On the Friday I was to leave for vacation, I called in sick to work. I had been vomiting all night due to my failure to eat food before I took the pain meds prescribed with the antibiotic for my most recent UTI, and by the time 7 a.m. rolled around, I realized there was no way I was going to be able to drag my dehydrated ass to work.
I called my boss and broke the bad news, saying I was sorry that I wouldn’t be able to make it in. Actually, I wasn’t sorry that I wouldn’t be able to make it in, I was sorry that I had to take yet another questionable sick day, the Friday before I left for vacation for a week. I seem to have a knack for getting sick on questionable days, such as the two days before the Thanksgiving holiday, or the day of Obama’s inauguration. I usually feel bad about it for about two minutes and then move on with my life. On Friday I felt bad about it for long enough to tell my boss that I felt bad about it and then fell into a deep, guiltless, finally nausea-free sleep.
After I broke the news, she said, “I hope this vacation is very productive for you.” I laughed and said that I was just hoping that I would be well enough to board the damn plane, and then I thanked her because I supposed she meant well. But when I hung up the phone, I thought, “Productive?! It’s a VACATION, for Christ’s sake! What does she MEAN, productive? Productive my ASS.”
But who was I kidding. I had goals for my vacation lined up already, and I was hoping to be productive as hell.
First and foremost, I fully intended to procure a deep tan that would last me most of the summer. And, despite two straight days of rain and intermittent storms the other six days, I did.
I also had some slightly loftier goals, such as to, you know, FIGURE OUT MY LIFE. I bought a new tiny moleskine notebook for precisely this purpose and then spent the entire vacation not writing in it. I did spend a lot of time watching HGTV, and God, was it good. And you know what else? They’ve made no new episodes of House Hunters since I last tuned in five months ago.
The goal that was easiest to meet was not using a computer for an entire week. No e-mail. No blogs. No Facebook. No nothing. I watched my family members one by one go through withdrawal. One evening while we were sitting on the back porch listening to the waves, my mom asked my brother to install the Facebook app on her Blackberry. Occasionally someone would sneak off to Panera with my brother’s laptop. But I did not give in. And that was good too.
My main goal was to feel. I know how ridiculous this sounds, as if I’m some whiny character from Garden State. But it has been clear for quite some time that I spend a lot of time every day actively NOT feeling. Coping mechanism, or something. Feeling is a terrifying thing when what you feel when you allow yourself to feel is soul-deadening, centrifugal force-flattening depression. Of course, NOT feeling gets me no where except confused when I have a dramatic outburst or crying spell or do something like, you know, have an affair with a married man. I suppose you could call this “acting out.” Because of all this not feeling, I’m a little emotionally stunted. Cautionary Therapist says I have the emotional intelligence of a teenager. But after seeing High School Musical 3, I am certain my emotional age is much younger than that. Troy and Gabriella have the most emotionally mature relationship I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life.
As a tongue-in-cheek way to meet this goal, I bought myself a slightly ironic mood ring. Right now it’s a deep purple, which means, according to the handy mood ring colors chart, very happy, blissful, deeply relaxed, inner harmony, tranquil, subdued, satisfied, intensely passionate, truly romantic, in love, and, inexplicably, “the ultimate.” Or, to uncrazy people, COLD. Something tells me the more accurate color for what I’m feeling is the greenish brown it has turned my right ring finger.
But as a result of trying to FEEL, something kind of incredible happened. For over a year now, I’ve been trying to learn how to “sit with” my emotions. How to feel them, identify them, validate them, and then let them pass. And in the midst of a middle-of-the-night anxiety attack the night before we left Florida, I did exactly that. I felt nauseated and panicky, with a side of racing pulse and dry mouth. I identified this as anxiety. I asked myself the reasons I felt anxious, and then I validated those reasons one by one. Anxious about flying? That’s okay. Anxious about going back to work? That’s okay. Anxious about my six-month lease nearly being over? That’s okay. Anxious about not really knowing what the hell I’m doing in life? That’s okay. Anxious about not really knowing whether or not I want to be married? That’s okay.
And then it passed and I went back to sleep. And that? That is a goal met, my friends.
And now vacation is over and the things I was anxious about are happening. I have reentered my Cautionary Life. I didn’t die on the return flight, which was step one. Steps two and three include finding a new job and applying this new “that’s okay” technique to all of my emotions, not just the extreme ones. And I’m feeling like that’s very doable, which tells me that the Lexapro might be finally, finally working.
I also suspect it’s working because this morning? I correctly identified the feeling called happy.