When is the last time you took a vacation?
Let me rephrase that: when was the last time you took a vacation that didn’t involve bringing kids, pets, or other dependent beings with you? (Note: Vacations are longer than 1-2 nights away. You have to have to luxuriate in relaxation for it to count.)
(Pausing to let you think about that.)
For me, it had been about fourteen years.
The last time I was alone in a hotel room with my husband for more than a night or two preceded the birth of our son. Raise your hand if that’s about right for you, too. (Not necessarily the pathetic amount of time, but the general idea.)
Now raise your other hand if you don’t even know what you’d do with yourself if upon arrival at your destination, you didn’t have to make a mad dash to the nearest grocery store or Costco to stock the rental or hotel room, nobody was screaming at each other, and you didn’t already have a dozen voicemails from relatives anxiously wondering if you’ve arrived yet and when you’d be there.
If you have two hands in the air, drop them, log into the nearest computer, and book yourself a flight out of town immediately.
I know, easier said than done. For years my husband has been attending the same early January conference in New York City for work and wanting me to tag along. Not that we’d have much time together, but he knew that a hall pass from normal life would be the best gift he could give me — much cheaper than diamonds and also more precious. Still, I always protested that I couldn’t possibly get away. This time, though, my old man wasn’t taking no for an answer — he booked my flight and told me to figure out the rest.
Now “figuring out the rest” was about as simple as planning a NATO Summit– there was a lot of intricate programming and finagling to make it happen. And a sick in-law T-minus-3 days out nearly did me in. Lucky for me (and I’ll bet you, too), I have friends and family who threw a drowning mom a life preserver of help and support.
And then I was on a plane, feeling light as a feather and for the first time in a very long time, totally unscheduled.
Here are the things I did, and you could do, too:
1) Slept for 8 hours without anyone or anything, including my bladder (which must’ve gotten the memo to just let me rest, damnit!) waking me up. For four nights straight.
2) Ate when I was hungry. Oddly enough, it was less then three meals a day, but then again, when I did eat, it was a freaking orgy of whatever I wanted. The last night’s dinner included an ice cream sundae. Can I get a hell, yeah!
3) Visited with old friends, took leisurely strolls, lingered over coffee, had long and winding meals, finished sentences. Left feeling that quality time was no bullshit, and also not just something that applies only to spending time with children. (No offense to children, of course.)
4) Read voraciously. Loved and wept through The Fault In Our Stars, read every page of Vanity Fair and the Sunday New York Times, and went deep into the Amazon (the actual place, not the bookseller) with Ann Patchett’s latest and perhaps greatest, State of Wonder. (Well, if you haven’t read her earlier novel, Bel Canto, that might take the greatest spot, actually.) Note: I am highly recommending these novels as the carrots on the you must get away stick.
5) Drank. Did not have to drive. An excellent combination.
6) Bought myself a grown-up lady purse, after hours of shopping alone.
7) Watched the Golden Globes in near entirety and without interruption. (Skipped the first half hour to watch the Girls season premiere – glad I did because I’d missed those precocious award-winning darlings who can’t walk in heels, but then again, neither can I. Knew I’d be able to see Tina & Amy kill it in their opening monologue online later.) Still deciphering Jodie Foster’s poignant yet confounding speech. Need a second week or so of vacation time to finish my dissection.
8) Wore the wig. Do you really need a wink, wink, nudge, nudge, say no more?
9) Spent most of the last day examining all six floors of the Museum of Modern Art, like a grow-up, with the audio tour and everything. Learned that things that just happened when they were out and about in the world inspired the greatest artists of all time. For example, Munch’s The Scream came about when old Edvard was walking with friends and, feeling a bit tired and ill, took a minute to rest. The brilliant red sunset set against the blue-black fjord and the city struck him as an “infinite scream passing through nature.” So the noise was incoming, not outgoing, as the painting might suggest. When I think about everyday life and so many messages swooping in at us at all times, I can relate to this feeling of being overwhelmed by one’s surroundings. Kandinsky and Picasso and other modern artists shifted their work when they experienced new music, new people, new surroundings and while on road trips. All in all, excellent validation for vacation (as if I needed it!).
10) Stopped in my tracks by feminist and iconic modern artist Louise Bourgeois’ Quarantania I (“Woman with Packages” — see blog pic above). Unlike the rest of the pieces, I didn’t need the audio tour or my meager Art History 101 recollections to understand that her stark white, crudely carved wood sculpture represented her family. The three appendages at the hip of the central figure are, unsurprisingly, her kids. The audio tour confirmed my instinct. Felt a wave of missing my children (and my bitch) so powerful I checked my watch for the first time in nearly four days.
And then it was time to go home.
The better-than-sex part? I was 100% ready – rejuvenated to dive back into life as I know it.
So if you see me around with a hop in my step, just know that it turned out vacation really wasn’t all I ever wanted, but man did I need it. Oh, and by the way – you do, too!