The Way Life Should Be Part of the Time
In Maine, a getaway state for Vermont’s Upper Valley, a sign says as you cross the border, “Welcome to MAINE. The Way Life Should Be.” Which is only true if you’re vacationing there. Because if you live there, Maine is pretty much life as usual. Meaning: generous servings of aggravation, taxes, family ordeals, automotive hassles, and work. Lots of work.
Also lots of hosting because if you live in a vacation state like Vermont or Maine, your friends and fam want their vacation…at your house. And really, since when is vacation “the way life should be?” It’s supposed to be just a lot of reading, recreating, sleeping, gabbing, rampant spending, and overeating? Isn’t that what vacation’s for? But I digress.
I took a vacation recently and, due to the burdensome stressors of Modern Tymes, I overanalyzed the hell out of the vacation nearly to the point of its ruination. You know, catastrophizing and messing with time, from the moment of walking in the door thinking, “Only 5 nights left!”; then, “Ugh, down to 4 nights,”; “Oh no, 3 nights, it’s dwindling!!” Et cetera. Bringing so many provisions to save on dining-out costs that it takes an hour to load and unload the car. Not really that relaxing.
Once someone told me anything shorter than a 2-week vacation is a waste because it takes the first week to unravel. But this was 30 years ago when employers could offer free dental, eyeglasses, and ample time off. Who can take two weeks off now, when precious vacation days are used moving, moving people you know, or recovering from moving and moving people you know?
With pressing thoughts of work so debilitating it occurred to me more than once to just drive home and deal with the work issues instead of spending a bankload in paradise to worry about them without being able to solve them, I often wasn’t in paradise at all. But it was unrefundable and I wasn’t insane. So I stayed and endeavored to stifle thoughts about work, global warming, contagion, invasive species, vanishing species, and the shifting, buckling tectonic and oceanic plates that will cause much of the west coast to crumble into oatmeal before it’s hit with a debris-filled tsunami of epic proportions. I tried not think about these things. Fishing helped.
Many Vermonters do the stay-cation in our short summer. Why go anywhere else, they ask? Because it’s not much of a vacation when you’re running into your neighbor who for the thousandth time lets his dog way too close to the family jewels. I want a change of scenery, a change of neighbors, a menu or at least a grill whose knobs I’m unfamiliar with. I want newness. Newness keeps one’s mind occupied from thoughts of global contagion.
So does sleeping on a lake in the woods. For 13 years I’ve lived in areas rather noisy by Vermont standards. When you are exploring uncharted regions, marinating in newness and hearing no noise at night, you can unravel enough for your mind to enter new territory. It can go forward in time, where you imagine the future – of you, your peeps, or your planet. We mostly went back in time, discussing our childhoods and childhood vacations. Back then vacation was all taken care of for us so we simply benefitted, sure, but it was different in other ways, too. In the 60s and 70s, average families could not only afford a house on one salary, but also a modest lake- or sea-side cabin – and time to actually go to the place.
I shan’t candycoat those trips, now comical, wherein multiple flat tires and bursting radiators caused the parents to nuke and the dog situated in the middle of the back seat (or “way back” of the Country Squire) was tortured by your brother, your indignant outcries ignored or ridiculed by bickering parents in a roasting, A/C-less, metal prison clouded by mom’s burning Kents. But the destination was ever worth the journey. Frolicking in the woods. Spinning in inner tubes with the nozzle jabbing your thigh, your cousins’ reckless antics unmonitored by drinking adults out of earshot. Skinnydipping with your aunt under the stars. Burgers and dogs. Great freedoms, great times.
We were lucky to have been young then. And you can be lucky now. By going on a real va-cation when prices plummet. Go. Ignore global threats, eat, rest, float your body in the now-warm water. Bask in nature and pleasant childhood memories. The cosmic soup demands your happiness. Do it. With love. Good day.
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