I did a thing.
A scandalous thing.
A scandalous, decadent, delicious, blissful, unbelievably wonderful thing.
What was it?
I took a Real Actual Bona Fide Official Certified Romantic Adults-Only vacation with my husband!!! To a tropical island!!!! AAAgggggggghhhhh!!!!!
We have never ever done this before. We take work trips, and we try to grab a couple nights away together once a quarter, and last year we took a marriagemoon to a cottage in BC, but THIS??? This broke all my rules for myself about what I’m allowed to have.
Let me back up.
Here are the vacations I think I am SUPPOSED to want:
- To climb to Machu Picchu, waking at dawn in a freezing camp and hiking for hours up jagged rocks and having a deep yet dignified spiritual experience
- To go to Paris and learn French and see all the important museums and become 1000% more culturally erudite and take soulful photographs
- To go to a country where there is limited plumbing and stay in a real, local, authentic, place and buy food at the real, local, authentic market and learn to bargain respectfully so I am not an ugly awful white person and cook all our meals over an open fire and then also do the dishes and the cleanup and love every minute of it
- To take a service trip where I do meaningful, probably backbreaking and heartbreaking work that is actually useful (not just self-indulgent) and vastly widens my horizons and gives me a deeper appreciation of my own privilege
- To hike deep into the backwoods with everything on our backs and have a pure bonding experience with Nature where Nature is encouraged to get into every bodily crevice and I learn to enjoy freeze-dried lentils
I should want those things, right??? They are such noble, GOOD things. Pure things.
People who do these things look SO SMUG on Instagram. And many of my favorite people truly enjoy these things very much.
There is only one tiny problem.
Greetings, my loves; have we met???
Hi. All of those scenarios sound exhausting.
I don’t like any of those things. I hate to cook. And hike. And haggle. And get dirty and sticky and itchy and bitten by bugs. Instead, I like high fashion and five-star hotels and amazing restaurants and the theater. I’ve run into this issue before, most dramatically when I wanted a diamond ring and felt wild shame about it.
I’m deeply conditioned to believe that if I long for something, it must be wicked, and if something feels miserable and awful, it’s probably good.
But this is not actually true.
(No, REALLY. That’s an old inherited belief, and it’s a shitty one.)
So let me tell you my secret, wicked, delicious and true desires. Lean in close so I can whisper them to you.
- I want to go to Paris and shop entirely for beautiful and impractical clothes, and drink great quantities of wine, and only look at my ten favorite paintings but for several hours each.
- I do actually want to take my kids to see the world and understand their place in it, but not for a few more years, until we no longer have to pack pull-ups and wipes.
- I want to hike along a crystal lake for about ten minutes before retreating into my gorgeous bedroom and then GAZING at nature, through an enormous window, while sipping the exquisite tea that room service brought me.
And you know what I really, really wanted? The most scandalous one of all?
- I wanted to go lie on a tropical beach and do absolutely NOTHING except maybe read a light fluffy novel and drink icy cold things with fruit sticking out of them and never buy or cook or clean up a damned thing. Ohhhhh, the melting bliss of such a delicious thing!
Does this make me a princess? No, but it does remind me that I am queen of my own domain, my own yearnings, and my own decisions.
It took me quite a lot of time to realize that my squirmy vacation desires do not make me a bad person.
And let me tell you. Lying on that beach at the Sandals Royal Bahamian resort? It was bliss. An utter bliss scandal!
With the water just as startlingly aquamarine as it is on the postcards, with the sand as soft as powdered sugar, the sound of the waves, the sun on my intensely sunscreened skin, sipping– yes– icy fruity things– ohhhhhhhh, it was as delicious as I could have dreamed it could possibly have been. I felt SO buoyantly happy!
And it was unbelievable for my husband and I to just get to be with each other away from all the minutiae and decision fatigue of our busy, intermingled lives. We were just us, no laundry, no chores, no documentary, no bills, no dishes, no email– it was so nourishing and made us feel close and tender without all that machinery to manage.
