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What I Learned On Vacation

Since Caroline was born, Andy has participated in many a man-cation, from hunting in Northern Minnesota to living the fantasy at baseball camp, Andy has had no problem-o ditching the wife and kids for a few days of fun in the sun, or woods. I envy him because, since I've become a mom, I've really struggled to find time for myself. I feel guilty going to the grocery store by myself let alone flying off to a tropical location for some time sans kids.

Andy and his buddies had been planning a southern man-cation for many months. At first, when I would inquire about the trip, he would scoff and say that his friend was crazy and that there was no way that he would even consider flying away, in the middle of the winter, for several days of manly R&R. Andy loves to please and hates to make me mad, so he often does this to me; tells me one thing while doing another. I've got his number so it really wasn't much of a surprise to me when he came home one day to tell me that yes, he wanted to attend the man-cation and that he understood that the only way for this to happen was for me to go on a trip without him or the kids.

The idea was an incredibly tough sell for me. As a matter of fact, I was pretty pissed at him and resentful of him for making me feel like I had to go on a trip so that he could go on his. Don't get me wrong, I really needed and wanted a vacation. Yet when my friend contacted me to officially ask me if I would join her for a vacation, I had a lot of excuses as to why it was likely I could not go. From money to conflicting schedules, I was working hard to sabotage the trip for myself.

As a guilty mom, I knew it would be a lot easier to not go and make Andy feel guilty for still going than it was for me to give in and admit that I wanted to go away for a few days, without my family. Accepting to go on the trip meant that I couldn't cry martyr anymore. It meant that I was self-indulgent, too. I've spent that last five and a half years letting go of freedom, struggling to find balance and wavering between anger and guilt about doing anything that doesn't relate to supporting my girls. I argued with myself about the trip and made little movement toward solidifying a plan until Andy and his friend broke down and bought our tickets, and of course, their own. That was it, man-cation and lady-cation were on the calendar, whether or not I was ready to accept it.

During the weeks leading up to the trip I was too busy to even think about it. I also chose not to think about it. I was secretly so excited and anxious for the trip that I worried if I thought about it too much that something terrible would happen and I wouldn't be able to go. I was scared that bad weather or illness would squash my hopes and dreams for a relaxing vacation. I didn't think about the trip so that, if something happened, I wouldn't be disappointed.

On the day we left, it didn't snow and nobody was sick. Nothing was holding me back from going. I don't think it was until the plane landed that I started to accept that I was on vacation. Our vacation was short but it was really amazing. During the trip I realized that I was so caught up beforehand in how much the trip would cost, that I would miss work at a busy time and be leaving Andy to watch the girls, that I overlooked a big perk of the trip. Yes, my plan was to sit in the sun and read a book and to swim in the ocean but the vacation also allowed me concentrated time with two of my oldest upstate friends. A few days, a few thousand miles, and a few friends really gave me some perspective on life.

Here's what I learned from my vacation:
1. The gulf waters in February are warmer than the northern Atlantic in August.
2. It's really fun to make fun of people dancing in a drum circle. It's way more fun to dance in the drum circle.
3. One should always follow-up swimming in the ocean with a dip in a heated pool.
4. White girls will burn even with 45 SPF.
5. I did more self-indulgent things in one day than I have done collectively in a year.
6. It feels good to be taken care of.
7. Kayaking with two people is faster than one.
8. Listening to the ocean from your bedroom window is a wonderful way to fall asleep.
9. Running on the beach is way better than running on pavement.
10. Friends are there to laugh with you and cry with you. They listen to your worries and celebrate your successes. They share secrets and keep yours. They accept you without judgment. They grow up with you and grow old with you. They pick up right where you left off whether it's been two weeks or two years.

My girl-cation reminded me that I have wonderful, kind and amazingly good friends from all parts of my life, from childhood to adulthood. Whether it's my junior high bestie, my cousin, my college crew, co-workers of the past and present, or the many friends upstate whom we have made into our "adopted" family, I have people who have always been there to support me. Sometimes I get caught up in the day-to-day details of life, but it's important to take a few moments each week, or month, to make time for friendship.

On the day we left, I received news that a family friend (a dear friend of my mom) passed away. There's no time for regrets. There's no time to wish you had called a friend, or sent her an email or a birthday card or picked up the phone to say hello. Next time you are tired and think about turning on the TV instead of picking up the phone, make the call. Next time you have five minutes, send a quick email and say, "Hey! Thinking of you! Remember the time we x, y and z?" Next time you think about not going on vacation with a friend because you are too guilty to do something for yourself, buy the tickets and go on the trip. Drink wine on the beach, share birth stories, stories of love lost and love found. Let them feed you. Dance in a drum circle together and talk from the time the plane takes off until you land. Tell them you admire them, are proud of them and that you love them.

In loving memory of Helen Clapp.


phoeberl said…
Love you Melis! So sad to hear Helen passed.

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