I just discovered this website where you can sign up to help people sail their yachts. It’s a huge database of skippers looking for crew, on boats located all over the world. Even if I can’t sail my own yacht to the Carib, I can join someone who is already there. Moving ashore doesn’t have to mean putting on shackles again.
Having written all of the above, I’m deeply aware that my position is very anti-Buddhist. A true Buddhist doesn’t fret about such things. What “I” want is unimportant because there really is no “I”. There’s just a bundle of memories and instinct and thoughts that are driving my life. I’m aware of the inconsistencies, and all I can say is that I’m a work in progress. I tend to go back and forth between the Buddhist view and the Western view of self. But it would be wonderfully ironic to spend a life trying to discover who I am, only to realise that there is nothing to discover!
On another note, I wanted to comment on an unseen and unspoken danger of cruising. I’m talking about running aground on Fat Island. They don’t teach you about this in sailing courses. My weight has been pretty stable over this last decade, but the last summer was a killer for me. While cruising can be a psychologically taxing effort, it only requires a minimal amount of physical movement. After all, you are living in a space ½ the size of a garage. I tried to cut back on grub, but the lack of exercise and the beer all tallied up to an 8-lb weight increase that will almost certainly stick with me.
I have a weird metabolism that really hangs onto fat. The year we went without a car I was cycling everywhere, everyday, and also worked out a gym, but I was lucky if I lost a pound or so. I was in very good shape, but my belly stuck to me like a big old barnacle. Like a built-in PFD.
I need to offer a correction to an earlier post: a friend pointed out that unlike my assertion, not all single adults want or are looking for a partner. While I know a lot who are, it does assume too much. Likely many people are happy without one, and these days I’m wondering that too! But I appreciate her pointing that out.