My family just returned from a week in Florida, spent on Ormond Beach just north of Daytona. We had a great time, and I plan to post a few things about that, because vacations can be great times of discovery and clarity. Today, though, I feel the need to capture my feelings right now, as our vacation ends. Because I handle the end of a vacation badly. Worse than badly.
First, we had planned to take two days to drive home. So, when we said goodbye to the beach on Saturday morning, I was expecting to drive about six hours, find a hotel, have one last summer swim, eat someplace nice, and sleep on a soft, large bed. Then my son would eat waffles at a hotel breakfast bar, and we’d mosey on home, with one final trip to a fast food place before we returned and reality hit.
Halfway through the day, my husband informed me he planned to push on through and take the twelve hours all in one day. It would save us money on a hotel, and money was an issue. And it would get us home sooner. To him, that’s a good thing. To me, the housewife who also works from home, not so much. To him, it meant a couple days to hang around the house and do nothing before work Tuesday (this was a holiday weekend.) To me, it meant getting back to work a day early. I was not thrilled.
But he had the wheel, so we drove home. And I, the person who grieves the end of vacations anyway, grieved hard. I’d expected one more day. And it doesn’t sound like much. One day. But it felt huge. Summer was over. Reality was back. Instantly my mind began to churn through things I needed to do at home, how much work needed to be done, and how unfair it was that home has such different meaning to each of us. Instead of easing myself back into the pool of life slowly, I’d just been shoved off the high dive into ice water at the bottom.
We got home at 11:20 pm. My oldest sons hadn’t expected us early, so they hadn’t cleaned. We left a very old cat who was very sick, thinking she wouldn’t be alive when we returned, but instead she was hanging on, sick as ever, and our entire bedroom smelled like dying cat. Instead of a dip in the pool and sleeping on a pillowtop mattress with fluffy pillows, I was cleaning up after sick cat and lighting candles to keep from gagging.
No, it was not great to be home. Home is hard. Home is sacrifice and struggle and reality. I’d take vacation any day.
We tend to vacation on the cheap. We usually get a timeshare week from my parents. We swim and walk the beach and don’t spend much money. We cook our own food and do our own dishes. In a way, it isn’t completely unlike real life, so it’s easy to be on vacation and think This is doable. Life could be like this. Walk the beach, eat, clean up a very uncluttered little house, swim with my son and husband, write, do a little marketing for my book business, eat again, walk the beach again, and go to bed. It sounds like it could be real. And I let myself believe a life like that might be attainable.
You notice what’s missing from that life, right? Appointments, kid chauffeuring, school, car repairs, and people. People are seriously missing. Because in my dream world, this introvert tends to blur out the people. One of the best parts of vacation is seeing and discovering and exploring without really getting involved. Real life? Filled with involvement.
This was our first vacation in nine years. I hope nine years don’t pass before we do it again, but it might. Money may continue to be an issue (this is where I shamelessly say to those of you who like fiction to check out my website link below and buy a book and help me get to the beach again!!). Life gets in the way of our hopes and dreams all the time. And knowing how hard I fight coming home, I shy away from leaving sometimes.
In a few days I’ll let go of that dream life we just lived. I’ll remember the good parts and treasure the memories. I’ll remind myself that my poor Chihuahua really needs me home (he’s been insane all day, flinging himself into my lap and vocalizing all these weird noises I’ve never heard before, and if I so much as look at my shoes, he just about dies). I have responsibilities that matter. This is the real life. And it’s not a bad life. I don’t hate my life. But wow, I love the beauty and simplicity of that other life. I could spend my days watching water birds and lizards, exploring new places, and relaxing with my family.
I hope a good vacation is a glimpse into the future, when beauty and simplicity are a consistent part of every life. When real life isn’t about appointments and struggles and sacrifice. When work and pleasure can always go hand in hand. Until then, I wonder if I’ll ever learn to end a vacation without tears. But if it’s a glimpse of my home, a sign of a life God dreams for me, then maybe not. Who can face God’s glorious future plans without a few tears of longing?
So a vacation is a mixed blessing. Moments of clarity, moments of rest, and moments of longing. I’m glad for the chance to step away from my life for a while and see things differently. And I hope to bring some of that different sight into my real life and use what I’ve learned to make this real life a little bit better. To remind myself what matters and what I love and how to simplify a few things. And that, of course, will be the meat of a few blogs down the road.
And now for the shameless plug. If you didn’t know this, I write fiction. Several genres, including Historical fantasy, coming of age/romance, teen romance, and contemporary Christian, all with a Christian worldview. And every now and then I link that fiction life with this blogging life. Today is one of those days. Don’t you feel lucky? Here’s my other site, the one all about books: www.JillPenrod.com