I am back on Juniper now, and paradise is empty. I like the stillness of it.
I noticed today how similar the word pandemic is to panic. Take the “dem” out of pandemic and you have panic.
I have not panicked about this pandemic and I keep wondering if the world has gone mad or have I? Like, have I turned into some psychopath who is oddly calmer in chaos? Or is all that meditation and the time spent alone at sea finally paying off?
It is easy to fear this unknown. Uncertainty is uprooting, solitude is a desert, and death is a dragon I abhor, but the sea taught me how to embrace these notions.
Through my observations of nature, I also have a strong belief that balance can’t help but restore itself. This world was built upon and craves equilibrium. I think that sometimes certain ways of existing have to shift in order for our planet to maintain homeostasis. I wonder if now is a part of some shift. I wonder if we are being forced to slow down and go inward because we risked destroying ourselves and everything that surrounds us at the pace we were going?
So here we are, lost in this unknown forest, followed by an invisible hunter. And until we can see clearly through the thickness of these woods, all we can do is stay cautious, follow our instincts, cherish life, and count our blessings.
Blessings. Blessed. Bless.
People always ask me how I fell in love with sailing. Reflecting on that made me realize that a lot of good can come from a bad situation. Sailing is one big blessing that bloomed out of my suffering and it took me years of reflecting to realize it.
It is no secret to you by now, that I have made a lot of decisions based on my insecurities and that those decisions have landed me in the wrong places with the wrong people. Especially when it comes to romance.
That is where my love of sailing all begins.
There was this guy and I thought it was love and we decided to live together. He was the first guy that I ever lived with and we had a house, at the end of a train line, in Rockaway Beach, New York. Rockaway is far away, from everything.
He was seven years older than me, half-Sicilian, half-Vietnamese. A self-proclaimed artist, with a bunch of broken dreams. Rarely had a job and rarely had any money. We both liked the ocean, but he wasn’t a sailor and neither was I.
The first night we slept next to each other, I dreamt that he had turned into a giant three-headed serpent and was chasing me in a pool of dark water. I woke the whole neighborhood up screaming over that dream. It was terrifying.
I should have known then, what was to come. I should have known then, to run.
He turned into that three-headed monster and more. Would spit on me and tell me to go commit suicide in the ocean. Would punch me while I was sleeping. Would give me the silent treatment for weeks at a time. When he was really pissed, he would make me sleep on the floor because the bed and the couch were “his.” Once he even stole my photographs and submitted them as his own to get a job in Ghana.
I could have left. I should have left. But the cycle of abuse is a mind-bending loop.
Abuse can happen to anybody. It doesn’t matter what your IQ is or how you were raised. If you don’t see yourself, respect yourself, love yourself, know yourself, then you are susceptible of getting engulfed in its ugly trap. And in this society, confidence isn’t easily taught or captured. I see it as a wavering and delicate thing that I am perpetually losing a grasp of.
At the time, I had just graduated with a degree in journalism and a minor in history. I had my dream job as a multimedia journalist for Magnum Photos – one of the oldest photo agencies in the world. One week I would be interviewing Taliban experts in Afghanistan and the next Lou Reed of the Velvet Underground. I even got to go to Nepal and do a three-part series after the Maoists won a 10-year war and toppled the monarchy.
I had a lot of things going for me, but I suppose some part of me thought I deserved the abuse. And the serpent was very good at making me believe that.
Anyway, I had been in Nepal working during my birthday. When I got home the serpent told me to lift the lid off our BBQ grill. The grill was bright red and so small that we had to grill one burger at a time. Inside the grill was an origami sailboat made out of yellow legal pad paper. On the side of the boat the serpent wrote “Happy Birthday, Olivia!” I looked at him confused. “Babe, I am giving you sailing lessons for your birthday,” the serpent said. And get this, the serpent was so good at being a serpent that he just made that little origami boat and somehow convinced me to pay for the actual lessons. What a gem!
I don’t know why he got me sailing lessons. I never mentioned the desire to sail. I never even had the desire to sail! But as soon as I started to study sailing, I fell in love with it.
I love it because it’s challenging; I could never master sailing, I will always be a student of it. I love it because it is so dynamic- it involves; math and science and art and carpentry and engineering and yoga and physics and design; and it forces unknown parts of my brain to spring into existence. I love it because it allows me to slow down and appreciate the beauty around me. I love it because when I sail it is as if I am dancing with nature, and she twirls me every which way to Sunday, but never steps on my toes. I love it because, when you really get down to it, I am harnessing the power of something that at the same time I am at the mercy of and that is humbling. Wow, just wow!
I eventually ditched the guy and kept sailing. I regret to say that it wasn’t the last abusive relationship that I was in, but I am proud to say that my desire to overcome abusive relationships, is what led me to cross the Pacific on my own.
It was only a few years ago that I realized how much light came out of that relationship. I spent a lot of time hating him and hating myself for being with him. Now when I think of the serpent, I smile. Cause he gave me the best gift I’ve ever been given it. Without that gift, I don’t know where or who I’d be today.
Something beautiful always comes from something tragic. Wishing you all a lot of light in these dark times.
*If you have struggled with abuse or know anybody who is, I recommend reading Healing Well and Living Free from an Abusive Relationship, From Victim to Survivor to Overcomer by Dr. Ramona Probasco.
* If you like these salt covered tales and are not already receiving them directly to your inbox, just go to wildernessofwaves.com, scroll to the bottom of any page, enter your email address, and click the “sail along” button beneath it. Then go to your email and click on the confirmation email that WordPress sends to you. Voila, now each post will sail straight to your inbox. Subscribing helps me to continue this journey. X