Saturday, October 18, 2014

In Limbo: The Downside of a Dream on Hold

I studied Dante's Inferno in college. While I don't remember too much about the allegory, I do recall with pretty vivid detail his description of limbo.  It was a place teetering on the outskirts of hell specially reserved for people who didn't accept or deny Christ and "lacked the hope for something greater than rational minds can conceive." In other words, it was a place for people who made no commitment one way or another, an eternal hang-out for folks who failed to make conscious moral choices. It certainly wasn't heaven but it wasn't quite damnation either. Free thinkers like the poets and philosophers of antiquity (along with unbaptised babies) hung out in this limbo. Today, the term "limbo" is used more informally to describe state of being stagnant, that irksome feeling of going from nowhere to nowhere.  A period of uncertainty.

It also happens to be exactly where Scott and I find ourselves these days.
(And, no, Socrates and Homer are not here. Bummer.)

Every day I get emails from people asking questions on how to make their dream of living on a boat come true. They want to know the secret to breaking out of the rat race and find a way to fill the cruising kitty and fund their gypsy lifestyle. "How do you do it?" they want to know.

The truth is: we don't know. We have no answers. We have no magic to share. We're not living our dream. We're not making it happen. Sure, it worked for a while. But now? Not so much.

And herein lies the downside of choosing an alternative lifestyle at relatively young ages: Scott and I have no real fallback plan.

We sold our cars, left our jobs, and all our money went into our boat and our dream. We have no home. We have no significant savings. We are living with my parents for crying out loud (which we are incredibly grateful for because we'd be living in a van by the river otherwise). We have no idea where to go from here and it feels like we're starting from square one, except we're not in our twenties, but in our mid to late thirties with three small children. You can praise our lifestyle all you want, but right now we are hardly "living the dream". In fact from our vantage point (and I'm sure the vantage point of others) - we feel like utter failures.

We left in 2010 with big plans and enough money to float us along for a good while. When that ran out, Scott found work and we were, happily, living check to check while floating along. Bringing one baby into the equation didn't even phase us. It was all good and we kept plugging along. When we found out we were having twins, however, a colossal (and blessed!) monkey wrench was thrown into our life (insert sound of record scratching).

So here we are.  In limbo. Going nowhere. Stuck in a rut. And feeling pretty crappy about it. Wah, wah.

Since we've been home I have been in a fog of multiple motherhood and only now am I reaching a point with the twins that I feel like I can come up for air and take a look around.  Scott has been working really hard to try and make a decent income from various real estate outlets, but they haven't proven viable for the long term. We have no idea what to do. We're not sure where to go from here. We have no real plan (other than this one, for now) and no concrete ideas on how to support ourselves and our dreams moving forward.

I would love to be able to write more, to do freelance work and bring in some income (the blog and various affiliates do bring in a nice chunk of change, but certainly not enough to call "income") - but right now, almost all of my time is spent caring for our children which, mind you, I am very happy to do, but it's not leaving much room for anything else. Scott would love to find a gig that allows for us to live on the boat part time, and land part time but, as most of you know, that's a pretty tall order. Not to mention he has some pretty hefty gaps in his resume now and no real fall-back "career".

Choosing an alternative lifestyle, while it grants us some wonderful adventures and opportunities, has left us feeling a little lost and...for lack of a better word...stuck. We don't own any real land-based possessions to speak of, but we do own our boat, so do we move aboard Asante full-time? Do we look for job-opportunities in the British or US Virgin Islands and commit ourselves to a life aboard abroad? If so - what would we do? Thankfully, the door is always open with Island Windjammers, and Scott was offered a gig to be a captain and take out passengers on our boat - but then what would me and the girls do all day? Surely vacationers aren't interested in days sails with three babies on a boat and that's not really the kind of lifestyle we're looking for either.  Do we come back to land, rent a house and re-enter the working world with the hopes to save enough to take off again in a few years? We don't have the answers to any of these questions right now and that is a pretty unsettling feeling.

Has living in the "real world" gotten to us? Has our semi-reluctant re-entry into a society that values careers, home ownership and material goods tainted our dreaming minds? Have we been comparing ourselves to our land-lubbing peers and felt the sting that the life we have lead and what we have done is simply not valued here?  Perhaps. I certainly think this is a big part of it.

So when people write us asking how we do it, I am inclined to write back: I'm so sorry, but I just. don't. know. It worked for us for a while, but now that we have a family - and a substantial one at that - suddenly, everything is a little a lot more complicated. We want so much for our girls. We want them to be proud of us, to see what we have accomplished and, in turn, inspire them to work hard to achieve their dreams, whatever those might be. We want them to be happy, confident, strong and kind. We want to teach them to be citizens of the world, and the sort of people who dream big and strive to make the world a better place.

