A Vacation From My Problems?

WhatAboutBobAfter reading my last blog post about our imperfect vacations, my mom said she felt sad.  She thought you might be depressed for us.  But I reminded her how far we’ve come and what we learned as a result!   I didn’t tell those vacation stories because I would’ve changed anything.  I told them because imperfect vacations are a reality we all face — a reality that is to be cherished and celebrated!

Like my therapist always says… perfection is an illusion!  We might as well learn that at an early age.  It might seem like “perfect vacations” are dependent on an unlimited budget or escaping reality.  But the truth is… the rich and famous don’t have perfect vacations either.  Different imperfect vacations than we had, but imperfect nonetheless.  I find it much sadder when someone has the means to do anything or go anywhere they want… yet they still don’t come home any happier than when they left.

I, for one, am grateful to have had the opportunity to make the best of what we had.  I’m thrilled to know that I have family members who still love each other after spending countless hours cooped up in a car while smelling that distinct combination of banana-chip-infused trail mix and anti-itch cream.  I don’t find it a bit sad that the highlights of our vacation included things like: getting to eat sugared cereals for one glorious week each summer, having our Dad all to ourselves without phone calls or board meetings and singing to the top of our lungs to pass the hours.  (I learned to sing harmony somewhere in there, and I’m pretty sure we would’ve had complaints if we had been on a cruise or flown an airplane.)  I’m grateful that I had parents who made vacations a priority, even when tropical island resorts (or even airline tickets) weren’t an option.

I don’t fool myself.  I know our vacations were not really “work-free” experiences for my mom and dad.  They spent a great deal of energy and creativity to make our getaways memorable.  And you just can’t buy the unselfish love they had for us.  They were willing to do whatever it took to spend time with us, regardless of how much effort it took.  Face it, not everyone has the opportunity to walk away from the post-campfire E.R. trip grateful that it was “only a flesh wound” while having the opportunity to see at an early age that happiness can’t be purchased.  It’s a choice.

One of my favorite movies EVER is “What About Bob?”  when Richard Dreyfuss’s character, a renowned psychiatrist, is desperately trying to create a restful getaway with his family.  But his psycho client, Bob, keeps turning up and robbing him of the perfect summer vacation he had envisioned.  He tells Bob to take a “vacation from his problems” for the week and leave him alone, but he learns that no one really takes a vacation from their problems.  They have a way of following you around.  The psychiatrist’s anger at Bob ends up driving him to the loony bin while Bob, on the other hand, is set free by the simple joys that come with being in the company of good people who don’t really care if he is messed up or not.

I wouldn’t trade anything for the knowledge that there’s no circumstance powerful enough to rob us of gratitude.  Vacations aren’t an escape from our problems… they’re just a change of scenery where reality takes a different form for a few days.  The sooner we know this, the sooner we begin to look our issues in the eye and decide to never take a vacation from being the grateful, joyful, loving people we want to be.

In today’s economy, I can’t imagine how fearful I might feel if I hadn’t learned how to live creatively and resourcefully.  I wouldn’t take a million dollars in exchange for the ability to focus on what we do have rather than what we don’t.

So if you read about our imperfect vacations and felt sad, don’t worry.  Be happy for us.  They’re among the many reasons I’ve been armed with survivals skills for life.  And among those survivals skills is the knowledge that a vacation is simply a manifestation of how we live the other 51 weeks of the year.   If things go wrong, it doesn’t mean we’ve gone wrong.  We just have more great stories to tell about the people we learned to love through thick and thin.

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