Relaxing on a busy vacation
In the days leading up to my annual July 4th vacation, I surveyed my time off from afar, as if gazing at a vast, open field just waiting to be traversed.
I imagined all the things I would do during my vacation.
I would bring my laptop along, and write for leisure, carving out time every day to sit down and be creative. I would visit some of my friends in New Hampshire. I would go for bike rides and run every day. I would watch movies every night, after the rest of my family had retired for the evening. I would read five or six magazines, and a couple of books. My vacation was endless, and full of potential.
My attitude began to change shortly after I arrived at my parents’ house in Maine.
All of a sudden, it seemed like I had plenty to do.
For instance, I had to go to the beach twice a day: once in the morning, and once in the afternoon.
We kept these beach trips fairly short, to accommodate my 1-year-old niece Kenzie’s nap schedule. Kenzie took to the ocean almost immediately, which was good. Her father, Tom, doesn’t particularly like the ocean, and her mother and I felt it was important to instill a love of the ocean in her as early as possible. At first, she seemed sort of wary of the cold water and crashing waves, but her wariness was short-lived. By the second day, she was walking down to the water of her own accord and laughing joyfully whenever my sister Rebecca lowered her into the surf and pulled her up again.
“I’m glad she likes it,” Rebecca said. “I was worried we had another Tom on our hands.”
On every trip to the beach, I spent some time playing with Kenzie and making faces at her before heading to deeper water to body surf. Whenever I glanced back at her, she seemed to be staring at me intently, and on a few occasions she even waved. “She couldn’t take her eyes off you,” Rebecca reported after one of my body surfing stints, and I thought this boded well for the future, when Kenzie is old enough to body surf, or use a boogie board, herself. In any case, I take my responsibility to treat her to a good time at the beach very seriously.
People go to the beach to relax.
But the beach can actually wear you out, especially if it’s hot and sunny. Kenzie fell asleep in the car on the noontime drive home, and I lacked the stamina to watch late-night movies — something I do all the time when I’m at home. On the 4th, my sister and I decided to skip the fireworks, because 9:30 seemed a bit late for an evening excursion.
On Saturday, we headed to a lakeside cottage in New Hampshire.
Prior to my vacation, I had contacted a couple friends to broach the possibility of getting together during this leg of the trip. But that was before we arrived at the cottage. Suddenly, my schedule seemed very full.
I was swimming several times a day. And reading. And running and walking, which proved to be a nice respite from a house full of family. I went kayaking for the first time in about 20 years, watched the Red Sox, and played the Settlers of Catan, an addictive German board game. One of the highlights of my stay at the cottage was jumping into the lake immediately after a hot and sweaty jog, and playing with Kenzie in the water.
There’s nothing more relaxing than a lakeside cottage.
And yet I felt very busy.
Eventually I was forced to contact my two New Hampshire friends to inform them that I didn’t have time to see them, after all. At least, not if it involved driving 45 minutes and interrupting my leisure time, which was disappearing with alarming speed, to do it. I love my friends, and wanted to see them. But I was having trouble figuring out how to fit the visits in, and eventually I gave up.
There are always things I fail to accomplish on my vacations.
I managed to finish one book, but not the two I had planned. I read a couple of the magazines that had piled up on my coffee table, but would still return home to a stack of unread magazines. I had not done any writing or any hiking.
I had certainly relaxed, but as I contemplated resuming my daily routine, I could feel myself becoming tenser and more worried. I began to wonder how my cats were faring, how the garden was doing and how much work would await me upon my return. My sleep became more fitful. And when I stopped in Brattleboro, Vt., for dinner with a friend, I found myself complaining incessantly. It was as if I hadn’t gone away at all.
Of course, I’ve tried to hang on to my vacation mindset for as long as possible.
My apartment is hot and sticky, and on Wednesday morning I stopped at the Y to swim before work. Which isn’t quite the same as jumping into a lake after a run but is still plenty refreshing. But when I opened the door to the pool, I was greeted by a room full of children, and a sign informing me that the pool was closed between 9 a.m. and noon on Wednesdays due to summer camp. I sighed, and headed back to the locker room.
I didn’t have the time or means to do everything I wanted to do on my vacation.
But at least I could swim whenever I wanted.
Foss Forward makes a weekly appearance in print, in The Gazette’s Saturday Lifestyles section. You can email Sara at firstname.lastname@example.org.