I just returned from a few days out of town. Something about a quiet and anonymous hotel room is bliss to me. Santa Barbara is at its finest this time of year. The weather was perfect and I shopped for a few treasures. Mostly I walked. The beachfront has paths all the way from the zoo up and over Cliff Drive and you can walk forever. The best walk was through the harbor and out onto the breakwater...looking back at the city and the boat reflections on the water was beautiful.
Hearing my baby gasp at seeing the elephants at the Zoo, about 15 feet away, was a huge joy. His complete shock and awe. Then when he saw the giraffes, he audibly sighed. A different recognition since he was there last. It was also heartening to see all the graduate kids from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (it was our reunion) doing so well...I've never seen so many multiples before!
My only moment of discontent was discovering on that first afternoon of quiet, with the baby sleeping soundly, that the Book I had brought to enjoy was one I had read before. Damn it! I tried re-reading it, and wondering how I took such care to select a book for the trip and messed up this bad! I ended up reading all the crap that they leave in the hotel drawers just for something to read...I wasn't about to watch TV and mess up the quiet. So, I am well acquainted with area restaurants and their menus, I know just when the polo club will be practicing, and I was confident to know all exit strategies in case of fire, earthquake or tsunami.
One thing that was sort of weird/cool was running into an old acquaintance that I hadn't seen since 2002. We were both happy to see each other, and tried to find the best way to summarize the last few years in the few minutes we were out on State Street. Too much has happened, so we just generalized: I mentioned
my husband's illness and the new baby. She had two children as well in that time. Thing was, we had so much to say but nothing really stood out. We were sort of mute at that point (beyond all the 'we have to keep in touch' blather) when she said something interesting in her best Oprah voice: "well then, what have you learned about life in the last few years?" I sort of laughed and said "Trust no one." Her response was similar.
The rest of the trip I kept thinking of her words, considering just how much has happened in that time and what, if anything, I've learned from it. It's going to sound cynical to say this, but I came up with a few things.
My little rules:
1) don't overshare your life to people, because then you will feel like you owe them an explanation for what choices you make, and you really don't need to worry about what people think***.
2) take care of yourself even when you feel like you are living in the shadow of your errors and faults...value yourself enough to not let people hurt you or challenge who you are. That means dump the toxic friends, put on the sunscreen and moisturizer and eat your veggies, only watch Citizen Kane if you really want to and not because you are supposed to (same with Gone with the Wind and Casablanca), don't keep reading a book you aren't enjoying just because you feel obligated, give away things you don't need that just take up space and use Caller ID.
3) Be nice. Don't be a doormat or a robot, and don't pretend to be something else. Be a nice person, make someone smile (they say it makes people nervous!), and just keep moving forward past all the crap that lingers around. Be friendly to the cashier, the teller, the taxi driver.
4) Don't set up huge expectations for what you think other people should do or say or be. Let yourself off the hook too. So many things are disappointing, instead just find a simple way to look ahead and be pleasantly surprised rather than let down.
5) Do your best, even if others think it's not enough. Or if they say it's too much. Ignore those other voices and just do what is in your heart.
6) Take at least two books on every trip.
Off my soapbox...
***It may sound strange to say "don't overshare" in a blog where I actually do overshare, semi-anonymously, but the people who know me get it. I hope.