Last June, my husband, two teen girls, and I discovered a small, sleepy beach town on Florida’s Atlantic coast. Last week we visited there again. I usually plan an adventure over the winter and we go somewhere different each year, but this winter I didn’t have the energy, so we went with the sure bet.
We drive from Maryland. How does that sound? Most people gasp when I say this. I love it. I love being enclosed in a minivan with my family; moving speedily down the highway while at the same time weighed down by the space in the vehicle. This is where the groundedness of vacation begins for me. The slowing down.
I often have a difficult time going on vacation. Throwing off the structure and routine scares me. It helped knowing what I was getting into this year – knowing where we were heading. It is beautiful; the condo is right on the beach. The first full day, I was on the balcony with my husband and feeling as if it were just too much trouble going down to the beach. I was grounded to the point of being heavy, slow moving, like a sloth. So I sat on the balcony searching for the dolphins in the ocean before me.
Without the distractions of work and house – I am forced (or I chose) to see. I see that for the first time, I don’t want to do anything. I don’t want to perform. I am that person who was always running, working, cleaning, planning, talking, partying. Even on vacation – I had to keep busy. But now – I’m ready – I’m ready to just be. (See what I did there? I have to get ready to simply be!) And yet I can’t throw off the pangs of guilt that creep in – the guilt that is always about comparing my insides to others’ outsides.
Even the waiter at our favorite restaurant at the beach asked what we had done – water taxi, para sailing, National Seashore? “Uh, no, no, and no.” We didn’t do anything. We went to this awesome used book store and bought 10 pounds of books. We read, we sat on the beach, we swam, we played Scrabble and Phase 10, and we slept. And I watched baseball.
It was Tuesday before I became grateful for the heaviness, the sloth like body that I took on. It was Wednesday before I stopped comparing. It was Thursday when I realized that if I had written a story about my future – what kind of family I thought I wanted – it would not have been the one I have. I would have written all kinds of things about money, and success, and the Caribbean, and parasailing. It would not have included used book stores and teens that sleep until 1:30. I would have been selling myself short. I have the most incredible family; the perfect family . . . for me. Especially now – in this moment – in this year of my turning 50 and the girls being 14 and 17 and Jeff loving and accepting us with his whole heart and soul.
Especially now – as I let go of past and future expectations. Especially now that I begin not caring what others want and expect from me. Especially now that I have lived long enough and been brave enough to look beyond the surface into the darkness to see what was driving me and and pushing me to do, do, do instead of be, be, be. Especially now as I am in that uncertain time of life where we stand on the bridge between having children and launching young adults. Especially now as I experience both the sadness of knowing this moment is fleeting and the excitement of knowing this moment is fleeting. Soon – it will be Jeff and I in the car alone traveling – how wonderful . . .and how sad.
Next year – we may stay for two weeks. Peace.