(What I Did On My Summer Holiday Pt2)
Our merry band made its way home safely. The summer sail to Grenada and back, viewed through a lens of distance and time, was life changing. I now realise that I’m not entirely useless around a boat. I know that no matter how much you love your partner, separate cabins is the only way to go on a 40ft lump of fibre glass floating around on the oggin but above all I learned that sobbing on the bow of said lump is perfectly normal. Stressful times need a release valve. I’m not going to sugar coat the experience. There were tough times. There were occasions I sat in my cabin listening to the flights passing overhead and wondering if I could make it to the airport and catch the first flight home to Antigua. Thankfully with the help of the people we met, the places we visited and the friends we made I was able to give myself a kick up the arse and remember my good fortune to even be able to live here in The Caribbean let alone leave land for 3 months and sail towards the unknown horizon. I certainly haven’t become complacent; most days I still need to pinch myself, but life on a boat turned the volume up to 11. I got to see, taste and smell even more awesome landscapes, flavours and scents. Here awesome is used in the truest sense of the word not the “Oh my gaaaad this waaaaaffle is arrrrrrrsam” sense. How can anyone not be overawed when walking through a rain forest with monkeys screaming over their head through the rain forest canopy? Who but the truly dead inside would not marvel at the ability of Grenadian bus drivers to cram 25 people into a bus designed to carry 16? Only the most jaded, cynical or zombie brained humans would not be overwhelmed at the cornucopian backdrop when walking through a country where no one should, in theory, starve; where every road and path is lined with fruit ready to pick straight from the trees and bushes.
The sailing itself was sailing. We sailed to places, we didn’t die, we anchored, moored or berthed, and we set sail again. In between we lived. We breathed in whatever each island had to throw at us. I danced from my soul at carnival in Grenada. I swear I probably ovulated fully for the last time in my life during J’ouvert – the first morning of carnival where everyone descends on the road to a soundtrack of thumping base, dragging boots and screaming exclamations of freedom. A place where all the men seem to look like Usain Bolt and ask your permission to dance, if you say no, that’s accepted and they move on. Other men should learn from that. The places we anchored, hiked and explored reads like a list from a National Geographic publication.
I won’t bore the shit out of you by describing the squalls, anchor drags or shitty passages because quite honestly, they bore the crap out of me and I was there. The memory I take from the past summer needs to be positive because if its not, I probably won’t set sail on a boat again. The jury is reconsidering its verdict on that but I’m sure it will be a majority verdict in favour of a trip somewhere.
What I wouldn’t recommend to anyone is having their menopause on a boat. I know I should have said ‘her menopause’ but John has been on as much of a learning curve as I have. It is a stage in life and marriage we are experiencing very much together. There have been times where I have thought that I’ve been going insane and when John has asked me to describe how it feels? The best answer I had at the time was, “I don’t feel like me inside my head anymore and I can’t do anything about it.” Whether because menopause is one of the final taboos or whether it’s just something women are expected to get on with, I felt ill equipped to rationalise and understand fully what was and is going on. To deal with the daily rollercoaster of changes ravaging my body and mind is bad enough but to contain that in a 40ft vessel is less than ideal. All the online advice to eat well and exercise is not always possible. Getting ashore is one obstacle, what’s available once you get there is another. Ramen noodles, corned beef and sparse rations of tinned vegetables were the best I could muster at times. I suspect tiny agitations become amplified in these surroundings, exemplified best when I threatened John with divorce in St Lucia. This wasn’t just a threat. I had a well thought out cunning plan and I fully intended to execute that plan. At least I wasn’t planning to execute him. Having read tales of sailing couples ‘going missing’ at sea, I sense a back story.
I have always been proud of my mind, my common sense and my ability to think my way out of any situation. There are days I possess none of those things. Anxiety attacks, palpitations, hot flushes, forgetfulness, stinking rancid periods (when they happen and hell, that’s a roulette wheel, roll up roll up, place your bets, when she floods, nobody knows) but most of all what I find terrifying are the times when I simply have no energy to eat, move or engage with other people. This isn’t depression. The moods pass as fleetingly as they begin. Compound this with the memory of my Grandmother going completely interstellar mental during her menopause – I mean the woman lost the plot. She tried carving up the house with a bread knife a few days before we were due to go on a family holiday. I say she lost the plot, she never had much of a storyline anyway; her themes were a pedestrian tale of tyrannical family rule and sociopathic whims. So as you can imagine, every time I feel like my stable reality is slipping away I worry that The Grandmother is possessing me from the beyond. I know it will pass and I’ll come through the other side complete with wizened womb and obsolete ovaries and I cannot wait for that stage. It’s this bit in the middle that I am not enjoying and I hope that the more I talk to other women going through the same it will stop being a taboo subject. I used to boggle at young girls who hadn’t been told about puberty and periods and how I thought we’d got past that in a western culture. Now I boggle at how we women don’t talk openly about the other great change in our reproductive lives.
I hope when I emerge through this tunnel of confusion that my creativity returns and my acid tongue finds some alkali because I actually found myself at a social gathering last week telling men in my company that women no longer need them because we have electric tooth brushes. I know, right? I mean I know I’ve been guilty of telling people that John and I ran a sex dungeon just to shut them the fuck up about how we made our retirement pot but seriously, electric tooth brushes was a retort too far even for me. I suppose he and his male companion were asking for it. I’d sat quietly for about an hour listening to them discussing how relationships with older women should be conducted. I chirped in, after a couple of sipping rums mind you, that they needed to get over themselves because since the invention of the electric toothbrush men really need to bring something more to the party. I was told we still need men to provide for us. Sigh and eye roll. I said that as long as the toothbrushes are rechargeable, preferably solar powered out here, then they would have to bring something more to the party than an erection and a pay cheque. Yeh I know, I don’t think I’ll be invited back for a while.
Roll on leaving this perimenopausal state of insanity, not just for my sake but also for the sake of our elderly neighbourhood Lotharios.