I am sitting on a powdery beach in Southern Mexico, feeling many things. The breeze in my face, the sun on my feet, a slight sense of guilty residue in my heart. My monkey bays at me, telling me that I no longer have the right to a vacation, not after this crazy plunge I’ve taken.
My body seemed to agree.
I was really sick for the last couple of days. It came upon me on Saturday at lunch time, a queazy, bloated feeling that had me bent over the porcelain by the end of the day. A sleepless night, then up at 4 a.m to catch an early flight. After a long drive down the Mayan Riviera, we reached this beach. I was green, pale, silent, and my traveling companions were more worried about me than they were willing to say at the time. But I am from hardy, working stock, and I greeted this morning with a renewed constitution and a smile.
It’s odd how often I am sick and injured on vacations. I have almost never missed a day of work and yet I invariably end up at remote chemists on tropic isles, at Italian emergency rooms, in ocean liner infirmaries. My body is a company man, and decides that the only right time to fall apart is only when it’s off the clock.
My mind is also trained to work pretty much non-stop, so vacationing can be a much -needed challenge. It takes at least two or three days for me to stop, to disconnect for emails, from the newspaper, from the meal schedules, and to let myself float away. On arrival, I spend time scheming by the pool, thinking how wonderful it is that I have this opportunity to make big plans, to re structure my office, or to make a long-term strategies. Then one day, the switch flicks and I drop it all, just vegging, listening to the pop music on the pool speaker, playing beach volleyball, having my hair braided. I think it must correlate to my sun tan lotion. As I let my SPF go down, so descends my death grip on the “reality” back home. I begin to unwind. I began to wake up and see where I am.
I am still in “on” mode this morning, my malady notwithstanding. I remind myself that despite my blazing announcement that I now have the freedom to create 24/7, I haven’t done much on my blog. Yes, it’s been a week and a half, but the monkey is impatient. And he’s not on vacation yet either. Where are all my wonderful creations? Or shouldn’t I really be busy freelancing?
Here is the lesson I draw from this internal debate:
I need to be here now. It’s wonderful that Here and Now are 78 degrees with a tropical breeze. But I need to be present always, all places. Sometimes here and now are not so nice. A crowded subway platform. A boring conference room. A hushed back room in a funeral home, smelling slightly of lavender talc and ammonia.
Regardless, I must be here now. There is nothing else. The past is just an illusion, a mental construct I drag along with me. Sometimes it seems better than now, sometimes worse, but it is irrelevant either way. The chunks I blew last Saturday are long flushed. The green pallor is gone. I can be grateful about that but that is all. I can pick at the scabs of my past decisions but regret is a waste of the present too. All that matters is now. What I am doing with this moment. With the potential that is here. To enjoy this, to be happy here, to accept what is.
And as for the future, it never arrives. All tomorrow ever is is my fantasies about what might be when it actually is. It’s not concrete or knowable and wasting now constructing plans on these prognostications is just sculpting with clouds.
On vacation, after I get over the hump, I have that realization each time. That I must enjoy this expensive day to the max, avoid getting sunburnt, have a couple pinås, eat some fresh fish, and chill the hell out. Leave the world of back home back there and back then.
And that’s really all that matters every day when I am back home too. To inhale deep, to avoid the chimp, to be in my skin, to deal with what’s happening and make it neither greater than it is with mental constructions nor lesser with denial.
Life is what is. And that’s just exactly how it should be.
That’s the lesson I learned when I first started to draw. And which I need to remind my self of all that time. That being grounded in reality, seeing what’s in front of me, warts and all, is the only way I can be happy and adjusted. That I have to keep re-realizing what art has done for me. It has shown me the beauty all around me and that it exists even in apparent ugliness and pain. If I draw it like I want it to be, it doesn’t satisfy my need for truth and connection. But if I see it as it is, here and now, I join with it, and I feel at peace.
That’s enough thinking for now. I’m off to draw those coconuts above my lounge chair. Then it’s siesta time. I dream an awful lot on vacation. Do you?