I have next week off. Off off. With a week’s worth of vacation days – that I didn’t know I had – saved up, and the end of the fiscal year looming, a recent change to the way my place of work does things forces me to “Use’em or lose’em”. So yeah, vacation. Staycation. This time last year I was prepping for a much-anticipated, long-awaited and self-indulgent vacation to Maui– the first time I had taken a real vacation since summers off in high school. This year though, I’m staying home. Yup. With my sister. Not even going to Banff (though I might try to squeeze in a day trip).
At first this prospect excited me – “A week to do nothing!” It seemed so perfect. Then I got a little annoyed – “A week with nothing to do. Great.” But I still look on this week as a blessing because 1) I’m not in the office working and, 2) I’m not working in the office. On a rather limited budget – that condo’s not going to put a down payment on itself in the next year or so! – I’ve been thinking up ways to kick back and actually enjoy myself, rather than let my holiday week pass by as so many regretful weekends have: with me, in my pajamas, watching (or rather, trying/pretending to watch) a The Walking Dead marathon, or some other unproductive, relatively relaxing but ultimately unfulfilling time-suck.
Then it happened. A few days ago I had a dream. I dreamed I was on my week off and, after getting in my car and parking underground at what must have been a local shopping establishment of some kind, emerged in the most amazing bookstore I had ever seen. The Taj Mahal of bookstores. Floor-upon-floor-upon-floor of books: children’s literature, travel books, fiction, non-fiction. You get the idea. It’s a bookstore. And that was it. I wandered the aisles for hours, not even buying anything, just enjoying – as I so often and strangely do – the feeling of being surrounded by books. It’s heartwarming and exhilarating at the same time. I was in my own private paradise, and all I needed was a few thousand books.
At some point, my dream meandered on to stranger, slightly more Science Fiction-y things (I’ve had the strangest dreams since I was quite young. No, seriously. Mental health professionals won’t know what do do with me…) following a stint at a nearby coffee shop where I, book in hand, frittered away a few more blissful hours sipping tea and reading by a fireplace. And that was it. Days later, the dream has stuck with me. I’ve gone over it a few times in my head, remembering the smell of the books, the feel of the hardwood floor beneath my shoes, the rows upon rows upon rows of colorful spines. And each time I do my heart flutters just a little and I can’t help but smile. Which drove me to wonder, “Why was I reacting so strongly?” Yes, I have an unnatural love of books, and yes, I’m just a little bit more than odd to begin with. But why this dream? Aren’t dreams supposed to be an escape? An outlet? An adventure? You’re supposed to do the things you want to do but won’t/can’t – climb Everest; marry rich; wind up stranded on a tropical island with Nathan Fillion who is, coincidentally, much enamored of library-ish brunettes with handbag addictions and extensive nail polish collections…
I dream of bookstores. And not just bookstores, but spending my vacation wandering around a bookstores. Not lying on a beach, or hang gliding, or being carried off into the crashing, crystal blue waters by Captain Malcolm Reynolds. Nope. I spend valuable fantasy real estate doing what I do most weekends. Huh.
After too much time spent trying to analyze this I decided to take it at face value. I love books. I love bookstores. I often say/wish that I could spend more time just doing nothing – sitting in a coffee shop next to a fireplace reading/writing. Maybe the mundane is enough. Or maybe, as my life has gradually taken on a life of its own, the mundane is what I’ve been missing.
Why can’t we love the mundane? I do. When I catch myself thinking, “If only I were on a beach in Maui!” – where, I’ll admit, I was damn happy this time last year – it really only does one thing: make me regret the fact that instead of lying on a beach in Maui, I’ll be sitting at home, in my pajamas, watching (listening to) The Walking Dead (from behind my stuffed Piglet). I hate zombies.
Why not love the mundane? Just because it’s always there doesn’t mean it’s not a good thing. Chocolate is always there and I love it just as much today as I did 15 years ago. Maybe more! Have we been so consumed by consumerism – and travel voyeurism? – that the little things that bring us joy pale in comparison to what might be?
When I finally got over my confusion and surprise over why this simple dream made me so inexplicably happy, the answer was clear. Be happy! Who cares where you find it? Happiness is happiness and in my opinion, it’s a rarer and rarer commodity in today’s economy. Our bodies have a way of telling us what we need – sleep, water, food, vitamin K – and sometimes, apparently, what we need is to realize that happiness is a warm blanket, a coffee shop, a bookstore.
I have the week off next week. With weekends that’s nine full days of off-ness and boy howdy, it couldn’t come at a better time. A night owl by nature, I’ve been burning the proverbial midnight oil to light my candle at both ends for some time now, and aside from catching up on some much needed sleep, I’ve got a few other fun things up my sleeve: I’m going to go the Farmer’s Market because I love the atmosphere; I’m going to walk in the park across the street from my house that I never make time for; I’m going to buy a vintage Doctor Who comic; I’m going to drive to Cochrane to sit in my favorite coffee shop, sip the best soy latte ever and read; I’m going to go to Bragg Creek to wander this little used bookstore I discovered last year that looks really unimpressive from the outside but has an outstanding selection of rare and antique books; I’m going to sleep in, go out on a weekday without makeup and revel in the mundane beauty of it all.
Anyone with me? What mundane moments have brought you pleasure recently? Any suggestions on other great, simple things to do on my mundane vacation?
P.S. I really, really hate zombies.