Saturday, February 4, 2012

Vacation Rules

There’s something about doing nothing that’s good for the soul.

This occurred to me today as I was wading off of Lido Beach on St. Armand’s Key, Florida. I noticed that my mind was blank, except for noticing its own blankness. My feet, at which I stared vacantly, didn’t want to walk anywhere. Then I made an effort, raising my head to watch a powerboat go by. After that, I lowered my head again to watch my feet do nothing again, while seawater lapped my ankles.

It felt great doing nothing, and going nowhere.

I’ve lived beneath the hanging sword of writing deadlines for four years now. The six weeks since Christmas are the first time I’ve felt this deadline pressure lift in a long, long while—basically since I became a Catholic in the spring of 2008, just as I was taking on the biggest book project of my career. This Florida vacation couldn’t come at a better time. I can enjoy it, because finally I can do nothing.

Katie and I do well on vacation, and have done ever since we came up with Vacation Rules. These are not complicated. They boil down to a single Great Commandment: You get to do whatever you want to do and so do I.

Katie is never more ambitious than when she is on vacation. As we drove north today along Route 41, the Tamiami Trail, whoever Tamiami was, she mentioned at least four cultural events offered in Sarasota during the final week of our vacation. When she had finished her litany, I glanced over my right shoulder, did my best to smile with my eyes, and said, “I’m sure you’ll enjoy them.”

She’s good. She laughed. She understood: Vacation Rules.

My idea of a perfect vacation is walking, reading, napping, eating, and seeing the occasional movie. Hers involves complex schedules of bicycling and/or kayaking, taking yoga classes, hitting the tennis ball, swimming in the ocean, painting, cooking dynamite pescitarian meals, and hopefully attending at least two cultural events sandwiched around a shopping mission—every day. Once a day, I have to hit tennis balls back to her.

Vacation Rules make it possible for all of this to go down while maintaining Perfect Marital Bliss.

Of course, it was not always possible to do whatever we wished. For nearly twenty years, when we went on vacation, we took our two beloved daughters’ wishes into account.

I miss being with them, but don’t worry. I think I’m going to be okay, at least for one more week.

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