I rammed my big toe into the bottom of my bed the other night. It was the first night in four months that I was attempting to sleep in my land bed. I knew, and the bed probably knew, that I needed to be reminded of where things exist in this unfamiliar space. Thanks, bed. I now know where you are. We didn’t plan on being away from our land home for over four months, but thanks to COVID-19, we were not comfortable flying home for a visit. Our safest way home was the sailboat, and we were “stuck” in Southern Florida waiting for the weather to cooperate long enough for us to sail safely and comfortably home.
Mike and I were still a bit foggy from the passage from Riviera Beach, Florida to Newport, Rhode Island that first night home. It’s 1,000 miles, give or take, about eight days at sea, three hours on, three hours off every night, with threatening squalls and thunderstorms here and there (very bad), relatively light winds from the behind us (not so good) and calm seas (excellent). We stopped only two nights at Cape Lookout, a beautiful anchorage in North Carolina, to wait out some northerlies. After a few night’s rest in the Newport area, Exodus was hauled at a nearby boatyard for bottom painting and overdue maintenance.
Our daughter picked us up at the boatyard, and just like that, we became land people again. We were in a car. We picked up pizza on the way home. I could sit up in my bed without hitting my head. I could pluck my eyebrows in the lighted makeup mirror. The Wifi was fabulous. I didn’t worry about running out of water or power or pumping out a holding tank. CVS was down the street. I could simply grab a face mask and walk to get the contact lens solution I forgot to bring home. There was so much space!
I luxuriated in the steam of our land shower, letting the water pour over my body for many, many minutes, to hell with conservation. I shampooed twice, because I could. I felt fabulous, dahling. Better than fabulous.
I grabbed my towel, stepped out of the shower oh so gingerly and WHAM, I was jolted to reality. I was jolted by me. I had forgotten about the mirrors.
There in my land bathroom- there are full, body exposing mirrors- everywhere. Mirrors line an entire wall, another on the back of the door. I viewed my full body for the first time in months. What was I feeling? Shame? Shame, how dare you! But when did I get that paunch? Was I always this soft? My right breast, which was taken off and rebuilt after breast cancer so many years ago, looked deformed. My skin seemed pale, though I live in the sun. I was bruised and scabbed from living on a boat, being bitten by flies, mosquitoes, and no see ums. My silver hair was not silver, no, uh uh, it was just gray and bushy. I decided I needed a haircut for my mental health, pandemic or not. I wrapped my towel tightly around me and got the hell away from those mirrors.
The transition from sea to land is so easy, yet so weird.
One day I am having my coffee on the front deck of the boat in a quiet anchorage, taking in deep breaths of the crisp, clean air and admiring nature’s palette, listening to the ringing of the buoys and the splashing of water against the hull. I am skinny dipping off the boat without a care in the world (I’m obviously fibbing here about the “no care in the world” part.) And yes, I am getting bitten by the last of the crazy biting flies we picked up near the Chesapeake, and I hit my head getting out of bed, and I cannot find the half and half without unloading most of the items in the refrigerator.
The next day, I am having coffee at my kitchen table, the sun shining through the window, making plans with friends and family. The sounds are the sounds of the city- a few cars going by, a child’s screams of delight, an occasional horn honking. From a deep sleep one night, Mike mistook the sound of a street cleaner for the sound of a motor boat that was getting too close to us at anchor, and woke completely disoriented, but we are getting used to the sounds. Everything is easy here. I have what I need within a short walk, the refrigerator is very organized, I can go for long walks simply by opening my front door. I watch what I eat and drink for the first time in months, and I know, and my body knows, that’s a really good thing.
When I was a young mother, I worked outside the home as a real estate lawyer. At the office, I yearned to be home with my children. At work, I obsessed about what the kids were doing, where the nanny was taking them, what they were having for lunch, what adorable little thing I might have missed. And yet, when I was home with my children, trying to concentrate on an elaborate game of Barbie or that princess game that my youngest always cheated at, I yearned for the camaraderie, stimulation and inspiration I felt at work.
I sense those same feelings now for the two places I love. When I am at home on the boat, I love my outside life, yet I yearn for family, friends and the comforts and conveniences of home. I feel guilty about not being physically near the people I love most in the world. I miss them, I miss my inside life, my community. I miss being accountable to myself.
And yet, when I am home, living my inside life, I yearn for the freedom of an outside life, for a life that is different and exciting, for a life that is physically and emotionally challenging, for a life where I feel free enough to shed my clothes and jump in the water. I miss our boating friends so much it hurts, because they really “get” what our lives are really like. I miss them because we depend on one another, and I miss them because I know how much they hurt because they want to go home and see their own children. I miss a life without so many damned mirrors.
I count my blessings to have two very separate lives that I love so much. I guess I will work on simply being happy exactly where I am.