Sitting Still in Annapolis
I’ve been distracting myself from writing. We’ve been in Annapolis for six weeks and I haven’t written nearly enough as I promised myself I would during our still time. I often tease Kai for being a perfectionist, partly because it bothers me a bit, but partly because I am also a perfectionist in certain ways, and I have this notion that joking about things makes them less intense, and less likely to make matters frustrating. I'm not sure my intentions become realized. I am a perfectionist about my writing, which is inherently strange as no writing is perfect. Even once my writing is published, I still think of words to change, find syntax to improve, and question the meaning of what I wrote. Like a song I can never play or sing twice the same, my writing never comes out as it was in my head, and it’s never fully polished. Thus I distract myself from having to imperfectly write about my life. Hearing criticism of my writing brings no new thoughts to my head as I’ve already crafted the worst someone could say. Nevertheless, I’ll persist for my own exercise and for the enjoyment of at least a few people beyond my mom.
This is the longest we’ve stayed anywhere since the inception of full-time boat living, which is quite enjoyable even amidst my heart’s constant churning for new adventure. I’ve had to remind myself daily that the next leg of our journey will be much better once we complete our Annapolis agendas: new electronics, procuring a sewing machine, getting a rigging inspection by the one and only Brion Toss, buying the best dinghy motor for us, selling unnecessary items, having family visit, and getting a little work done in the time we would otherwise be sailing.
Many people spend months to years at a dock while preparing to cruise, and as the saying goes, many never leave the dock. We spent exactly 3 days on the boat before splashing and heading south down the Chesapeake. Our preparation basically entailed getting all of our belongings out of the truck and into the boat; no organizing, no unpacking. We’ve assembled our home on the go, entirely fitting of our style, although I wouldn’t necessarily suggest this method to others who aren’t as well versed in living chaotically.
In the last 10 months, we’ve essentially performed a shakedown sail south, then north, and now we have a long list of boat projects to make it our “perfect” boat (the same notes on perfection go for boats). Had we spent months at a dock, we wouldn’t have the experiences in many different situations with the boat to fully formulate what needed attention. This part of starting quickly I would recommend to new cruisers. Know your boat before you start improving things or doing refits.
Arriving in Annapolis brought a feeling of having gone full-circle, akin to what I imagine a circumnavigation feels like. We’re anchored feet from where we splashed. Each time I pass by that place, where I was racked with nerves getting out of the slip, I flash back to those moments of gingerly scrambling around the deck with a boat pole, piercing the ice around the boat to let us free. I didn’t yet know the deck fittings, where the cabin top rises and falls, or where the good spots to grab were, and even if I had, it was covered with snow. Fiberglass makes for slippery conditions when covered with snow.
I do this exercise a lot: recalling what I once knew of something, someone: a job, a relationship, a boat, a house, a college, a career. I think back to what I imagined that thing to be before knowing, recalling the process of learning what it actually was, and reconcile what I now know about it. It’s so human of me to want to delve into the past, wondering if I could have done things differently. I remind myself that we can only do the best with what we have at that moment in time. The best then, is probably not my best now. In the words of my good friend Amber, “We do what we can, not what we can’t.” I cannot tell you how many times I have said this to myself. Friends who say wise words like these are good friends to have (and Amber is pretty great otherwise too). I excuse my delving into the past by telling myself that I’m checking the archives before making any new decisions. I'm a researcher.
Now as a 33 year old, I toy with feeling fully equipped to say I should have gone to a different university, should have done a few relationships differently, traveled more, chose a different career, et cetera, et cetera. When I dive really deep into the rehash, I realize where I “went wrong” is where I didn’t listen to my heart (or intuition, or any other word you feel comfortable using for SELF). I didn’t listen to myself. I was afraid of doing what I wanted. The simple act of writing that makes me feel so ridiculously silly. I made the choices that were expected of me, that pleased other people and societal expectations more than myself, the decisions that made the most sense at the time. I’ve spent many years checking off boxes and trying to fit into boxes before realizing that the boxes were the problem, not that I couldn’t pick which box to fit into. It sounds so cliche, I know, but looking back and identifying the boxes specifically is a worthwhile process. I’ll keep it vague for now because I don’t want to hurt any feelings, but if I make it to 80, I’ll definitely be more specific. Look for the memoir one day.
And there I’ve done it and made this into a cheesy mess of a self-help book excerpt. I really didn’t start with the idea of making my post about sitting still in Annapolis this cerebral but I think I’ve hit on what sitting still does to me, and how important it is to take time to sit still. It makes me reassess what we’re doing. It makes me wonder about land life, if we’re better off on a boat or on land. It makes me recount everything that happened to be in this moment, good and bad. It makes me go through an entire day in my head as if I’m on land: now I’d check the mail, then I’d drive in a car to pick up Rev from school after work.
