I am writing to you from vacation.
Not our normal vacation, the kind I call “Rank Working Vacations.”
Rank Working Vacations are not for those looking to relax. It is how one sojourns when one marries an outdoorsman. This was not the life I signed up for but now I find guys in hiking boots cute, so what am I going to do?
In New Hampshire, we ascended to Mt. Washington’s peak, known for its frigid temperatures causing frostbite even in summer. In Yellowstone, we had to watch where we walked lest we fall through the Earth’s crust into molten magma.
Magma melts everything. Including your bones.
But this week, we’re on an honest-to-goodness, sit-by-the-beach-with-a-drink, there’s-nothing-that-can-kill-you, you-don’t-need-to-buy-hiking-shoes vacation.
So why are my teeth still clenched?
I mean, yes. Part of my problem is I am kicked back on the beach with a Left Hand brew and The Flight Attendant while my dog sits at the kennel.
But the rest is the pandemic.
I had a gym teacher once who put us on the pull-up bar. My arms burned as she screamed at me to hold on. But I didn’t. I let go of the bar. She stood over me, yelling. What would I do if I was hanging from the window of a burning building, waiting for the firefighters?
Well. Haven’t we all been hanging from the window of a burning building for a year and a half?
For this week I’m supposed to let go.
But though my arms burn, though the firefighters beckon, I can’t let go of that window ledge.
Even my vacation to-do list was obsessed over like a compulsive Santa Claus. For two weeks, I carried it everywhere, in case I thought of something to add.
I made and re-made my list. I checked it twice. A day. At least twice a day.
And no. I don’t tap out lists on my phone. Like Mick Jagger, you will get no satisfaction deleting items from a digital list. Lists need to be handwritten.
And if you complete something for your list before you ever write it down? Add it to your list anyway. You get to cross it off immediately.
If hell, as Sartre maintains, is other people, then heaven is surely crossing items off to-do lists.
And now that I’ve said all of that I think perhaps I haven’t let go of the window ledge since that day in gym class.
This morning, my husband recounted last night’s dream, in which he had diagnosed himself with terminal cancer but – Walter White-like – hadn’t told anybody.
If you know him, you know that is absolutely something he would do.
I then detailed my nightmare, which featured Christian Slater and Michael J. Fox because I’m bingeing Dr. Death and my dad has Parkinson’s.
I told my husband I was beginning to think that maybe we weren’t OK.
“Of course we’re not,” he replied.
Well, at least I have company out on that ledge.
Research into mass trauma indicates that someday, when the pandemic is over, we’ll stop dreaming about cancer and Christian Slater, according to this piece from NPR.
Well, I don’t mind Christian Slater turning up in my dreams. I simply prefer a Heathers Christian Slater to a physician Christian Slater. We all know Christian Slater is at his best when he is dark and Jack Nicholson-y. Do not give me do-gooder Christian Slater. Just don’t.
Writing for Bloomberg, Andreas Kluth described a 2010 Dutch study in which researchers observed we’re no more relaxed after vacation than we are before it.
Well, when you’re dodging magma pits and dreaming about the wrong Christian Slater, you haven’t exactly shut down that flight-or-fight, you know?
Kluth goes on to say vacationing in a post-COVID world is unlikely to change the observations from that 2010 Dutch study.
A text dinged on my phone as I sat down with my book and my first vacation drink. It was my aunt who, now that my parents have aged out of being parents, has become an older sister.
It was a list.
A list of things for me to do on vacation.
Be safe. Have perfect weather. Leave my stresses behind.
Well, it’s been raining since we arrived.
So I’ve crossed “have perfect weather” from the list.