Teresa’s posting title: “Crew Wanted” was all it took to get me frantically digging up my resume, polishing off a “why-chose-me-as-your-crew” letter, and hitting the send button.
In the following weeks, friends and family would express both worry and wonder over my sudden decision to sail off, days away from any sight of land, with a blogger I’d never met. Even the customs inspector looked skeptical when I answered his question,” Why are you traveling to the Bahamas?”
“But I feel like I already know her!” I had said over Easter dinner with friends. “She’s not really a stranger. I read her blog every week! She shares the simple living, close to nature ideals as I do! She’s the kind of sailor who relies more on the weather and the charts than on elaborate gizmos. She values friends and family. I know she’s a good person and experienced sailor. I can trust her!”
Their kind response was prayer, worry, and questions about the quality of Daphne’s lifejackets. Because I knew this was something I had to do for myself, I let the guilt and sense of responsibility over my friends’ loving worries pass through me.
To be honest, they were right to worry. Initially I only knew Teresa then in the sense that a fan knows a movie star through reading the tabloids. Luckily my impression of Teresa was correct. Despite her humble assertions that the blog presents a one-sided rosy view, I’m here to tell fellow readers that she really IS how you’d expect her to be! I say “luckily I was right” because I’m aware that things could have gone badly.
When I first walked into Teresa’s boat, among books about engine repair and raw food on her bookshelf, I saw a Jack Kerouac book. My thoughts in answering the crew wanted ad can be summed up with one of my favorite, well-known Kerouac quotes:
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who… burn, burn, burn, like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!
I haven’t always lived so dramatically. For years, my life was dominated by the bloated responsibility of caregiving for others. First for my brilliant but troubled mother–a hoarder who kept every newspaper she received since the day my father died–then for a husband plagued with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a condition so crippling that I had to care for him like one would for a small child.
I spent my 20’s bound to a very good man who didn’t want to be trapped any more than I did. Nevertheless, trapped is exactly what we were. I was bone tired of the struggle to stay “clean” enough. I just closed my eyes, hunkered down, and let life pass me by. Besides brief trips to buy more disinfecting items and food or commutes to work, we were literally barricaded inside our suburban home thanks to his fears of germs just beyond the front door.
One day, I opened the metaphorical front door and walked right through it.
This journey onboard SV Daphne–like my decision to become a liveaboard on an old powerboat in Annapolis 10 months ago–was one step in a larger process of regaining the freedom to be myself in the world. It is a step in asserting myself and refusing the responsibility for other’s “baggage” and fears transposed on my life.
I’m not a person who values mountains of paper towels or newspapers over people or limits life to four walls inside a sterile, gated community. I’m a person who lives simply, values friends above all else, views the world with joy and optimism, and loves it with all my heart. I fall asleep on the waves–the same brackish Chesapeake water that comforted and delighted me as a child. As a social worker, I commit my life to the service of my community, and I do not fear it. My life is no longer hijacked by priorities to which I do not subscribe.
One night onboard Daphne, right before my watch was over, I heard a few low splashes and suddenly 20 dolphins appeared. It must have been 2am, and their silvery bodies were illuminated by the moon. Without realizing it, I found myself quietly and idiotically mouthing ‘thank you thank you thank you’ to each one of them as they rolled their bellies up at me and their fins passed over the water.
Although the experience that night will always stand out in memory, after years without freedom, every new day presents a thousand such chances to be utterly and completely grateful. Allowing myself to be open to life is my mandate. I have no more years to waste and neither does anyone else. This is what the pursuit of happiness means to me.
After a week of sailing with Merry, I asked her to write a guest post on my blog about a subject of her choosing. Thank you Merry for taking the time to write this and for sailing with me. You and your beautiful heart are welcome aboard Daphne anytime. -Teresa