The frothing waves climbed the shoreline, chasing us up the white sand. Colorful umbrellas stood at attention, guarding sunbathing bodies as far as the eye could see. Fluffy white clouds provided momentary shade from the beating sun as they slowly moved across the sky. It was a perfect Florida day. My husband and I were in town for a conference, but I convinced our hostess to steal us away for an hour to hear the sound of the ocean.
My summer vacation had only just begun, and this was the first item I checked off my list: “Hear the sound of the ocean.” Yes, that’s right. I have a list for my vacation, and this is only one of the many reasons I have a love-hate relationship with time off.
I am a notorious list maker. Simply making a list gives me a sense of accomplishment. I feel ordered, clear, and excited about the possibility of success, initially. That feeling, however, never lasts very long. I’m not nearly as good at crossing things off my list as I am at making them, even when the list is for my vacation.
I have a habit of overestimating the number of tasks I can actually complete in the length of time I’ll be away. Give me a vacation for a couple days, and I will plan a week’s worth of activities. Give me a couple weeks, and I will daydream my way into planning a major trip, writing three new pieces, reading a couple books, taking a couple day trips, and, of course, getting some rest. (Oh, and did I mention trying to start at least one good habit? Anyone up for a run?) Friends, I have a problem.
This wouldn’t make me so upset if I didn’t get so emotional about not finishing the list. Sadly, all the excitement that went into the list on the front end turned into anxiety on the back end as the clock ticked away on my vacation. I have a tendency to develop a sense of sadness when my vacations aren’t all that I envisioned or hoped they would be. So, I adjusted! No more lists. Well, no more written lists. But the truth is I still formed the list in my mind. So I had to sit down for a little more reflection. With time, I realized not finishing lists usually doesn’t bother me. (I find half-finished lists lying all over my desk, hiding in my nightstand, falling out of notebooks, and scratched into old diaries without any emotional attachment.)
Maybe my obsession with vacation lists is much deeper than the list itself. It’s not really the list that makes me so emotional; it’s the mentality that my vacation is wholly other from the rest of my life.