I just returned home after a week at the beach. It was rough. And I don’t mean that sarcastically.
Now, please know that I am 110% in a place of gratitude for the fact that I was able to take a week long vacation by the ocean. This is not a “please feel sad for me” kind of post, it is simply a commentary on expectations. It is also a commentary on taking more time to breathe in this journey we call life.
I have been planning this vacation for the last year. It was a year of “I can’t wait until” and “I just have to get through this and then I can” kind of thoughts. I certainly was not expecting a pandemic when I started the planning process but the shutdown of the world and the spike in mental health crises as a result was definitely a piece of what made me so desperate for a break. It was also a big part of why I denied myself any kind of reprieve-do not take that weekend up north, you have a vacation coming up. You have to say yes to that appointment outside of your office hours, you are taking days off in a few weeks. You better go in two hours early every day this week, you are off next week. It will all be worth it because you have a perfectly planned vacation waiting for you and the bliss will be worth all of the work. In a sense, restrict all of your self-care now and binge on it when you are on vacation.
Well, I am sure you can see where this is going. My perfectly planned vacation did not go as planned. Not in the least. Now, it was not the worst thing that could have happened to me by any stretch of the imagination, but the self-care that I expected to happen, did not.
Here are some things that got in the way of perfection.
-When we arrived to the hotel (which happens to be my favorite place in the world), we found that pretty much the entire property was under construction. They had forewarned us that there was some work being done and we were aware that some amenities would not be accessible during our stay, but the image in my head was vastly different than the literal construction zone that greeted us when we arrived. I was taken aback at the chain link fences and blocked off areas in my favorite place. I took some breaths. “The ocean is open, Jessica, this will still be lovely.” We headed to our favorite spots in town and the day turned out just fine.
-During a stroll around the hotel, which is still pretty cute even with all of the construction, a car comes tearing into the circle in near the front desk. A man jumps out and runs into the hotel lobby shouting “I am the King of the Coronavirus! I am going to bring in the Cartel and shut this place down!” He didn’t actually do anything, and security was able to take care of it, but it was jarring and concerning and definitely spiked my anxiety.
-While enjoying brunch at a favorite restaurant, a literal fight broke out in front of us after a man fell off of his skateboard and attacked a well-meaning citizen who came over to check to see if he was okay. A LOT of curse words and several moments of “is this actually happening over a mimosa and risotto eggs benedict?” while the altercation was addressed.
Then comes Monday.
I woke up and went for a run on the beach. It was lovely. I meditated on my balcony with the ocean crashing on the shore. It was lovely. Then, mid shower, the earthquake comes. Except it was not an actual earthquake. The construction apparently included the total demolition of the entire bottom floor of the hotel. And that demolition came with a jackhammer. If you have never experienced the total demolition of an entire floor two flights below where you are trying to live for a week, let me tell you-the comparison to an earthquake is pretty accurate. Actually, I have never experienced an earthquake before, but as far as I could guess, it is accurate. So, I called the office. “Hi there, just curious how long we can expect the noise of the demo? Like, a few hours? The rest of the day?” I figured we could vacate the hotel for the day, the beach was calling my name anyway and there are plenty of places around town to be in the sunshine. “the demolition will last Monday through Friday from 9-5.”
All dreams of daytime naps, writing on my balcony, more daytime naps and late morning coffee enjoyed while gazing out on to the vast ocean wooshed out of my brain. “um are there any other rooms that would be available that we could move to? We would even upgrade.” Nope. “umm, do you have any sister properties that might have space this week.” Yes, but it will cost A LOT and also those places are either un-airconditioned, smaller, further away from the ocean or some other characteristic that would be a compromise on my perfect vacation. I was already considering a big compromise by leaving my favorite place, I didn’t want to compromise more.
At this point, my heart is a little bit broken. But we have a massage booked for later in the afternoon. That should be good, right? I am sure if I was feeling differently, it would have been a wonderful event. But after the session, my husband says to me “how was your massage?” and I responded by bursting into tears and declaring “it was only okay!” The fact that I couldn’t even appreciate an hour where the person was only focused on my relaxation was a sign that my perfection wishes were long gone.
So, what do we decide to do? The sister and brother in law were planning on joining us for the last few days, so we stuck out 3 days of jack-hammering and decided to move to completely different city for the last few. Which means that after a year of planning my perfect week, I left my favorite place in the world. There was immense gratitude for the ability to change our plans. There was also immense gratitude for the ability to check out a new town, but I was definitely bummed about leaving.
We trekked 45 minutes to another beach town and bummed around for a day while we waited for the sister and brother in law to arrive. We found a delightful cocktail at a local hotel (one much fancier than the one that we were staying at that had a gorgeous view of the ocean (that almost made up for the fact that our new room didn’t have one). Things were looking up. Perfection was not a thing, but there was some salvageability in this trip and I was getting back to gratitude.
Did you think that the story ends there? Because you would be wrong. Two words: Food. Poisoning. I will leave the details out of it, but I will tell you that there are services in the state of California that will come to your hotel room and give you an IV if you are in need of fluids. A lesson that was learned by experience.
Far from perfection, huh?
Remember that I said that this is not a story to make you feel sad for my beach side vacation gone wrong? I meant that. I am so insanely grateful for the time, the views and the fun. We laughed A LOT. We said “what the heck is going on?” a LOT. My husband and I made memories that will last my whole life.
But it is a story to remind you that the best laid plans do not always turn out the way you want them to. Don’t get wrong, I think that I will always create a picture in my mind when I do things like go on vacation. That is how my brain works, I create an image in my minds eye and hold it like a vision. That is part of how I make plans for my life, as well. That is why a Vision Board is such a powerful tool for me. And that is how I create steps towards the things that I desire.
I don’t want that vision to stop me from appreciating joy when it is in front of me. It is in allowing myself to take a break if I need one (even if there is a break on the horizon). It is in recognizing that my boundaries are in place for a reason. This is a lesson in gratitude. It is a lesson in making plans but holding my expectations loosely. It is a lesson in not postponing joy for any amount of time just because I think that I will have it in a concentrated way in some level of perfection that does not actually exist.
I will no longer allow myself to postpone joy. Does that mean I am going to take more vacations? Honestly, probably not. That is not really how life works, does it? Your vacation is not what you wanted, so just take another one? Wishful thinking at its finest. But this is what self-care is all about-taking the time out to make sure that you are nurtured EVERY DAY. Don’t wait until that vacation is here to meditate (it is still good even without the ocean), don’t wait until you are on vacation to recognize what you are grateful for, don’t wait until you are on vacation to book the massage or the pedicure, don’t wait until you are on vacation to connect with your partner. Don’t wait, because that picture of perfection may not turn out the way you want it to.
If you have the potential for joy right in front of you, take it. Regardless of what your future plans are. Yes, I recognize that there has to be some considerations with that because you need to have a jobs or a family and do things like pay bills, but you deserve to have joy every day. Even if it is in a small sliver as opposed to a huge vacation sized chunk. Do the meditation, take the walk, say no to something that violates your boundaries. It is worth the effort. You. Are. Worth. The. Effort.