It was the last question in my friend’s email that really got to me. “One more question:” his email concluded, almost as an afterthought, “how does the reality of the cruise compare with your expectations? Who wins- the dream or the reality?”
I stared at the email, then read it to Mike holding back a tear.
I had been feeling a little low—Mike and I had just discussed the night before that we didn’t seem to be laughing enough, we weren’t free and easy, we weren’t light and breezy. The winds were howling and there was a dark cloud over our heads. What was wrong with us? Were we not cut out for this? We were, at times, angry with each other, mostly for not being happy enough, for not appreciating the beauty, the freedom, the adventure.
Larry’s question (and his advice later on) made me think through the reality of trying to live a dream that is not always perfect. “Nothing measures up to the dream,” I told him. It couldn’t possibly. When we dream, we dream of perfection.
We dream of napping on the deck, not of polishing the chrome.
We dream of jumping into clear, turquoise water, not of fighting the dangerous currents that belie it.
We dream of parrotfish, and butterfly fish and starfish, not of jelly fish.
We dream of full sails and smooth sailing, not of repairing rips and mechanical failures.
We dream of rainbows, not of the squalls that come before them.
Reality cannot possibly win over the dream.
Some days, I am frustrated, homesick, lonely for only having Mike for company. I miss girlfriend time. My toes are hideous looking. They don’t sell half and half anywhere in the Caribbean, and ironically, I have not found a place that sells fresh fish either. I have a bruise on my thigh that bears a striking resemblance to an eggplant.
I want to run into a girlfriend at Whole Foods after my workout (where I could reliably buy half and half and fresh fish), and laugh and gossip and be silly. I would like to be part of my kids’ lives on a daily basis (whether they would like that or not…) I would like talk to friends who actually know me. I am not finding enough time to write, even though I have no idea where the days go.
But like the dark clouds around here that come and go in a matter of seconds, these dark thoughts dissipate quickly as well. Our anchor is holding us steady, as the boat twists and turns in the harbor, as the wind blows through the cockpit and offers a delightful respite from the heat. Our friends arrive on their boat from Bermuda, bringing with them the promise of quality time with a girlfriend who knows me, not since childhood, but at least long enough to know me pre- breast cancer. There is champagne and laughter. There is movie night on the boat, there are long walks on the beach and more swimming to do.
There is the joy in just living on your own, making do with what is availbale, the satisfaction of living simply.
There are the mountains to either side of us, a gorgeous beach beyond. To our south, there are new islands to explore, more interesting people to meet. As we begin to hit our stride with this life, there are promises of plenty of good times, as well as challenges ahead that we can’t yet even conceive of.
While every day may not be rainbows and laughter, we are sure that this nomadic life on the sea is a life worth living—maybe not forever, but certainly for now. At this moment, we wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.