It’s not exactly a war. It’s not even a battle. It’s more competing whispers, one in each ear. One says “I am perfectly happy by myself, making decisions based only on what works for me in the moment.” Skip lunch and have dinner at 4:30? Have ice cream or a bakery treat at 4 and nothing resembling a real dinner at all? Go out for the morning at 9? 10? 1? Come back at 11:30? 3? 5? No one to call, no one else to consider. Walks are solitary, at my pace, for exactly my duration. I have spent many years of my adult life on my own in this fashion, and it’s been good for me, then and now.
The bliss factor of solitude is hard to beat, but it does have its down side. The voice in the other ear reminds me how nice it would be to share these experiences with someone, and I briefly think “what have I done?” This is exacerbated by the fact that no one can hop on a plane or get in their car and come visit. Not that they would, necessarily, but it’s different when they can’t.
I’ve had a noteworthy reaction to these moments when I realize how cut off I am from the important people in my life. Whereas I used to try to pinpoint what I was feeling—Lonely? Isolated? Melancholic?—I find now I just “sit with it,” as my friend Jane calls this state. Acknowledge without judgment, accept, let it play through and then move on. Though the writer in me doesn’t like wordlessness, I am understanding for the first time this aspect of mindfulness, and I like it.
I have spent close to zero time contemplating the fact that I pulled up roots so utterly. It feels comfortable, as if my life is now so filled with potential rather than matter. Even my meager remaining possessions need more winnowing, as I learn more about the person I am now rather than continue to carry around the remnants of someone I used to be, on the assumption I may go back to being her some day.
I’m starting to understand that the most lasting legacy of the years I spent cruising, in addition to the phenomenal experiences I’ve had around the world, may be that it shook me loose from the feeling that I need a base. Do I need to surround myself with my belongings? To have routines provide structure for my life? To know where everything is within a fifty-mile radius? Apparently not.
I got so used to living out of a suitcase over my cruising years that I began to see my stateroom as an equally comfortable home base. Now it looks as if that was just practice. What do I have now that keeps me from floating away? A car, some books, some supplies. Even my beloved jewelry is starting to seem like relics from another time, another me.
It’s interesting that people seem to think I must be looking around for a place to settle here. I am not interested in that at all. I think I would like to spend a month or two here and there, not just on Vancouver Island, but elsewhere in Canada and the world. I’m “porous with travel fever,” as Joni Mitchell once beautifully put it. Cruise Director Vicki van Tassel says her home is a storage locker in New Jersey. I guess mine is now a little unit on Quadra Street in Victoria.
Will I get tired of this? Probably. I’ve outgrown pretty much everything in my life. But you know what? I don’t give a damn what I might feel next year. I‘ll find out when I get there. For now, I am not settling, in any sense of the word. Let it be. Let it all be.