How not to feel (too) guilty about taking Trader Joe’s on a camping trip

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The guitar case-induced injury sustained during Saturday night’s impromptu dance party appears to be in the getting-uglier-before-it-gets-better phase.

It’s about a two-inch (or inch-and-a-half… however long a guitar case snap typically is) slice across the top of my left knee, surrounded on all sides by a bruised knot.

I don’t know if this will heal before Thursday, when my calendar says I am to dress in cocktail attire and hang out with Prince Edward.

And I don’t know what I more enjoy discussing: My guitar case injury, or my date with Prince Edward.

That may be a polite embellishment (including the identification of this event as a “date”, which in fact it is a work engagement), but allow me to begin with the guitar injury.

It was acquired during a weekend with a small handful of friends and friends’ children who escaped Williamson County with bags of necessities like Trader Joe’s tzatziki and grain-fed steaks from Whole Foods. We ran away to a campground in a state park.

Cabins, of course. Two of them, so the adults could have our own.

We took “roughing it” to new extremes, bringing along our own cast iron cookware (cast iron is old-school, right?), good knives, towels, cartons of La Croix and bottles of sparkling grape juice for the kids, fishing poles we never used (though we did dig for worms), guitars, roller blades, running shoes, organic sunscreen, sound machines with “nature” sounds, and small coolers to transport home any beer we didn’t drink.

We did not need the small coolers.

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Dinner on Night 2. On Night 1 we had mussels and spinach salad.

After several weeks overstuffed with the things people like us do as a matter of work and routine – give speeches, pitches, and presentations; dress up and go to society events; cart our children around to ballets and soccer games and piano lessons – we had lost perspective about our lot in life, finding ways to make success feel like obligation and fun feel like fatigue.

I yelled at my daughter for complaining she was too tired to go on this “camping” trip, which came immediately on the heels of a two-day-long school field trip a good many kids in her class could not afford: “Do you realize how lucky you are to be complaining you are too tired to go on so many trips?”

Why I did not direct that question toward myself was lost on me until right now, on a day when I am recharging from my vacation from my vacation from my life of fulfilling work, entertaining experiences, and truly meaningful relationships with friends and family.

What this is – guilt about having so much, and more guilt about feeling guilty for that – is a problem reserved for those fortunate enough to not have to worry about the bottom levels of Maslow’s hierarchy. A lot of people – and rightfully so – take issue with those who dare complain about circumstances they are, in fact, privileged to experience.

But that doesn’t make their needs any less authentic.

Oscar Wilde said it like this: “There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”

Like the day after Christmas, there is a bored exhaustion on the other side of joy.

But rather than berate ourselves for this desire to simultaneously escape from success while looking for more of it, perhaps we’d do better to understand its origin. It comes, I believe, from the creativity inherent in all human beings. Once you’ve run a half marathon, you think about training for a full. Once you’ve done a job well, you think about a career change. Once you invent fire, you cook with it.

We do ourselves a favor when we look for what’s new; it allows us to appreciate what we already have.

And I think that’s how the people I most admire in this life – rich, poor and points in between – offer unto others: they know how much they have to give.

I hope that’s what I gain from my time away. That, and a dance party injury that looks great with a cocktail dress.

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3 thoughts on “How not to feel (too) guilty about taking Trader Joe’s on a camping trip

  1. Weighs less than a vacuum cleaner or fan, too, I bet. There’s an app for that, if the nature sound machine should need to make room for another case of beer.

    I appreciate seeing how small conversations of fragments of ideas make it into your writing. It’s nice to see ideas get a chance to grow a bit and live on, rather than always being left to float into the ether. It’s a reminder that perhaps it’s better to sit down with ideas and make them real, rather than always retreating to the stories on the tv screen or in the trashy books.

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