Three ways to look at an experience

I spent some time at the United States Sailboat Show (the Annapolis Boat Show) this weekend. I went for a number of reasons, not the least of which was to meet people I've pretty much only ever met online or via their books. Of course I wanted to crawl around on boats too! 

My kind of parking lot.

My kind of parking lot.

Friday dawned misty and cool, with a forecast of impending doom for the afternoon. The three hour drive passed by in a haze of traffic, podcasts, and thoughts about what could be crowding my head.

One of my students, a 6th grader who reminds me of everything I wish I had been in middle school, heard I was planning to sleep aboard a boat belonging to someone I had only met online. She grabbed my shoulders. "Nica! You can't do that! They might be axe murderers!"

"Then you'll know what happened to me if I don't show up on Tuesday morning." I grinned at her. She laughed. When she saw me driving out of the parking lot later on, she mouthed, "Axe murderers" at me. I laughed.

The first thing I did was weave through the miles of floating docks crowded with people and vendors, searching out the booth where I'd be working on Saturday. I wanted to see where I'd be, yes, but really I wanted to lay eyes on Behan, a woman I consider a good close friend even though we've only ever communicated via Facebook message. We are two of a team of six women who admin a Facebook group of more than 9,000 women sailors, and our conversations have us all feeling like family. I needed a hug to start the day.

Behan was chatting with a couple of people when I found the booth, and I waited patiently, feeling a little idiotic in my bright leggings and long sleeve t-shirt. Perfect fall clothing, only the day was more late summer. When she saw me, both of us teared up. These online friendships are definitely real, people. They are real.

Behan and me.

Behan and me.

After that, I ogled boats. I walked on huge catamarans, and new monohulls. I lusted after the banks of drawers on a 37' Hallberg-Rassy. (We have exactly three drawers on our entire boat. Drawers are a big deal in my world.) I fell completely in love with the galley on a used Beneteau 423. But in general? I didn't find a single boat that rocked my world. They felt chintzy and cheap, designed to impress the Joneses but not do any serious sailing. 

I'll stick with my Calypso. 

Calypso, under sail off the coast of Venezuela, 1994.

Calypso, under sail off the coast of Venezuela, 1994.

That first day ticked all kinds of boxes. Independently negotiate the horrors of Beltway traffic. Meet new people who feel like old friends. Lament not wearing shorts and flip flops. Realize the boat I already own is still perfect for me. Sleep aboard a boat after staying up too late talking. Ahh. It was a day for connecting with my sailing self and all that means.

Day 2 - Saturday. I'm working all day, with Behan (who is talking about HER new book, "Voyaging with Kids") at the booth of my guru, Lin Pardey, whose books inspired our choice of boats in 1992. She (and her husband) is the reason we're talking about taking Calypso on ocean-crossing adventures. 28' is big compared to the 24' they sailed on in the early 1970s. The day is rainy and cool, and we set the booth up so books are covered and we can invite people in out of the rain. Most people who stop by are looking for Lin or Behan, and I fill in the blanks while those two are chatting already. 

But what I realize is that I have some knowledge. My years of cruising experience, some with kids, some without, give me some authority. That I have read most of the books on the table means I can share just WHY someone might want to go home with one of those tucked into their bags along with brochures of glossy new boats. I spend time talking about the benefits of sailing a small vessel, and answer endless questions about how we managed to go off cruising with our kids.

This was a day for others, for reaffirming that I have wisdom and experience to share.

Day 3 - Sunday. I wake up in Centerville, Maryland, snoozing on the couch next to a roaring pellet stove in the home of dear sailing friends, Wendy and Johnny. I pad around making coffee, talking to the dog, and contemplating life. It's still raining. Johnny has to go visit his mom in the hospital, Wendy has some writing work to attend to, and the kids are sleeping in. By the time we indulge in a second cup of coffee, all of us are ready to head off to the rest of the day, even though it's only 9:30 am.

On the drive back, my knee starts to throb By the time I get home, I can no longer walk. The strength and confidence, the fierce understanding that I have something to offer, that was the hallmark of the weekend for me disappears in an inability to walk up two steps to the house.

Pretty sure it's a torn meniscus. Yuck.

Pretty sure it's a torn meniscus. Yuck.

What is my body trying to tell me here? Is it time for a change of some kind of epic proportion? I am a believer in the mind/body connection, and over the past 6 months I have torn my meniscus twice (same knee, my good knee) and ripped my rotator cuff. 

What I do know, and what this weekend reaffirmed, is that I am built for connection. I connect to people, to places, to experiences. I'm a community builder, and that is the gift I need to focus on.

Three days. The weekend was three days, and I can look at it as one full weekend or three separate experiences - or I can just see it three ways. A simple, fun weekend. A time for reconnection and celebration. Or a message that my life needs a change.

For now, I'm focusing on the connection and celebration. You?