I had the good fortune to spend the past week on a boat in the Caribbean. The opportunity arose a few weeks prior when a conversation about holiday plans yielded the inevitable “alternate years” discussion that is pervasive amongst the divorced set. Presented with the choice of staying at home alone with the dogs while my children were with their father and the Out-Laws, or hopping a plane and heading south, well, I chose the latter. While it was hardly a Thanksgiving in the traditional turkey-gravy-football-family sense, it was, nonetheless, a week of giving thanks, during which I learned a great deal about myself, and that which is truly important to me.
Depending on your perspective, boats can be the ultimate dichotomy. They are at once liberating and confining; organic yet technical; assiduous yet indolent. Being on a boat can bring out the best and the worst in a person, depending on the company and the external (and I suppose internal as well) conditions. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect on this adventure, but I packed my bag, boarded my flight and set off to warmer climes.
For the past decade my life has been on overdrive. Every day was stuffed with something or someone that needed attention and handling. My phone was never off; my inbox never empty; my brain never fully at rest. The more I did, the more I needed to do. I began to believe that the only state that was familiar and comfortable was one of chaos and disarray, and that feeling permeated my relationships as well. I was never calm, never still, never truly at peace. Always on alert, I made sure that I was always prepared, dressed and ready to spring into action – any action – at a moment’s notice. And I was always exhausted.
Someone once accused me of constantly being in motion because I feared what I would find if I stopped and took a good long look at myself. Perhaps there was some truth to that, or maybe they were just being mean, but as I turned off my computer, shutting out a barrage of messages, and powered down my phone, I had a moment of angst that in disconnecting from the cyber world I would lose a part of myself that connected me to humanity.
What I wasn’t expecting was to find the part of me that was actually missing.
With no cell phone and no Internet, no distracting messages or clamors for my attention, I was able to relax into a deeper and more meaningful connection. I thought complete thoughts; had comprehensive conversations; filled my lungs fully with fresh air; slept when I was tired; ate when I was hungry. I was rested and energized, ready to tend to tasks that were real, in some cases matters of survival, not just busy work. I lived deliberately and organically, thriving in a limited space and finding focus and clarity in the vastness of the wind and the waves.
It was the best week of my life.
Back at home, unpacking my gear and slogging though an accumulation of messages and chores, it dawned on me that in crossing the ocean this week I had also crossed a passage to a new way of living. I felt a new clarity of thought and deed, a sense of purpose, and an ability to think through situations before reacting to them. My Thanksgiving, in its lack of familiarity, allowed me to really see the people and things that I choose to include or exclude from my life. It gave me the time to understand why I am making the decisions that I am, and to transition from habits and reflexes of the past into a fuller, saner and happier present tense.
And that may lead to the best time of my life.