I went on vacation this past week and it was lovely. This is the second time I’ve tried to vacation this year and this time it went well; in part I think because I wasn’t alone. My mother took me away to a spa for four days to celebrate my upcoming milestone birthday – I will be turning fifty next week.
It was a glorious experience despite the challenges.
In my next life, I will be rich and live out my days in a spa.
Everything about it was fabulous. The hotel was beautiful, the rooms luxurious, the spa brilliantly relaxing, and the treatments rejuvenating.
I haven’t had skin this soft since I was an infant.
It was a break from the routine I’ve wedded myself to, the routine that makes me feel safe, and I was surprised to find that I was able to make it work. I was able to enjoy myself. I was nervous leaving for the trip. I was ready to cry off Monday morning. I was afraid to abandon my routine and my comfort items. It was different there, to be sure. Some of the things I think I need to make it through the day weren’t available but with their absence I found I could experience difference and be okay. I reconfirmed that sometimes routines become chains.
I found out that I don’t need television. I found out that I can survive without my e-reader.
I found out that I don’t need to have three small pieces of chocolate a day and an inexhaustible supply of diet pepsi to keep me safe.
I found out that it was okay to be okay with my body. Don’t get me wrong – I struggled every moment with the idea that my body was unacceptable. Too fat, too imperfect, too wrong. But there were bodies everywhere. People in bathing suits and various states of undress everywhere I looked. And as I pulled myself out of my head and my obsession with perfection, I realized that I was neither the best nor the worst and that was okay.
It was okay to be in my body and live my life. It was okay to not put off enjoying things because I perceived my thighs as imperfect. Obsessing about my body didn’t change it and it took up time that could be better served by being present, by swimming in the pool and relaxing in the steam room and enjoying a massage. I still looked in the mirrors and judged, judged, judged but when faced with all the other bodies, I found I was able to let those thoughts go for periods of time and enjoy the moment and just be.
Eating disorders take up a lot of space. Mental illness takes up a lot of space. They take up time and they stop you from living in the moment and enjoying it.
I spent, as I generally do, a fair bit of energy pulling myself out of anxiety-ridden mental meanderings back into the present. The difference is that when I got there, to the new place that wasn’t a small room in a small house, I found that the present was a good place to be. And it was a better present than the one I usually live in, the constrained world I’ve constructed to keep me safe – which doesn’t work anyhow.
Going outside for walks and seeing the trees and the flowers and the chipmunks and marmots was far better than hiding in my safe room, sitting in my safe chair, and reading my safe books.
Swimming in the pool and floating in the whirlpool was far better than hiding inside, wishing I could get out in the world and promising myself that I will, as soon as I’m perfect.
Walking through the hotel and pulling my thoughts back from the idea that everyone was seeing me and judging me was better than assuming that people looked at me and found me insufficient and acting like I am.
It’s hard to go out in the world and be present. It’s hard to fight off the anxiety and depression that make you want to hide away in your safe space because at least there’s stability there.
But there are good things out there, and good experiences, and people are mostly kind. I forget that when I let my anxiety and depression keep me small and constrained.
It’s a good thing to remember.
It’s good to belong to the world, even if it’s hard, even if you have to struggle and fight to be there. There is more to life than being constrained. There are better choices than choosing to be safe.
What can you do to make it possible to live in the world, or at least visit there for brief periods of time?