A couple of years ago, on my first trip to the Cape, I visited a lighthouse in Chatham and thought it would be fun to go and walk out there again. After two hours of driving around and seeing the lighthouse across the water but not being able to figure out how to get there, we just started driving through the beautiful neighborhoods, in awe of the beauty all around us. We ended up on Main Street and walked around for a while and then made our way to the Wild Goose Tavern for a glass of wine and a snack.
Here, on the Eastern shore we went out in search of a lighthouse. And though we ultimately didn’t find what we wanted, we instead found Joyce, a messenger angel, who through her own stories affirmed our own paths-and really, was just it the thing that we actually needed.
A big part of this weekend with my girlfriends has been spent talking.
We have talked about our lives, our dreams, our hurts and our perceived failures. We have talked about setting boundaries and letting go of guilt and learning to love and support and nurture ourselves.
We talked about feeling the stigma of divorce and the desire and necessity to have your own identity in a relationship. We talked about what it means to really be a partner and to what extent one should compromise to keep a relationship moving forward. We talked about how it takes two people to be committed to one another, knowing that there are going to be good times and bad, but that you have to have the security of knowing that you can rely on one another and that at the end of a long hard day, you’ll work together through the dark times until you once again make it out to the light.
We talked about being comfortable in our own skin and not caring what anyone else thinks about you or the life you’re creating. We talked about taking risks and living a life of fulfillment. We talked about the challenges and guilt you feel as a woman-be it a mother, sister, wife, or daughter-and being able to acknowledge and accept that your own needs matter just as much as those of the people around you.
The weekend has been about saying things out loud that we haven’t had the courage to say before and knowing that the people around us will support and love us anyway.
When we walked into the tavern there were two seats left at the bar, so we sat down next to Joyce, and within a few minutes she was telling us about her life.
She told us that she has been married for 55 years to a man who is grateful for everything she has ever done for him. It hasn’t been easy-there have been hills and valleys-some valleys much deeper than others-but they’ve made it through them, together.
She talked about the importance of having your own time. About how even as a young mother she knew needed time for herself and she never cared what anyone thought about that. When her children were young she’d take off and head to the grocery store. . . for a few hours. This was before cell phones and nobody could find her-and according to Joyce it was a glorious time.
She told us about her children- three girls and two boys, one of whom died a couple years back. She has a daughter who was in a relationship with a man who was not good for her and it broke Joyce’s heart to watch her daughter suffer-but she knew there were boundaries and did not say anything to her daughter. But it was the happiest day for Joyce when her daughter finally saw this man for what he was and left him. She wanted her to love forward and move on and leave him in the past where he belonged. And her daughter did and Joyce now gets so much joy from watching her daughter flourish after leaving a bad situation.
She told us about another daughter who ran the Boston Marathon the year of the bombing to raise money for cystic fibrosis, a disease from which her granddaughter suffers. We shared in her sadness as her eyes teared up and she told us about how on the day if the bombing she didn’t know for hours if her daughter was alive. We shared her joy as she described the call letting her know that her daughter was alive and safe, and felt her fear as she talked about being locked down in Watertown, her home for many years, as the police searched house by house for the bombers.
She told us about her son who was introduced to a woman through common friends. He came home and told his mother that he had met this amazing woman but she was divorced and had kids and was Jewish. And Joyce looked at her son and replied “so what? Take the girl out on a date.” And soon after they were married and are living a wonderful life together.
She talked about how she’s always had her own identity and had a hard time dealing with men who could not respect strong women. She told us about going to the golf club to play only to have the men around her tell her she should head home because it was time to cook dinner. One man told her that when she needed to chip the ball she should move the club like she was sweeping the floor-that she should know how to do that. She was so angry and turned and said “oh yeah? I’ll sweep you!” and proceeded to make her shot with ease.
She talked about her love of the Cape and how she always knew this is where she wanted to be. So a few years ago they sold their home in Boston and took the chance to move out to Cape Cod, and she’s never looked back. She told us how she loves the tavern and that many of her friends say “Joyce, how can you go out and have a drink by yourself?” To which she replies that if you love yourself and are your own best friend you don’t need anyone else.
She talked about needing to “be a Gumby.” Always flexible and able to go with the flow.
By the time she got up to leave, she had charmed everyone on either side of her at the bar. She made a date to meet us back in the same place on October 15 and then before we knew it she was gone.