I haven’t just come up for air. I’m on a boat. Quite a nice one, too.
I’m not drowning anymore, barely keeping my head above waves,
choking on water, inhaling salt.
I’m not treading water, always exhausted and sick.
I’m not even on an inflatable life raft that another human,
another brilliant member of the matriarchy,
has thrown to me, complete with snacks and chapstick,
bobbing on the water’s surface, a moment’s pause
before the survival paddling starts again.
No, I’m on a fucking boat y’all.
It isn’t a luxurious yacht, nor a speedboat. Let’s call it a sailboat. That works.
A beautiful sailboat, white chunks of triangle unfurled against open sky.
It’s a hell of a lot of work to keep a sailboat moving.
Perfecting the angle of the mainsail so it fills with wind,
voluminous and purposeful, requires tremendous strength.
Securing lines, those quick figure-eights,
demands near-instinctive memorization,
not to mention dexterity and focus.
Even to helm the boat, hands on the wheel, eyes ahead, is harder than it looks.
There are still times I want to give up when the boat is caught in the rain,
my fingers slipping against rope and wood, skin torn, lips chapped,
hair plastered to cheeks, rainwater and tears blurring my sight.
Storms that reduce my patience and compassion to tattered scraps,
and I mistake my partner for my antagonist.
Even when it’s not raining, it can be hard when there is no wind,
an absence of flow that forces me to slow down, align, problem solve.
Or sometimes wait it out.
Drawing from the deep knowledge that a breeze,
even a small one, will eventually,
inevitably, pick up again, pushing us forward.
It always does. Begin again.
Oh, but when all the elements are working together.
When the sunshine is out and the air strong,
when the sails are full of mother earth’s breath,
and I can tilt my face to the sun, feel its gentle warmth on my skin,
the breeze lifting my hair, massaging my scalp,
when we’re moving effortlessly, together, across the surface,
and I can hear the water splash and skip against the hull,
when time turns thick and syrupy, rich and abundant.
There is nothing else like it.
It is joy incarnate—
vibrant extraordinary wild radiant wondrous buoyant dazzling miraculous
alive with laughter and the deepest gratitude.
And I’m on a boat.
No matter the storms or dead air, I’m on a boat.
My feet are on solid planks. I know my way around.
I know where the first aid kit is, the drinking water,
the galoshes and gloves, the stack of books I get to read during quiet moments.
The slightest lurch doesn’t send my heart into my esophagus anymore.
I’m not constantly searching for sharks, or jellyfish
or the hundred other ways the open sea can kill you.
I’m on a boat. With each day I’m getting more comfortable,
more familiar with the connection between boat and nature,
how to respond to different weather patterns,
how to interact with creatures that come alongside the bow,
ignoring some, delighting in others.
Choosing acceptance over judgment.
My muscles are getting tawnier, stronger,
lengthening as I perform the same routines day in and day out.
Some get pulled as I try something new, or yanked
as the boat unexpectedly pitches to one side.
I learn about myself as I listen to my body, an intimate unfolding,
cataloguing sensory information until it becomes
second nature, inner knowledge, confidence.
And do you know what? It’s fun.
There is laughter and absurdity
and mirth and play and pleasure.
I’ve tripped on the deck so many times, and laughed.
Listened to the same three sentences over and over again for a full day, and laughed.
Danced and twirled under the stars, and laughed.
I’m on a boat. At the end of my second year of motherhood. And it’s fucking glorious.