Last year, I really felt like I *needed* this trip. I was in the midst of finalizing the purchase of my house (we went in April last year) and work was stressful (that hasn't changed). I'd never had a true vacation from parenting; I'd had nights here and there and longer stretches away from the kids, but always when I needed to be attending to my real life. Being down here in Mexico is a true escape. The weather is perfect, and there is nothing to do but read, eat, sleep, walk along the beach, chat, sit by the pool . . . in short, there is nothing to do but be on vacation, and it is glorious.
I realize how privileged I am go get this experience. Many people don't have the resources I do to be able to afford the plane ticket down, the kinds of job where they can get away (or a job at all), a way to make arrangements for their kids to be taken care of in their absence, a free place to stay even if everything else fell into place. I am very lucky.
I think about this a lot. I think about how grateful I am for what I have in my life, and I think about how much of it is luck and how much of it is what I've made. Much has been handed to me along to the way, to be sure. I grew up solidly middle class and had access to educational opportunities that not everyone gets. You can't choose the family you're born into, and I got a good one. I grew up somewhere safe, in a place where children were valued and encouraged and where there was time and space for me to be supported in the things I wanted to do and learn, even if those were things that didn't really resonate with my parents. As an adult, I had help paying for my first house, and I've had help making downpayments on cars and such. I've had emotional support from family and friends.
There's been bad luck, too. My parents divorced when I was five. We moved quite a bit when I was little. My dad is a recovering alcoholic who went through treatment when I was in college. My spouse died.
All of these things are things I can't control, and are things that have fundamentally shaped my life. So much of the framework seems like a crapshoot to me: your family of origin, the big events that you can see coming, plan for, or avoid. But what of the choices I have made? The hard work I have done? The papers I wrote in college, the years I spent in the Peace Corps, the jobs I applied for, the hours I spent practicing the oboe, the friendships I have nurtured, the children I have whose creation I actively pursued, the house I looked for and bought?
In the end, it doesn't matter. I like to think that I've taken the opportunities that have come to me in my life and I've made the most of them, most of the time. When John got his diagnosis and during the years of his illness and death, my mindset shifted and I had an extremely difficult time feeling grateful for what I had and finding the good in my life. I felt victimized for a few years, and while I recognized the support I was receiving and the goodness that was there (the twins, my friends and family, my job, etc.) there was an undercurrent of thanklessness that I look back on with distaste and embarrassment.
It's been almost five years since John died. I don't think there's anything magical about that date or that amount of time passing or that I'm supposed to feel one way or another now that five years have gone by. But the decidedly nonlinear trajectory of grief has had an upward trend for me and I like where I am at this moment, both this specific moment and this general point in my life. The sun is shining, I went running this morning and drank a cappuccino on the beach, I'm rested and have that delightful feeling of being ready to reconnect with reality after a nice break. Maddie and Riley are healthy and thriving, our home is just right for us, we have the best au pair in the world, I have an amazing and fantastic boyfriend (I hate that word, ack), and a stable job.
I'm just gloating, really. I should stop. I'll stop. It's nice to be happy.