Courtesy of my boyfriend’s generous family, I’m staying in a breezy, open, on-the-sea condominium property in Bal Harbour, Miami. Everything is cool and ivory and made of wicker. The table is covered in plants and lemons and long-stemmed vanilla candles, and you can smell the sea from the balcony. a wildly,
I have a cabana by the pool should I want it—complete with flat screen TV, a couch and a bathroom. There is a bubbling jacuzzi sitting over the pool for when the rid becomes aggressive. Out of the window, I can see the entire Atlantic ocean, through to the horizon, with its deeper blue waves and its turqouise, sandy shore. This is a criminal beauty.
Though this snippet into the life of leisure and wealth is lovely, of course, I try to indulge in the basics: I sit in the sea and tan, pawing at sand and shells. I swim laps in the pool at sunset, and I try to make sense of my life by sitting on the balcony, looking out at the horizon.
One of my favorite writers, Alaine de Botton, writes, in the Art of Travel, “There is an almost quaint correlation between what is in front of our eyes and the thoughts we are able to have in our heads: large thoughts at times requiring large views, new thoughts new places. Introspective reflections which are liable to stall are helped along by the flow of the landscape. ” And I agree—but, I wonder, if it’s so calm and so beautiful here, why has it been such a struggle to reconcile my brain with what I see before me?
Back in New York, where everything is always busy and moving and fickle, even, I believed it was hard to make sense of whatever is in my head. Do I need to workout more? Do I need better, deeper friendships? What makes me happy, besides a relationship, or a career? Am I writing enough?
But the noises and obstructions that I blamed on city life followed me to Bal Harbour, too. How could that have been possible? Why isn’t the sea enough?
Turns out I learned something little by little over the days that I was here: the mantra wherever you go, there you are, is right. People like to think that a vacation overrides the brain and its little, electric temper-tantrums, but it doesn’t always. Learning to quiet the brain—and focus on yourself as the landscape—is an actual challenge, whether you’re poolside or not.
I’ve realized that I need to give myself time to think and un-think. An hour after dinner, I’ll go down to the pool by myself and do as many laps as I can before I’m tired. I focus entirely on my breathing, my arms, keeping my head above water, counting the laps. I don’t allow the other thoughts in, because, at the end of my life, I’ll have wanted to remember swimming in the clear, dazzling water instead of avoiding it because I was to scared to enjoy it.
I make time for my body because now is the time to do so; I have less to do on vacation than normal—so, instead of focusing on why I don’t work out enough back home, I just let my body do what it needs and appreciate it for what it is. I’ll try to swim in NYC. Coney Island isn’t perfect, and Long Island Beach isn’t close, but if I want it, I’ll do it.
I wake early to give myself time to breath. This is something almost anyone can do anywhere. It’s the time right before everything begins—the noise, the phone-calls, a boyfriend’s incessant need to play video games on holiday, the mess of vacation wine stain you have to clean up off of the white, fuzzy carpet—the time you keep for yourself, for your sanity. If you can shut off wherever you are, you can pretty much keep yourself safe. I’ve not perfected it, but it’s a goal.
Photo: Getty Images