Maybe it was Minnesota that didn’t fit me (I’m not referring to just the weather although that was a huge dealbreaker), and perhaps never did. Maybe it was my job that didn’t quite fit (I liked what I did and who I worked with but I know it wasn’t what I’m meant to do), or maybe it was just the permanence of being in one place indefinitely. Maybe, after 30+ years of one place I was uninspired to do anything differently than what was expected (nothing against Minnesota people, I'm only describing my experience with living there).
There has not been any one sensation, sound, view, or taste that has ever felt so good as traveling. There is a theory on wooden instruments, that if played in-tune, the wood molecules align a certain way to fully express the sound. The more it is played in-tune, the better aligned the molecules are, and thus the better it sounds. The vibrations move through the wood in the most appealing ways, giving tingle to your hairs, softening your blood. At least that’s what good music does to me. I joke with Rev and tell her my favorite songs match my blood (-and now when she hears a song she likes she says, “oh yeah this is totally in my blood right now.”) Bad songs feel like molecules scraping against my blood, my core (I am a little more sensitive than most when it comes to music). Travel brings similar feelings. It makes my blood feel right: makes the molecules aligned. It is the music for my body. I can’t get the addiction out of me since having my taste. The combination of not being a very seasoned traveler and having a few key extended travel experiences wrecked any chances I had to be content with sitting still. I had just enough to know I needed more. I didn’t understand homesickness. I was never ready for vacations or travel to end. I have yet to find the place that begs me to stay, and part of me wonders if the addiction will ever let me believe it if I find it.
When I was pregnant with Rev I remember wondering when she’d be hearty enough to travel. I’d dream of where I’d go with her. Having never had a newborn, I didn’t have any expectations of what motherhood would be, and couldn’t imagine giving up traveling. Like a seedling ready to be transplanted, I’d wait for her to be sturdy enough to weather the changes. Later I'd realize she was pretty sturdy from the start, it was us who had some work to do before traveling. There was more to figure out than just her.
During the 5 years it took for me to get moving again, I bumbled around getting another degree, trying a handful of new jobs, and generally trying to survive motherhood with the grace I had never shown in other areas of my life (so I'm not sure why I thought it would appear through motherhood). I moved seven times, bought a boat twice, enrolled Rev in two different schools, and questioned myself many times. I'm pretty sure I coined the saying, "Parenthood is questioning yourself over and over." I tried to fit in boxes as I checked off the milestone boxes of thirty somethings. None of it felt real or sustainable. Anything “acccomplished” didn’t make my life feel any more figured out. Rather, it made me more lost. I wasn’t happy. I arrived where I thought I was supposed to be rather than where I wanted to be. I hadn’t done for myself the very least I could do: listen to what I want, not what society or anyone else expected. As a side note: I’m omitting the fact that even on land, I was on the edge of traditional society: I didn’t work full-time, we didn’t have a house in the suburbs and 2.3 children. I was at the top of my career (because Lactation Consultants are the highest authority on breastfeeding, not because I had worked so long...I had it made!) and I wasn't about to climb any more career ladders. At the end of the day, there was an overarching feeling that there was something different on our horizon. There had to be.
I think of all these things when we sit still.
**As a side note: I miss my friends and family dearly and love to see them any chance I get. Being in Minnesota has always been better because of them. They are irreplaceable. Seriously, did you read what Amber says? Irreplaceable.**
Annapolis during boat show time is like summer camp for cruisers. It seems everyone we knew was passing through and all the sailing celebrities were in town. We met countless new people and ran into “old” sailing friends. I say old because the sailing community gets to know each other quickly and the common bond of safely maneuvering and maintaining a vessel in the mighty ocean makes for fast friends. We were continually humbled by the kindness of fellow boat people and sincerely thank everyone who helped us get around and get to know Annapolis. Kai took a few 59 North workshops and learned a bunch of technical things that will definitely save our life and/or our boat one day, Rev took ballet classes for 6 weeks and discovered she was actually pretty good at it (thanks to my long-legged genes), and I made a few dollars working at the boat show. Although we thoroughly enjoyed our time there, we’re ready to go.
Every one we meet asks us how long we’re going to live on a sailboat. We answer that we don’t know yet; as long as it’s working out we’ll do it. We are the same as every family that is just trying to figure out what works and do that as long as possible, until it doesn’t work. Land or sea we're all basically the same. When we slow down and sit still, it’s only a matter of a few weeks until we’re raring to see new lands. For me, that will never get old.