On islands and change…a personal update of sorts

Growing up in Chicago working class in a good year and downright poor in a bad year, it never dawned on me that regular people lived on islands. Typically, when one thinks of an island, images of warm, tropical spaces and fruity drinks come to mind. Then I moved to Maine, where I would learn there were hundreds of barrier islands, many uninhabitable (or at least uninhabited) but more than a few that were places where real people lived.

Early in my Maine journey, I would meet a woman who actually lived on one of Maine’s barrier islands and throughout my graduate school journey, I would take just enough rides on the ferry to meet with this woman (who became my grad school adviser) to become completely smitten with the idea of living on an island. Of course, I would settle down in a sleepy, near-coastal hamlet in a house about five miles away from the ocean, yet that burning desire to live on an island and be enmeshed with the sea would never fully go away.

Which is why many months ago, when it was clear that the marriage dance was winding down, I reached out to an island-living friend asking her to keep an eye out for a reasonable rental. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I would secure a year-round island rental on one of the more popular (with tourists and residents) islands, nor that it would be at a price that I could afford on my salary. Yet sometimes our dreams do come true, even in the midst of the most uncomfortable of times.

In recent weeks, I have fielded many inquiries around my decision to move to an island from people who keep worrying I’ll feel too isolated (ironic, considering how socially isolated I’ve been for 12 years in a mainland town) to my poor family back in Chicago, whom I don’t think quite know what to make of my move…but I suspect they will make peace with it soon enough.

As for me, the closer I am to the sea, the more at peace I am. The older I get, nature feeds my soul but water specifically is what nourishes and recharges me, perhaps it is my Aquarian nature.

Life transitions are never easy, not even when they have been well-planned, and yet it’s a time for a course correction. To tweak one’s life, to search for the life that feels right and not merely like a pair of ill-fitting hand-me-downs that are worn when there are no other choices.

I can’t lie: With an office in downtown Boston and a kid who splits her time between the island and the sleepy hamlet where her dad lives, some days I don’t know whether I am coming or going. My life is coordinated on four different calendars so that my staff, my co-parent and I know where I am supposed to be on any given day. Yet the joy of being in my tiny little space is worth it, and my travel schedule most certainly keeps away any of the isolation that can be part of island living. I think the larger issue for me in managing what increasingly feels like rebuilding my life is accepting the loss of connections…the friends who suddenly treat the marital break as if it were a contagious disease. The empty promises of support made on Facebook that never materialize when you reach out. The questions that border on “none of your fucking business” or the assumptions that are made. The snide comments about me made to my co-parent, which people assume I will never know of because of their assumptions that we couldn’t possibly still be amicable (and, indeed, very close friends still). The wondering if it’s even possible anymore to connect on a deeper level with people in the era of social media connections.

However, through it all, there is the sigh of relief that the tensions that were part of our family’s daily life for so long are dissolving. The muscle pain that I have lived with is lessening as it dawns on me that the many healthcare professional I have seen in the past year may have actually been telling the truth about stress causing my muscles to essentially lock up. The relief at being our real selves and yet still being a family.

In the meantime, I am settling in and allowing myself to go with the flow as I start over and rebuild. The longer I live, it’s clear that sometimes we will have to hit the restart button more than once.
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5 thoughts on “On islands and change…a personal update of sorts

  1. I envy your island. Well, at least until I think about riding a ferry daily and my stomach reminds me that I get motion sick. 😉 I am glad this worked out for you. I can tell you are happy about the space, and place.

    • Depends on which island ….I may be wrong but sounds like the Casco Island, Peaks. Peaks is so close to Portland that with a 15 minute “boat ride” you do not have time to get seasick. Out on Central Ave. is a gifted writer who too shares blackness as a color and a divorced from a white guy and all the issues of raising ‘racially” mixed kids. A bonus is her South African accent. And of course I assume that Oscar the African Priest/ Prince and Art Professor is still living here as well with his beautiful, almost grown – teen age boys. What about “skyping” several days a week to rest up from those Boston commutes ? Now in the Portland area ( ?) do not forget that MEGABUS. COM would be more easier on the purse. And the movies are not that bad !

  2. How Alice Walker is what comes to my mind as I read of your shifts and re-sets. The part of Cali where she lives indeed would be islands if the water were high enough, and there maybe now I’ll see the both areas with new eyes. Always, having the rear deeply ensconced in such close to the wild and yet shared spaces is a great luxury and privilege. You sound to be making the very most of it and I’m glad for all.

  3. I have always dreamed of living on Peaks! I balk at the idea of commuting – just to Falmouth! – daily, so I can imagine going to Boston must feel like an epic journey.

  4. Not that the opinion of a random person on the Internet matters, but I happen to think that deciding to go and do something that you’ve always wanted to do is kinda badass and awesome, and the world would probably be a much better place if people would just do that instead of making up excuses why they can’t.

    It’s also interesting how much making a decision like that…. whether it to be to live on an island off the coast of Maine or to live in Manhattan… will trigger such concern, especially if the choice you’re making is something they’d never personally choose to do.

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