I had a phone call with a friend of mine yesterday; someone with whom I catch up every few months. He said something that really stayed with me.
“We have to have hope,” he said. “We have to anticipate. We can’t just make our way through the moment without having something to look forward to. So, I’m planning our next vacation. We’re going to Scotland. We might not go in six months like I’m planning; we might have to postpone it again, but I’m planning it anyway.”
Huh. I’ve frozen every thought of vacation in my head, afraid of getting my hopes up and then being disappointed again. Yet, isn’t it better to have the fun of the planning, even if we have to push it back?
I have to admit I’ve been dreading the upcoming winter. The inability to get together with people outside; the grayness of it; the cold. I’ve been dreading the winter holidays that will likely little resemble the family gatherings we have held in the past. I can already feel the lonely edge of that press on my heart just a little bit.
I’ve thought about writing how we can all prepare and find a way to get through it to the other side, when we can see those first bright shoots of forsythia that are harbingers of the coming spring. The only reason I haven’t is because I really haven’t had anything intelligent to say; at least nothing new. Get enough sleep, but not too much. Exercise. Take care of yourself. Meditate. Eat healthy foods in healthy portions. Find ways to connect on the not-awful days, when it’s in the thirties and a walk is feasible. Pray and practice kindness. Do unexpected things to brighten up someone else’s day.
The problem is, none of this is rocket science and I have said it all before.
But: plan your next vacation. That never occurred to me. I thought back to the time we decided we would take our three sons out west. This was in our early years, the struggling ones. We wanted to make it a really big trip, and we didn’t want to do it by cutting corners everywhere. So, we saved—for seven years we put aside fifty dollars every two weeks. Think about that…seven years!! I remember how we talked about the trip, how we each got to choose a place we really wanted to visit. (We laughed about that, because it made for a highly unlikely, protracted itinerary!) Each of us then became the “expert” of that location, planning the activities that had to meet with family approval and the budget. We went on a hot air balloon over the Black Hills in South Dakota. The guys all went white water rafting down the Snake River in Wyoming and rode horses around the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon.
One of the sweetest memories for me is that I talked to my father every day. He loved the American West and had traveled there extensively. His chronic illnesses had since made him homebound, but I knew he was vicariously experiencing every moment of our adventure with us.
I also remember how much fun we all had in planning our grand tour. Anticipation has its own sweetness, doesn’t it? What the heck, if we could do that for seven years, surely it wouldn’t kill us to plan a trip for next summer that might need to be moved back another year!
I tried it out over dinner with Marc last night. We talked about traveling to England to visit Peter and Rose. Where would we go? What would we like to see?
“You know, if they’re working, I don’t mind keeping it local and just doing day trips from Cambridge,” I said. “But…wouldn’t it be cool if they could take a week off and we could take them wherever they wanted to go?” We both smiled at that idea, even though that would take some serious saving up. We kept talking about it, though; all the possibilities. After months of looking at restrictions, it was one of the most freeing conversations we’ve had.
I tried the same thing today with three friends with whom I chat online every week. We stuck with what we would “probably” do until one friend said, “What the heck! We probably won’t be able to do anything anyway, so let’s dream big!” All of a sudden, Laura was planning the trips she would take if she weren’t wheelchair-bound. That morphed into discussions of our favorite past trips, and we shared those rich memories with one another.
I am still smiling as I write this. So, Dear Friends, here is your homework assignment. Plan your next vacation. With or without limits; your choice. Go somewhere else in your mind for a space of time and you will feel better. Truly, really better.