I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate,
A poet, a pawn and a king.
I’ve been up and down and over and out
And I know one thing:
Each time I find myself, flat on my face,
I pick myself up and get back in the race.
I tell ya, I can’t deny it,
I thought of quitting baby…
– ‘That’s Life’, lyrics by Frank Sinatra.
Pamela Hodges, asked a question on her blog, ‘I Paint, I Write’; What is LIFE like. This is my response.
A cat has nine lives. I think of my life in two parts. Before and after my daughter died.
For you to know what my life is like you have to know a little about me and my husband, James.
We’ve been married for 25 years. We have a son and a daughter. A house, cats, dogs, horses and hamsters over the years.
My husband’s name is James. He is a man. He likes rugby and beer. He is afraid of monster bubble bees, snakes and spiders. He dislikes walking in the rain, saying he’ll melt. But I think it’s a handy excuse to seek shelter in the nearest pub for a beer while waiting for the rain to stop. He’s brave too. Once Mojito had a thick piece of plastic wrapped around her propeller, the water freezing, thunder pierced the darkening sky and like Jonny Depp in Pirates of the Caribbean, he dived under the boat with a knife between his teeth, to cut loose the plastic. Back on board, shivering and blue, he said; ‘I need a beer’.
He loves his children and me. He’s my best friend.
He married me for who I am; sinner, saint, angel, child, mother and lover, although he wasn’t aware of all of my personality traits when we got married in 1988. The rose-tinted sunglasses thing, I believe.
I was a happy kid but a darkly dreaming teenager and had no ambition or plan for my life ‘when I grow up’. I wasted nearly 20 years of my life by ‘going with the flow’. Not really living.
Please don’t waste your life. I learned this the hard way. First when diagnosed with cancer, Non-Hogkins Lymphoma, in 2005 and then when our daughter, Helen died in 2007. Two wake up calls.
You have only one life. You have to live that life. Helen quoted the slogan of Lizzy surf wear, L❤vin’ Life, everywhere. In her school books and journal. Barely 15 when she died, she loved her life. She knew how to live. Her death taught us that you cannot say, I’ll do this or that one day when I’m retired, or when the kids are grown up. That day might never arrive.
After that second ‘wake-up’ call, we bought a boat, learned to sail, gave away nearly everything we own, amazing friends adopted our pets and we sailed off into the sunset.
Or so we thought. Life does not really work this way. That first two or three years were tough. Tougher than you can imagine. Our marriage took a severe beating, as did our finances, our self-worth, just about everything.
You doubt yourself and every decision you make, you are scared more times than you can imagine. The ocean is big and unforgiving. She does not suffer fools gladly. Many nights I wished I still had a bed with four legs that stand still. That I don’t have to sit outside, on watch, in freezing weather, keeping a look-out for cargo ships, so tired that I can barely keep my eyes open. That’s when you dig deep because you are responsible for the lives of your crew.
We met wonderful friends, most of them sailors and all said; “Do not give up in the first year”.
We wanted too, every day. Owning a boat means we had a steep learning curve, we studied manuals two feet high, and still refers to them often. We are self-sufficient. We became, plumbers, electricians, mechanics, cooks, sailors, etc.
We did not give up. We worked through problems. We learned to deal with issues as there are nowhere to run to. You cannot hide or pretend a problem does not exist.
We survived. Our marriage survived. We are stronger than ever before.
I am who I am. I am proud of myself. I learned that we humans are capable of much more than we realize.
We know God is always there. That if you help yourself, then He will help you. That He answers prayers. A storm or two teaches you humbleness very quickly.
These past 5 years we learned compassion. We live a blessed life. A life filled with passion, love and friendship. Beautiful people. Amazing friends and family. And Mojito. She is the boat that taught us that you can go anywhere, be anything you want to be. That tomorrow is another day. That the sun will always shine again, it might take a few days, or a week, but it will. That we live in a world that we have to see and experience and look after.
I’m not quitting.
It’s a life worth living.