Every so often – once or twice a year, I suppose – I get into a mindset that only salt water can heal. On those days I awake with Isak Dinesen’s most famous quote ringing in my ears:
the cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.
As I write this sitting on a rocky outcropping in Botany Bay, noticing the movement of the tide towards me, I have to wonder: how fast is that tide moving compared to how much there is for me to write.
It’s not only the ocean that clears my mind. It’s also the pen and notebook I pack everywhere with me. And so here I sit, pen in hand, mind and tide racing. I imagine I could always wade back to the shore. Or I could camp.overnight on this wee islet with my picnic of crackers and dark chocolate.
It is two years next week since I left this island for another island home in the Caribbean. That home taught me more than any other six month in my life. Yet coming “home” has been unshakably unsettling. I cannot find my footing.
For nine months after my return I worked in a job that was worse in every way than the one I had left. Seeking solace and support I have fallen repeatedly into the remnants of the relationship that ended as I boarded the plane to Kingston. I have tried to move forward; I have tried to reconcile the post-Jamaica me with a life that no longer seems to fit, and at each attempt I seem to be blocked. Bureaucracy, technology, finances, health – hurdles arise and I navigate one just to confront another.
I awoke this morning and thought (not for the first time) “sell everything, get on a plane, and sort it out when you land.” It’s the kind of thing many travel/work blogs say anyone can do, but how can that be true? I’m sure it’s true for the former corporate lawyer and the guy who has always had strong online businesses, but it seems not right for someone with creeping debt and two years of unstable.income. Mind you, I’m not willing to do the obvious alternative anymore either. I am no more.willing to sell my soul for the supposed “good government job” than I am willing to sell my body (not that anyone has asked – apparently chubby late-40s is a niche demographic). There has to be some other way.
And so I perch on what is fast becoming a very pointy rock and I pray for an answer on the waves crashing below me. Do I go? And where? How do I support myself with my writing? Is it too late for love? Am I too worn out, too bloated by memory, too unwilling to face forward? The waves do what waves do. They surge and they crash and the make the bull kelp dance. But they do not bring me answers.
It’s hard not to believe that it is too late. Having failed to translate my CUSO placement into a fresh career start and having failed to create lasting love where both passion and friendship linger I see little hope for more chances. Oh, I know about Grandma Moses and Edison and Michael Jordan. I know about perseverance and blooming late and getting back up again.
And still … I sit in the sun and listen to the surf and breathe. Sweat and tears streak my face. And I pray for a saltwater cure for this life.