We just got back from a week at the beach—me, Dan and Steppy. I must say, it was not our finest vacation. Weather aside, Steppy came to us off the heels of a cold and fever, which she promptly gave to me. So by day three, when I should have been slow cooking like a fine piece of prime rib at the beach and enjoying lemonade and Kohrs Brothers Ice Cream on the Ocean City Boardwalk, the salt air making my skin dewy and my nerves less frazzled, I was instead, stuck in the hotel, fighting a throbbing virus/pain in my neck and back, craving sleep, trying to swallow without wincing, and watching a day-long marathon of Millionaire Matchmaker on Bravo. I can now tell you firsthand, much as I love Patty Stenger (and she is ALWAYS right, trust me, if only those hard-headed millionaires would listen, they WOULD find love, I’m sure of it…), being sick on vacation sucks. It sucks BIG.
Of course, it’s not all kinds of fun to be spending a week with a miserable, sullen and uncooperative teenager, which would accurately describe Steppy these days (along with being tall, thin, blonde, tan, young, and beautiful, which she takes so for granted, which doesn’t help one bit…).
Add to that four nights in a row of watching Shark Week on television (programming that features various iterations of sharks in the water and the old wrinkly guys who study them) and there you have it. My vacation. (Of course, I did get to spend some time with my good friends Ben and Jerry and they never disappoint…)
The thing is: these precious five days were mine to deep breathe and relax between working hard to get away and working even harder to make up for the time off. Not to mention the fact that, in my business, we’re about to head into our version of tax season…and there you have it.
Sucky vacation. Not cool.
Now, I know there are people who have it a lot worse off than me. So I wouldn’t go so far as to call the vacation a dud—I wasn’t at work, after all, or getting a root canal or applying for food stamps, living in my car, addicted to heroin, diagnosed with a terminal disease, dealing with the death of a loved one, the aftereffects of a Bernie Madoff, or even locked in an elevator with my husband’s ex-wife—but still. It wasn’t award winning. A model for future vacations. Or even something I’ll look back at one day and laugh about.
Because when you have such limited amount of time off to play—and life is so hard, and busy, and high stakes and hectic—you take those precious few days seriously. So for me, now that they’re over and in my rear window, I’m bummed.
Of course, the days leading up to the now mediocre vacation weren’t exactly a delight. Working hard, dieting hard, managing people and relationships hard, exercising hard, thinking hard, checking things vigorously off my list, scrambling for sleep, trying to negotiate hard realizations.
Like, for example, my boss’ so delicately reminding me that, while I was doing a good job at work, I was on the “downslide” when it came to my overall age and career trajectory. (I can’t remember how we got on the subject, but we got there, unfortunately.) He even drew me a diagram of a bell curve. I’m rounding the top, he says, at the ripe old age of 48.
“Are you gonna live to be 100?” he asks, while I watch him draw dotted lines on my downward spiral on the diagram.
“Maybe. I don’t know.” What’s next? A Gantt chart of my demise?
“Let’s just say for the sake of argument, you are. Even then, you’re just really getting over the hump here…” He runs his red pen over the top of the curve a few times for emphasis.
Now my boss and I have a very good relationship—we’re friends, practical jokers, and truth tellers. We are not sugar coaters, which I especially like for professional reasons. But the declarative notion that I am at my peak was—is—hard to take. Because frankly, I feel as if I’m just getting started.
And yet, the only consolation is that he’s a few years older even than me, so he’s willing to admit he’s blazing the trail, but still. I didn’t need to hear that. Who wants to hear that? Who?
Then, in preparation for a week away, I had several things to get done, one of which was to return these shoes I’d ordered from Zappos. I had to take them to Staples to be picked up by UPS. So after a very long hard day at the office, I stopped on the way home, figuring it would only take a few minutes. That’s until the guy behind the counter couldn’t figure out how to put the UPS label tape into the little machine, so he couldn’t print a label for my package. Fifteen minutes later, there are four Staples employees trying to figure it out while I stood there, fuming like an idiot, the ticker tape running through my head:
“Just leave. Why are you standing here?” I asked myself silently. “Because,” I answered myself, “I have already put in now 20 minutes. I am not leaving with this package.” It’s the exact same reason I spent 11 years with the wrong man. Too much time invested.
But then, much like it wound up with the boyfriend, at 30 minutes, the now five Staplettes informed me that they couldn’t fix it and, ergo, would NOT be able to mail my package. To which I stormed out, after first asking them very loudly, “WHAT DO YOU SELL HERE? ARE YOU OUT OF COPY PAPER TOO?”
Then, I heard from my dear friend Jill that her aunt, who she’s very close to and has been for as long as I’ve known her (25 years), was just diagnosed with bone and lung cancer and given months to live. Which just made me feel bad for feeling bad about the Staplettes not shipping my package and being on the downslide because at least I’ve got some—I’d say a pretty good chunk (boss)—of slide left.
I don’t know where I’m going with this. I guess to quote my friend Jill from the very same text in which she told me the bad news: “Middle age is so hard. So much to deal with.”
So well put. And so, as Dan and I and Steppy got into the car to leave our beach vacation—and I started to think about it all (Steppy’s bad behavior and how she’s mine for life, mom and dad, work, the dogs, my husband, my diet, my health, Dan’s health, my parents’ health, our finances, our next vacation, when I’ll see my Chicago friends next, how tired I am, how long it will take me to unpack, how much regular mail we have, the bills, the dead sea scroll of emails in all three of my inboxes, my first day back at work full of too many meetings, grocery shopping, laundry, returning shoes, getting my hair colored and my chipped nails fixed, figuring out the detox I got from the doctor, getting the dogs groomed and my husband a haircut along with a physical and those sunspots checked, why people don’t talk on the telephone anymore, how much texting is ruining the next generation since it’s so impersonal, the need to learn meditation, whether we need toilet paper, whether the debt ceiling debate will ruin Obama’s chances for re-election, why we can’t just unilaterally ditch all of Congress and start from scratch, who’s making dinner, and when I’ll get to relax if ever again, etc.)—I stopped for a minute to breathe and whisper in my husband’s ear:
“Aren’t you supposed to leave vacation less stressed than when you arrived?”
Alas, I fear another fallacy—and stark realization of mid life.
Oh well, how was your summer vacation? Did you have fun? Do share because, frankly, I could use the pick me up.
Until next time!