Editor's Note: We were sorting out WiFi for a bit, so these posts are retrospectives rather than contemporary.
It was about 4 a.m. when we left for the hospital to bring Alison into the world. I had planned for a drug-free birth, but the intensity of the contractions changed my mind. I told Erik to forget the original plan and get me an epidural, pronto. The midwives took me in and informed me that I was in transition and dilated 8 cm. Wow. So what I was experiencing was really about as intense as it was going to get. I was nearly there. In that case, bring it on. Things could only get better now that I wasn’t laboring while sitting bolt upright in a speeding car. My point is that sometimes things just feel really hard or really intense because they are.
I learned this again from my friend, Heather, when I was overwhelmed by my life choices to live in New York City, bear five children, and homeschool while also navigating the newness of our baby’s diagnosis of Down syndrome. She was so wise. She said, “It feels hard because it is hard.” What a relief! I had thought it felt hard because I was stupid or somehow not equal to the challenge. Our internet friend, Behan, recently reminded me that we all cycle through rough patches, but our best energy comes from focusing on what we love. What we are doing is hard because there is a massive learning curve, but there is also so much to love.
I love living on the boat. I love living in snug quarters. I love how the kitchen is in the middle of everything. I love the gathering places; cockpit, main salon, trampoline, and any cabin. I love how like a jungle gym it is. I can hang from the bimini or grab hold of the nav desk and pop half my body into the pontoon hallway to talk to my kids or toss them a swimsuit or shell they’ve left on deck. I love being able to drop stuff straight through the hatches. It is SO convenient. I love being able to dance with Lily while keeping an eye on dinner. I love the views: other boats, hilly Caribbean islands with colorful houses tucked in tight off the unbelievable steep roads, bridges lit up in rainbow colors, commercial and private planes taking off just overhead.
I love dinghy rides and the salt spray – no primping and fussing with this lifestyle – just open up and enjoy the ride. I love the trampoline. I love the constant supply of seawater. I love the occasional marine life that sneaks into our shadows. I love the beaches whether pristine with soft sand or sporting plants that tickle as they roll past in the surf. I love the sky and huge clouds. I love how out of doors we are. I love all of Eli’s questions, “Can we learn more about iguanas?” “Are there whales in the Caribbean?” I love bold freckles and sun brightened hair. I love putting a bin of water on the deck and letting Lily “swim” naked for hours in the bimini shade.
I love having everything handy. This is one HUGE advantage of living in a small space. I love chiming in on a conversation from my shower. I love bathing Lily aboard because escape is limited to the doorway –where I stand- and I can reach her anywhere in the bathroom with the mobile showerhead. No more struggling to retain her soapy nakedness in the shower against her will. I love figuring out how to organize more efficiently. I feel absolutely triumphant when I cook with my new stainless steel and do not burn food to the pans. I love looking at all the different packaging and different foods in the grocery stores.
I love going to church and feeling those same good feelings anywhere we are in the world. I love making unexpected connections and realizing we have friends in common. I love talking to other live-aboards. Those connections can be fast because of our common experience. I love how knowledgeable all the dockhands, technicians, chandlery people, and other boaters are. I’m a bit in awe. I love it when my family makes music together and an awesome breeze is passing through. I love the lulling rock of a safe harbor. I love it when all the children suddenly run to the foredeck for an impromptu dance party because our mega-yacht neighbors are playing a favorite song.
I love that the mosquitos don’t venture this far out from land. I love how boats at anchor all swing the same way in their dance synchronized by the wind. I love how good food tastes when you get really hungry from activity and sunshine. I like having quiet story time with one kid and five minutes later the whole family piles into the cabin to listen. I love having Erik fulltime. He is an amazing influence on our children and his presence alone is worth any sacrifice. I hope all of our children grow up to be just like him…if they want to. Along with that, I love it when Erik reads aloud from Kon Tiki to us at night. Amidst all the complications that arise as we learn the various systems of our boat, I love remembering how simple it can be. The boat is floating, so we’re going to be fine.
I love greeting the morning through my overhead hatch and watching the stars from my pillow at night. I love that the kids can go to bed at different times because they have three separate rooms. I love being snug inside when the wind is whistling around us. I love getting familiar with the hums and buzzes aboard and recognizing what they mean. I love working together. I actually love scrubbing the exterior of the boat and watching scuffs and footprints disappear. I love picking coconuts and I’ll figure out hot to identify a ripe one eventually. I love how my hair is thick (salt spray) and curly (humidity). I love everyone’s amazing bedhead in the morning.
I love how helpful the kids are with each other in our attempts to prevent sunburn. I love all the funny things the kids say as we bumble along figuring out how to make things work, e.g. “hashtag classy.” I love the encouragement from others on land or afloat. I love that my family has kept their good humor through this challenging week. We can often laugh right in the middle of our mistakes because we know we chose this for ourselves. I love how SJ decorated her room within 72 hours aboard. I love how warm the ocean is. I love clipping clothes and dishtowels to dry on the lifelines.
I love how every cupboard locks shut. Lily can’t open any of the doors and I love how she patiently knocks to be let out in the morning. I love using binoculars and a big wheel helm. I love it when my kids drive the dinghy. I love the boating community out there on VHF. I love the indoor-outdoor shelf over my sink. I love that Lily has started introducing herself by her middle name, Ocean. While I don’t love barnacles, I do love the sound of barnacles attaching to the bottom of the boat like a light rain in reverse. I love it when my kids wake up and put on their swimsuits because they anticipate a day full of water, wind, and sun. I love realizing how much I’ve learned already.
This is where the energy is. This is the good stuff.