I felt close and tender with myself, too. I went into the water and just stayed there for long periods of time, feeling myself at that midpoint where so many elements come together– the ground against my feet, the water all around me, the air and sky above.
“I have almost all the magical elements here,” I told my husband Nick. “If I just had fire I could work some serious magic.”
“Babe, the fire is in YOU,” he pointed out, somewhat warily. (He admires my fire but also has been seared by it, as spouses inevitably are.)
It then occurred to me that I also had metal– in the form of my own menstrual blood, which was the matriarchal precursor to the patriarchal iron ore. So right then and there, I did indeed call on all sorts of good energies and worked some witchy magic in that compelling spot where all the elements came together and I was one with them.
(Well of course I’ll keep you posted about how it turns out.)
Those heavenly moments of drifting, melting, letting bliss trickle then soak down into the dry reservoirs inside me– it is a rare surrender. It opens me up to my own most potent powers. And it occurs to me that it should not be so rare. Not for me, and not for you.
But in order to get to the things that actually fill us up, sometimes we have to see through the things that we think OUGHT to fill us up.
I am certainly not the only parent who is over the myth of the “family vacation.” Wherein one does ALL THE SAME DAMN HARD THINGS as at home, only under more tricky circumstances. Shopping, cooking, cleaning up, bedtimes, laundry, driving, fighting over screen time– THAT IS NOT A VACATION.
My new mantra is #parentsneedvacations.
But this isn’t just for parents– it’s for all of us who are SO STINGY with what we let ourselves experience.
Stop being so stingy with yourself.
You, dearheart, who go on the annual family reunion that eats up your vacation days and travel budget, and spend the whole time trying hard to hold your energetic boundaries amidst complicated family dynamics, coming home ragged and tender.
You who sign on for yet another “girl’s trip” that is awash in competitive passive aggressive chitchat and too many cocktails, four days that leave you hungover and heart-hungry for a true connected conversation.
You who go on another “fun adventure” with your beloved, where once again somehow you end up tagging along on all the “exciting” exhausting activities that bore you almost to tears.
You who take yet another work conference, tack on one day for yourself, and then watch as that day gets eaten up by email and phone calls, and smile wanly when people say, “You’re so lucky to get to travel so much!”
You whose introverted heart yearns for nothing more than quiet days at home, alone, with as much peace and quiet as you want, so much peace and quiet that it can saturate all the way down into you.
You who have no trouble making EVERYTHING happen for those you love, but somehow can’t quite seem to give yourself that one thing you really, truly, deeply crave so much it makes you almost want to cry.
I see you.
Tell yourself right now, or hit reply and tell me, what do you REALLY want? What would ACTUALLY fill you up?
Is it a solo retreat in a hotel room where you just order room service and read novels? Is it a glamorous, glitzy trip to Italy where you wear enormous sunglasses and get your picture taken without shame in all the classic (even cliched) spots? Is it a visit to see a beloved friend where you don’t do ANYthing special enough to justify the cost of the travel, you just cook and do your nails and talk about All The Things and that is absolutely perfect? Is it a cabin in the woods with NO INTERNET so you can finally hear yourself THINK? Or do you just want to go somewhere and lie on a beach and have someone else take care of YOU for a change???
Maybe you don’t even want to say it out loud because you can’t swing it right now. That’s ok. Tell the truth about it anyway.
Because your truth has a mysterious power.
Simply stating what you actually want, really specifically, seems to send all sorts of tiny gears whirring about in your subconscious that make it infinitely more likely that you’ll see creative and unexpected ways to make it happen. Don’t be afraid of your own longing. We think it will hurt us, but actually it galvanizes us. Even if you simply canNOT make that thing happen, not for years, your own clarity will tell you something about who you are and what you love. It will help you orient yourself toward getting more of what you love in your current life in all sorts of different flavors. It will give you at least a fighting chance of getting it.
And it might help you work some very potent magic.