I’m fortunate. I just returned from a week in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. I’d never been to a tropical place like that before, though I have had other vacations in years past. This one was the best, because I didn’t much feel the need to leave and I wasn’t at all unhappy to come home.
Over the years, I’ve learned a lot about presence, gratitude and awareness. I wish I’d seen it sooner. I used to treat happiness as a result, rather than a choice. And I didn’t realize that I wasn’t very happy much of the time. It’s sad to consider, but empowering to know that you can wake up and change. I’ve come a long way.
I used to place an impossible amount of expectation on vacations or other time away from work and “life.” I would research the destination endlessly, make countdown calendars and tick off the days starting at least a month in advance, and would daydream constantly of how grand life would be if I could only just get away. What would then happen was that I would eventually get to go on the trip, but I’d carry an enormous amount of stress that something might go wrong and not fit my vision. I would enjoy myself, but perhaps not up to the level of expectation I’d set out. And then of course I’d become enormously depressed when it came time to go back home, to “reality.”
I repeated that process many, many times. And don’t get me wrong, I had some wonderful times on some of those trips. But I also remember the tension I would feel about getting across the Canadian/American border, or making it to our hotel without the car breaking down, or worrying about making the flight on time, or our luggage arriving safely … it’s exhausting to recall. Every last little interaction was met by me with the worry that something might not work out. And of course, it usually did, and the things that weren’t meant to go smoothly got dealt with anyway.
At some point, I realized that no matter where you go, you have to take yourself with you. So rather than working on getting away, I began to work on myself. I’m very glad I did.
Fast forward to this trip I just took. I did none of the pre-vacation preparation, other than briefly reading about the resort and nearby area and familiarizing myself with the itinerary. My sweetheart, Caroline, who traveled with me, was interested to look into excursions and other information, so I was happy to let her. It would have been unthinkable for me to have given up that “control” so many years ago. But when I’m with her, I don’t worry about incidentals. I know we can handle whatever comes up and usually have fun doing it. And we did.
I was happy, of course, to have the chance to go to such a nice place. But the thing I was excited about the most was the chance to spend an entire week with Caroline. And that proved to be the best part and the only thing that gave me pause for any kind of sadness when it came time to leave. At the end of the week, I was quite content at the thought to come home, but I did have a slight ache in my heart over the distance that would resume itself between my sweetheart and me as we each go back to navigating through our own daily responsibilities. But then the thought occurred to me that I’d brought the best part home with me, and have actually grown quite happy with my own company as well. Quite to the contrary of how I used to be, that’s a recipe for contentment no matter where we are. There’s a real peace in that.
For just about every moment of this recent trip, I felt present, grateful and very aware of how fortunate I was to have had the experience. Now that I am home again, I feel the same way, about my family and loved ones, my home, my work, my creative projects and other interests and all the comforts I’m so fortunate to enjoy. I do still have that little melancholic tug in my gut, wistfully reflecting on the recent adventures. But I’m also aware that the feeling will, in a short time, begin to be carried back into the daily momentum of family and work tasks that will soon be flowing along again, another part to the fabric of who I am.
Both literally and figuratively … I’ve come a long way.