Let’s face it—family and friends sometimes ask simple-minded questions about complicated issues. My usual response is to clam up.
“Are you happy?” they ask.
“How do you make your relationship work?”
“Why are all the lampshades in your apartment red?”
Okay, that’s an easy one—they make everybody look younger.
So when people familiar with our Vieques saga ask us if we’d do all over again if we knew what lay ahead, we tend to be evasive.
Depending on our mood, our responses run the gamut from “yep,” “probably,” and “maybe,” to “are you out of your effing mind?”
But so many folks have asked that it seems churlish not to take an honest shot at answering. So here it is.
With a number of caveats. In fact, a whole boat load.
Buying the house was fun. Having it (more or less) finished is fun. The stuff in between? Not so much.
Let’s do the positives first. There comes a point in your life when all the big issues seem resolved (yes, I realize this may be an illusion but allow me my flights of fancy) and the vast store of energy you devoted to resolving them needs a new focus.
A second home, though hardly the most commendable preoccupation of middle age, is a surprisingly invigorating one.
I won’t go so far as to say we were in a slump when we bought the house, but we were definitely at loose ends. Our careers were stable. We had invested early and well in the D.C. real estate market. Our relationship, as far as we both could tell, was in fine fettle.
Maybe our streak of good luck had made us a tiny bit complacent.
The house in Vieques brought some leavening to the mix. It kept us busy and engaged, and gave us something to think about every day.
It presented us with an almost infinite number of challenges which, while taxing in the short term, could fairly easily be overcome.
It made us talk to each other more than we had in a long time.
Let’s not forget that the house also represented the realization of a dream. Although we’d never really discussed the issue until the possibility of buying a house in Vieques presented itself, we later learned that we’d both been creating completely independent fantasies of living in a tropical setting in our later years.
For me, at least, the vast resources of time and money we put into the project in those first years felt like a down-payment on our old age. And I can honestly say that my dread of growing older has been softened appreciably by the very existence of our little slice of paradise. I’d much rather spend my final, arthritic days sitting on a Vieques beach…
…than whiling away the hours in a rocking chair in D.C. pining for spring to inch its way around again.
In the meantime, the very thought of the house soothes me. When I’m having a bad day at work, I glance at the photos of Vieques positioned strategically around my office and suddenly I feel calmer.
I know that if things ever fall apart for us in D.C., Michael and I have the very real option of simply folding our tents and repairing to our island home.
This, in itself, is worth everything we’ve put into it.
As for negatives, let’s save those for tomorrow.