My wife and I returned from our lovely 2 weeks in Maui late Friday night. I woke up jet lagged the next morning and packed for a 3 day Palm Springs retreat with a group of five “mature ladies” I’m blessed to know as friends. One of the group, a newspaper travel writer and editor, booked us at a great bed and breakfast. We had our own poolside casita; a 2 bedroom, 2 bath cottage built in the 1920s. My vacation buddies, in dire need of time off, were in high spirits for this weekend away from stressful jobs, traffic and the noisy city. While LA was pelted with rain over the weekend, nary a drop fell on sunny Palm Springs, and the temperatures were in the mid to high 70s; perfect for both hiking and lounging by a pool.
This particular group is comprised of an array of personalities, from dreamy to serious to party girl, albeit mature party girl. It is a fairly analytical bunch, affording many discussions of real life issues and experiences. On previous outings, I’ve enjoyed learning of my companions’ lives, loves and day to day observations. I was looking forward to getting to know them even better.
The part I do not enjoy about vacations of late, as hard as I try to stay upbeat: dragging cancer along with me. I would like to take a vacation away from it and all its trappings. As much as I go on about all the creative things one can do with a turban, scarf or hat, I’d like to not need one for a couple of weeks. I’d like to be able to go to a crowded restaurant and not worry about my compromised immune system. I’d like to not worry about friends dissolving into sobs if I share what doctors really say my prognosis is. I’d also like to stop feeling guilty when I get teary in the middle of the day, wondering if this is my last year on the planet. Even on a vacation, cancer is a whole lot of work.
Mind you, I exist as a quivering ball of emotion neither on nor off vacation; that would REALLY be tedious. But not only have I been feeling more tired than usual, I’m feeling my company is tiresome. Being center of attention is something I’ve always not-so-secretly craved. Achieving this by becoming a tragic figure is not. Victimhood is not only embarrassing, but boring. Meanwhile, I feel stuck in the second act; eager to get to the third, but afraid what it will bring. Since this particular screenplay didn’t come labeled comedy or tragedy, we don’t know just yet how this one will end. Maybe best not to rush it.
So, although I did have to drag the stupid disease along with me on vacation, I figured out something: I’m allowed to ignore it for extended periods of time AND being with a friendly group helps me to forget the disease. Instead, I hung out with friends happy to be away on vacation with no definite plans or schedule. We did a little gambling (well, SOME of us did quite a bit), hiking (um…that wouldn’t have been me), shopping and sampling food we didn’t have to cook ourselves. We rode to the top of the Palm Springs Tramway: 8500 feet above sea level, a temperature drop of 40 degrees and an impressive view of the desert floor. The last night I went to sleep listening to the ladies laughing out loud at “Sideways” and drinking a little wine.
Listening, too, is a good thing. It’s good to hear everyone else’s story. Even mild bitching about work or relationships is a respite, when it’s not your work environment or relationships being bitched about.
I returned to work today. The cancer came along with me, but it was fairly easy to ignore. I think it was afraid I’d leave it locked in the suitcase again if it didn’t behave.