What we don't know is what that life looks like and how to get there. We've been floating along without any real direction or long-term plan for so long, that we've sort of atrophied our ability to steer.


Lucky for us, our "limbo" is less permanent than Dante's.  We are not eternally stuck here. We have the means to get out because our limbo is an intermediate condition, an intermission. We have no idea what lies ahead, but I guess that's what makes life beautiful, right? It's the uncertainty and the mystery of the future, and the lessons we learn along the way, that keep us moving forward toward something (hopefully) bigger and better than before...
“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I've learned, the hard way, that some poems don't rhyme, and some stories don't have a clear beginning, middle, and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what's going to happen next. Delicious Ambiguity.”
- Gilda Radner

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Times When I am Grateful to Be Home: When We Have a Sick Baby

I guess you could argue that this never would have happened on the boat, and I would probably be inclined to agree with you (we never got sick with colds and/or flu when cruising), but when I noticed our sweet Mira's neck swelling unusually - on a Sunday afternoon no less - I was really grateful for a society with 'doctors' on call' and a state of the art hospital.

Let me back up a little...

Mira and Haven suffered their first colds two weeks ago. Sick twins who cannot breath out of their noses and have yet to master mouth-breathing is the tenth circle of hell; it's not the end of the world, not by a long shot, but it guarantees sleepless nights, super cranky babies and lots and lots of middle of the night snot sucking compliments of the Nosefrida (moms of babies - you need this thing!). Anywho... Haven's cold came and went over the course of a week or so and while Mira's seemed to do the same, her demeanor indicated otherwise. Our usually happy, mellow and chilled-out baby was fussy, cranky, and wanted nothing more than to be held. Something was up. We kept chalking it up to teething and remnants of the cold, but day after day she seemed to get worse and not better. She would wince in pain when we picked her up or put her down, and her default mood was fussy instead of happy. My instincts told me something was very wrong, and it was something I couldn't see. I took her to the pediatrician suspecting an ear infection. Nada. He gave her the once over, and even though she was wailing in pain while he examined her (which, I noted to him, was very unusual for Mira who is not a crier), he sent us home. I waited another day or two knowing something was amiss. A UTI? A broken rib? Something she ingested wreaking havoc? Knowing that something was hurting our sweet baby and not knowing what it was exactly was killing me.

This past Sunday she took a turn for the worse, I could not put her down and all she wanted to do was sleep. Typically, a baby who sleeps all day is a dream... but for Mira? This was very unusual and cause for concern. I had no sooner made the decision to take her back to the doctor on Monday when she lifted her sad little head up from my chest and I noticed that her neck, right below her ear, was significantly swollen and puffy. Knowing that's where the lymph nodes reside, I immediately called the emergency line for our pediatrician. I told the on-call doctor our history and what I saw, and she sent me to the pediatric ER here in our town.

Poor swollen baby :(
We've been here ever since. Mira had/has a sizable abscess on her lymph node and needed to have it drained in the operating room and receive a hefty dose of intravenous antibiotics. She is now on the mend and doing well, but we have to remain here for monitoring and more tests.

Lots of cuddle time
Those of you who follow our Facebook Page know all about this little ordeal (thank you so much for the outpouring of love, prayers and well-wishes, it means a lot), but I wanted to write about it here because a) that's
what I do and b) I have been in a hospital room with only one child for over seventy-two hours and I can only watch so much television. (I mean, after being a stay at home mom of three where I literally don't sit down for more than five minutes before 7pm, believe it or not, this feels more like a spa than a hospital.)

Thankfully, due to draining, antibiotics, and some great doctors and nurses Mira is (rather quickly) returning to her happy, mellow little self. She has been *such* a trooper and has hardly complained at all despite being hooked up to IV's and beeping machines and being confined either to my arms or a crib that looks more like a baby jail. She is winning hearts left and right around here with her smiley eyes and flirty grin, and - hopefully - we will be going home soon. While holding my baby while an IV was inserted into her chubby little hand, positioning her writhing body so blood could be drawn, and having her taken from me while she went into surgery will go down as a few of the hardest things I have done, I can say it is a huge relief to finally have some answers for what was wrong with her. There is nothing worse than the lack of a diagnosis for a child you just know is not right.

This whole episode - and the shockingly abundant down time that has come with it - got me thinking. Namely that a) I am very grateful we were here when this happened and that b) nothing, absolutely nothing, puts the world in perspective quite like having a sick child. Everything else is just noise and you'd give up everything and anything you possibly could to ensure your little one's health. That's a whole new level of prioritizing for me.

With challenge, comes growth.

On the mend and smiling again. Cannot tell you how happy I was to see this smile!
Sleeping angel.
Look mom! I'm in baby jail!
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