Wide Awake: Going Away
Figuring out when (or if) the time is right

One of the best vacations Joe and I ever took was to Puerto Rico. We went for a long weekend and didn’t do anything. We didn’t go sightseeing. We didn’t get massages. In fact, we never left the hotel. I don’t even think we took any pictures. The only thing I remember about the trip is how relaxed we felt.

That getaway came up recently because Joe and I have been talking about going somewhere this summer. We just don’t know where. He’ll say, “Would you want to go to a beach? A quaint town? A city?” I never have an answer. I try to imagine us at different places, doing different things, but I can’t see it. Nothing sounds good. I just keep telling him I want to feel relaxed, like we did in Puerto Rico.

While we’ve been discussing our plans night after night, I’ve been watching people posting on social media from their vacations. They’re eating incredible food and laying by a beautiful ocean. They look happy, and I’m excited for them when I see their photos. Even all 3 of our daughters have taken a quick vacation in the past few months. They texted us pictures of fun dinners and soothing views from their beach chairs. It gives me this quick rush of joy when I see how happy – and relaxed – they are.

That usually sparks Joe and I to start the conversation again. I open TripAdvisor. He googles airfare. An hour goes by, and the conversation doesn’t go anywhere (so then, neither do we). I’ve been pretty stumped by this. Sometimes I think we should just go. Book anywhere. The theory is once we get there, we’ll relax. And yet, we don’t book anything. This inability to pick a vacation spot has never happened before. But then, neither has a pandemic. I can’t help but think those 2 things are somehow related.

I remember last year writing in this column about how uncomfortable I was when I felt happy during the pandemic. How, when we were all playing Twister in our living room – something I don’t think we’ve ever done before – I kept remembering all the people who were lonely or heartbroken or both. I wrote: “…if I had any glimmering moments of positivity, I quickly remembered the suffering.”

When you have thoughts like that for over a year, is it reasonable that maybe you need some time before you’re ready to head out on vacation? Honestly, I’m not sure. When I read that question, I think no, having thoughts like that for over a year is exactly why you should go on vacation. This is what we’ve been waiting for. Go live your life. Plenty of people are doing just that – those are the pictures I’ve been admiring on social media.

And yet we still haven’t planned anything. I’m almost at the point where I’m going to suggest to Joe that we make the decision to go away next year, so we can at least stop talking and talking about it. That hasn’t happened yet, so I guess there’s still hope.

In this issue, we’re featuring quotes and photos from our mental health roundtable. I talked with 5 mental health professionals about how everyone is doing as we come out of the pandemic. Short answer: not good, which I was kind of expecting. But I wasn’t expecting the details they offered about how people of all ages are having a difficult time getting back to what everyone calls the new normal. Some are really suffering.

There are also others whose difficulties aren’t as serious, but they have been starting to notice a sudden discomfort with things that were once very natural, like planning a vacation. It takes a long time to realize your feelings might be caused by the pandemic, but it does make sense. Question is, what do you do once you make that connection?

One of the messages that came through loud and clear from the roundtable is that even though this transitional time may be difficult, you can get through it. Some people may find it harder than others. But growth after this past year is possible. I guess that means relaxation is also possible, which would mean a vacation is possible. I will hold on to that, and maybe discuss the subject with Joe again. But maybe not. That was a very long year we all just lived through. Maybe it will take time to come out of it.

Read the Mental Health Roundtable here.

Read more Wide Awake here.

July 2021
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