• The Futility of Vacations


    I love vacation.  I like my job, but I like being away from my job more.

    I love the seemingly huge expanse of free time that accompanies even a short vacation.  Take the Friday before a three day weekend, for example.  Doesn’t Tuesday always feel years away?

    The traveling is fun, both to and from, because there’s the anticipation of either being somewhere new or getting to go home and sleep in your own bed.

    Even preparing to go on vacation is pretty good, in its own masochistic way.  The mad scramble to wrap up work projects, the packing, the hurried cleaning  before leaving (because I hate coming home to a dirty house).  Yep, even this part is pretty good because I’m working hard to go on vacation.

    But there’s a certain futility in going on vacation.  Why?  Because returning from vacation sucks.

    If I go on vacation for, say, ten days I need day one and two to unwind, to forget the day to day grind. I’m still thinking about work, but only in terms of how relieved I am to be away from it.  I still don’t quite believe that the vacation I’ve been staring at on my calendar for six months has finally rolled around.

    Days three through five, I marvel at how much time I have to do the things I want to do.  I have time to work out at my leisure.  I have time to take naps. Time to organize pantries and color code my closet if that’s what my anal-retentive little heart desires.  In short, I have time to do all the stuff I never get to do because I’m at work all day.

    Day six through nine, I’m in full vacation mode.  I know the rhythm of my days.  I take glorious two hour naps.  I putter around the house.  I read, or I go to the pool with the kids.  I revel in my vacation.  I feel good, feel rested, feel human.

    Then day ten comes. The last day of vacation.  A sick dread settles in my stomach as I get ready to return to work.

    I set clothes out because I know the next morning is going to be tetanus-shot painful, and I don’t trust that I’ll be able to match colors at five am.  I read the kids three bedtime books instead of the standard one because I feel like I’m getting ready to abandon them.

    I don’t get to bed on time because I’m not tired.  I’m not tired because I’ve been… you got it… on vacation.

    When I do go to bed I lie awake, thinking of my husband asking me “Are you ready to go back?”  And I wonder if the answer to that question is ever “yes”.  Finally, around midnight I drift into a light and sweaty sleep.

    Then an alarm goes off.  It is loud and obnoxious and just plain mean.  I curse the still sleeping form of  my husband for not turning off his damn phone before I realize… shit… that’s mine.  I slap the empty bedside table, pat around confused for a few moments.  Then I see a hideous little glow coming from the bathroom counter and remember, oh yeah, that’s why I put it in there.

    I stumble into the bathroom and silence the little electronic monster.  It takes several tries because I’ve actually forgotten how to use this particular function on my phone and it’s just too goddamn early to relearn it.

    I turn the bathroom light on, then immediately snap it back off because now I know what it feels like to have daggers thrust into my brain.  I compromise by showering and dressing by the muted light of the closet.  I thank God I had the foresight to hang underwear with my clothes, because I’m not sure I could find them right now.

    I have no idea where my make-up bag is because I haven’t looked at it in a week and a half.  That’s probably a good thing.  Putting mascara on just sounds like a trip to the emergency room waiting to happen.

    A blurry commute later, and I’m back in the office.  Over-caffeinated coworkers smile and ask, “How was your vacation?”  I growl at them and they back away slowly, saying, “I’ll let you grab some coffee.”

    By ten am all of the good cheer I had as recently as twelve hours ago has been annihilated by two hundred emails and surprise assignments that were due yesterday.  I feel my vacation wither and die like my lawn in a drought.

    I put a picture like this one on my computer’s desktop, hoping to preserve the feeling of being outdoors, being on my own schedule, having the time to appreciate how the sunlight filters through the leaves, and feeling it warm my shoulders.

    Dilley Trees

    Sadly the picture doesn’t do much more than make me mourn the end of my vacation.

    By two o’clock I have rejected the inhumane nap-averse society I live in. I sip a cup of scalding coffee that I don’t want and vow to move to Spain or Italy.

    I survive day one by consuming enough caffeine to kill a lab animal. By the time I get home I’m exhausted.  The kids are lucky to get dinner, and I’m in bed by eight o’clock.

    The rest of the week is like a long, bad sequel to day one. I have a vague idea that Friday is coming, but it’s so far away I wonder if it’s not just a legend.  Like that mythical pot of gold at the end of a rainbow or the lost city of Atlantis.

    So how do I make myself feel better?

    I scan the calendar for, you guessed it, the next vacation.

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