• close family • small boat • big world •

If Only

February 19, 2014

by Paula
At anchor, Matanzas River, Florida

If only.  If only this or that or something else, then things would be better.  How many times did I say those words?  Don’t get me wrong, life was good back on land.  Good jobs, good schools, good friends.  But contentment always seemed just out of reach.  Life was good in a big-picture sense, but the little moments of frustration or stress or exhaustion each day added up to something else.

Not what we planned... icy towels
If only.  In some ways, I felt on hold, working toward a life that would eventually be right.  Almost there… if only.  And the days slipped by.  At the same time, I knew that it was all a matter of attitude, and that happiness was right there all along.  If only I wasn’t cramming so much into each day, maybe I could feel it more.  If only…

I saw our voyaging life as a chance to shake things up.  Our daily lives would change drastically enough for us to more easily see the bigger picture and re-evaluate our priorities.  We’d do something exciting and difficult and so different.  We’d find a way to live in the moment and push away those if-onlys.

But things haven’t gone quite like they were supposed to.  The motor replacement and prop-wrap delays kept us north for far too long.  Those events snowballed to create other problems.  Harsher weather has kept us cooped up and uncomfortable.  Our cruising budget took a big hit.  We have few social opportunities since the other cruising families are long gone.  We have seen some new places, but
haven’t made it anywhere that feels very different.  And as with almost any cruising boat, we have a long list of fix-this or replace-that projects that fill our days.

We've broken free of a traditional lifestyle, and that's great.  But this life isn't a vacation (we never expected t it to be one).  Granted, the view is fabulous. But we are still in "real" life, just with a new set of issues.  There are still lots of ways that things are difficult or frustrating or demoralizing.

Again, if only…  I found myself slipping back into the life-on-hold pattern, thinking that as soon as we get to warmer weather or finish this or do that, then life will be really great.  Here we are, "living the dream" and it's still the same life in many ways.

But, then I looked at our kids and caught myself.  We’ve tried to instill in them a sense of appreciation and resilience and enthusiasm for life, even though we haven't been able to fully embrace that ourselves.  And they’ve got it.

Nicole reminds us to stay positive whenever we get discouraged.  She's quick to offer the bright side to any frustrating situation.  Cash tackles a problem or crisis with calm insight.  He finds great satisfaction with a job well-done.  Cash wishes it was warmer and misses playing music with others.  Nicole has too much energy to burn and she misses time with friends.  But neither of them complain.  Cash bundles up and focuses on his guitar technique.  Nicole invents boat-gymnastics and reaches out to old friends with technology.  Both express joy in the little stuff – a beautiful sunrise, strawberries on cereal, the long low glide of a pelican, the fun of a family game.


It’s far from perfect.  They’re cold and lonely and not yet where they expected to be.  But they still greet each day with happy enthusiasm.  They are glad to be here.  No one wants to go back.

And I realized I can get it, too.  I can stop waiting and love exactly what I have at this moment. Life is good.  Even a frustrating, cold, broken-engine life is good.  Because we are in it and we are together.  I can’t ask for more than that.

Lisa said...

Wow. Awesome, Paula!

RobF said...

I really enjoyed reading this post and it gives me greater appreciation for my day to day life. Thank you!

Elena B said...

You could not have described it any better - the poetry of life is in its daily prose, indeed. Some call it the resilience theory... Great read!

Unknown said...

This was beautiful, thank you for sharing these thoughts. There's no "if only" that'll make you happy, it's right here in the little things that remind you have great life is each day.