I listened to an interesting interview on the CBC this morning with an author Andrew Nikiforuk, who has some interesting ideas on energy consumption and our slavish addiction to oil. While his original thesis was interesting and inspiring, what really grabbed me was his notion that energy was always a critical human concern, and in the pre-industrial periods, energy was harnessed through slavery rather than oil. This makes sense; we need energy to accomplish things, to make things happen. As individuals our personal ability to do things is limited, but if we can control the energy of thousands of slaves or barrels of oil, we can build pyramids or sky-scraping office towers. His thesis suggests that while slave ownership has a corrosive and corrupting effect on the slave master, so does the easy energy of oil has an equally destructive effect on us western consumers who’s lives are utterly dependent on oil.
It’s been a busy and rather tumultuous few weeks. Lots of family visiting, buying an old Subaru Legacy to pull the engine and install into this 86 Westy we have, selling the Bimmer convertible. Getting ready for summer.
Throughout all this hubbub, our recent decision to stay afloat for the next few years is really nagging at me. A large part of this is guilt of course; I know what my wife prefers, and she has very kindly decided to defer for the next few years at least. I am very grateful, and yet it doesn’t feel right. On one hand keeping our boat is wonderful, but at what cost? She says she is fine with it, but it still troubles me; there’s a deep, instinctive part of me that wants to take care of my woman, and I have a hard time focusing on my needs. I raised the subject with her last night but predictably she fended me off.
This is the rub: because our needs are divergent, it’s hard to find a solution in which both of our needs will be met. Even the current solution presents problems because although I get my need met on a superficial lever, at a deeper level my wife just isn’t into the adventure and possibilities as I am, as we once were. Although she does have great experiences afloat – like the Easter long weekend – these tend to be forgotten and each time we go out it’s a bit of a challenge for her. This is not getting easier as the years pass.
So even if we hold onto this path, it feels a bit like a façade; it’s no longer “our” adventure.
I’ve raised a few other ideas with her. Motorcycle touring was one; although she has said she would like to give it a try, I really have my doubts about that ever working out. I suggested we learn to scuba together, and of course that was a lead balloon. There are a million ways to adventure, but I believe what it’s coming down to is that while Tracy is willing to entertain quite a few things, the more macho ones never will interest her.
Tracy and I have been best buddies for many years now, and we have shared pretty much all our life’s interests. Most things we did together, and supported each other in our challenges. But most of that stuff was in the context of family, and as such none of it was very intense. Car camping, mountain climbing, and local sailing were the most extreme sports we shared. I didn’t exactly feel constrained by them, but now there are no such boundaries and I would like to try moving further afield. And this is where the divergence has happened. And Tracy’s not the one who has changed.
And while I have gotten very used to having Tracy at my side, encouraging me, supporting me while I attempt something new and challenging, its become pretty obvious that if I want to go further I have to do it without her. I thought that Tracy’s anxiety and limitations were the problem when in fact I was the one mucking things up; I was the one unwilling to change. I have to let go of her if I want to carry on. Or else stay within her comfort zone.
Maybe my challenge is to reach out to more men who enjoy this sort of thing and engage them in these adventures, and not expect my wife to be my best buddy any more.
I suppose this is the source of my grief and angst lately: realising at some level that going “forward” in this regard means I will have to do it without her. It’s that or stick around in the areas where she feels comfortable.
It feels so overwhelming because for decades we’ve shared everything, and to go off without her feels frightening and lonely. It’s hard to admit that, to own that vulnerability, that dependency.
Of course the thought distortion here is the notion that it’s Tracy or no one, and that’s not real. I can learn to scuba and meet others who enjoy it as well. There are many clubs around for motorcycle touring and rallying. It might be more difficult finding people who want to sail long distances, but the fact is I don’t have to spend the rest of my wandering, exploring days alone, unless I choose to.
I suppose the biggest fear was that in losing that shared, common purpose, those joint dreams we once had, that I would ultimately lose the relationship. To be sure this change means a new tack in our lives and more time apart, but that is a consequence of our differences, long masked by family responsibilities. But we can’t suppress our individual natures because we are afraid that such differences mean we will fall apart; deep inside I can’t imagine that strengthening who we are as individuals can do anything but strengthen our love.
I’ve long believed that a love relationship is just two people going through their individual lives in close association with another. When we are so close, when we spend so many years sharing purposes, it can be easy to lose the “I” in the “us”. But that’s just an illusion of course; you remain as much a separate person no matter how much you take on your partner’s soul and she takes on yours. And it’s times like these that we are reminded so keenly what a charade that is, and why the awakening is so scary and painful.
At some level, raising families, developing careers, living scheduled and predictable lives is a form of institutionalisation. It’s not necessarily pathological in the way that prison inmates experience, but suburban life does blunt the edge of being, trading growth and challenge for predictability. It’s only human nature to be drawn to routine and the known, but when big change happens the result can be stress, anxiety, and emotional upheaval. Ordinary life events such as marriage and divorce, death, and birth, moving and changing jobs and schools create enormous challenges for most people, mostly because it shakes up their routine and the comfortably known.
Right now Tracy and I are challenged by the unknown in a way we haven’t experienced in the 5 years since we moved aboard, probably since we first formed a family, those many, many years ago.
My challenge is to let go of the comfort of family, the ease of routine and predictability and the warm woman to snuggle with at the end of the day, so I can respond to these adventure yearnings. Fainleog was a dream for the two of us, and letting go of her was letting go of all of the above. No wonder it was so hard. At the time I believed that selling her was selling off my dreams, when in reality it was selling off security, selling off the old family comfort I’ve long become accustomed to. Once she is gone, there’s only just me, shaking in my boots and wondering where the hell I go from here. Without Fainleog, the next steps would be mine and mine alone. I hope I have the balls for it.
One of the grander parts of living on the southwest coast of BC is the temperate climate. This is exploited by hikers, campers, kayakers, and of course sailors. For some unknown reason, aside from avid fishermen, power boat operators tend to shun the cold weather and it is usually only sailboats that we have for company.
A couple of weekends ago I was invited to my first formal sailboat race aboard an older 26′ Grampian, with a new friend Ian. It was with the Canadian Forces Sailing Squadron out of Esquimalt Harbour. The weather was perfect, with winding up to 18 knots (unfortunately dying to 0 before we could cross the finish line). We were first across the start line but due to a few tactical errors, dead last coming in, and eventually disqualified as we ran out of wind just outside the harbour and had to start up the old iron genny. Oh well, it was fantastic sailing!
A few pics.
Early light at start.
The HMCS Victoria suddenly showed up to send us off. I’m glad we didn’t have to rescue her.
Somebody screwed up here…
And they’re off!
We were first across the line!
Then the fleet started catching up
Making good time for a small vessel. It was quite an adrenaline rush.
View from the clubhouse as we licked our wounds and hoisted a few beer. I’m definitely going back; I would even like to try racing Fainleog.
The following weekend we went out in Fainleog for a much more easy-going sail with wind topping out at perhaps 8 knots before dying late in the day, just like the previous weekend. The colour of the sea that day really grabbed my attention.
On our way back in, the wind left us. It veered 240 degrees while we were out there, and we didn’t tack once, just kept following it around until we were heading back home; a very complaisant wind.
It was nice to catch the last rays as we headed in.
The final show and end to a glorious day. It’s a real joy when your home can provide such experiences.