It was the small, magical moments during our holiday to Hawaii that mattered most

Forgive me for my recent radio silence, but I’m struggling to get back into real time since our return from Hawaii.

No doubt, some of you will be interested to know how we fared, having spent so much time reading about my angst in relation to where the fuck to take an anxious, middle-aged man who didn’t want to leave his suburb. But, alas, I am no travel writer, so I’ve decided to style this post in the same way as Jamila Rizvi did here last week in The Age, and focus on the small things that made it feel so special.

Woman sitting on beach in front of view.
I call this photo “Come to Mama!”

I won’t lie, the holiday (in the company of my husband and our twenty-something daughter) wasn’t always the plain sailing experience I had prayed for prior to our departure from Sydney. However, I won’t bore you with the stories of when our two hire cars broke down – leading to the old man’s worldwide ban from AVIS – the loss of his bank card, or the time he turned the wrong way down a street. As I’m sure you can tell from this photo, he had a great time.

Man looking miserable at shopping center.
Have you ever seen such a vision of natural joy? He just LOVES shopping and Halloween.

And by normal standards, I imagine that the sort of holiday woes we experienced are the kind of par-for-the-course shit that everyone goes through, laughs about and puts down to travelling.

Admittedly, the bus tour between Honolulu and Haleiwa on the North Shore was not the anticipated 45 minute journey I had forecast in my itinerary – probably because I read the ‘by car’ calculation of time instead of ‘by stagecoach’ – but at least it included an educational tour of Honolulu’s military bases and a nostalgic trip back to the prison set where Hawaii 5-0 must have been shot. The return journey was even longer, and while none of us expected a three-hour circumnavigation of Oahu that took us into the night, we were all grateful for the scenic experience.

Many lessons were learned: we now know never to declare war on a feisty Hawaiian customer service lady who deals with entitled tourists on a daily basis; we learned that the portion sizes really are as terrifying in the US as we had been led to believe, and that you only need order a few plates to share; and finally, we now appreciate that the mountain temperature on our weather App is no guide to the temperature on the beach.

Mouthwatering plate of Tuna Tataki.
The TUNA!

There were the usual minor medical issues like blocked ears, dehydration, and some ongoing issues with obesity augmented by the portion size of the Rocky Road ice cream they sold at our local bar.

But let me get back to the small things that justified our thousands of dollars spent choice of destination, that still make my heart sing to the tune of Moana each time I think back to them:

  1. The landscape: What’s not to love about a destination that offers world-class beaches, the spirituality of a mountain landscape (that look like it belongs in Peru), and cheap, designer shopping that even the most ardent window shopper will find impossible to resist?
  2. The beaches: I can honestly say that Waikiki, the beaches on the North Shore of Honolulu, and those in Maui lived up to the paradise we had been promised. Living in Australia, it’s hard to impress us when it comes to beaches, but we weren’t disappointed – particularly by the ocean temperature, which made it dead easy to plunge into it several times a day.
  3. The turtles: I’ll be honest, we didn’t see flocks of them like I imagined – a bit like when we visited Kangaroo Valley and never saw any kangaroos – but we spotted several from the shoreline and a couple swam up close to us. Fact: they can be SERIOUSLY BIG MOTHERFUCKERS!
  4. The snorkelling: This time it was the relaxing experience I imagined it could be when I was growing up and wanted to be Jacques Cousteau. Pretty, unthreatening tropical fish were a welcome change from The Great Barrier Reef’s terrifyingly black Gropers and slimy cucumbers, and although NC swore she saw a sea snake, she only told me about it once we were on the plane home.
  5. The music: Hawaiian music comes from the soul and shoots straight through the heart. I will always remember the night the old man asked a Hawaiian singer to sing a song from Moana for NC, who ugly-cried (very publicly), and another when a heavily pregnant dancer performed the Hula.
  6. American coffee: It gets a bad rap around the world, but the choice of flavours is awesome. I mean, how can a Vanilla/Macadamia nut coffee be bad?
  7. The food: OMG! Sex is good but have you ever tried melt-in-your-mouth Ahi (tuna), sealed in hot butter, with sides of coleslaw and coconut rice?
  8. The sunsets: I’m usually half way down a bottle by sunset and never fully appreciate their beauty, but Maui’s sunsets light up the sky like fireworks and are impossible to ignore.
Restaurant view of stunning mountain landscape in Maui.
Not a bad view for lunch.

And then there were the cheap COCKTAILS, an overdue discovery of Fireball whisky. and the old man’s dishcloth dance – after aforementioned whisky. All in all, a myriad of magical moments thrown into twelve days and an experience I’d love to replicate, had the old man not thrown away his passport.

Who Says Family Holidays Can’t Be Fun?

alvin-balemesa-105751-unsplash

It was that time of year again last weekend. The family holiday 2018 had spun back around with all the promise of a mammogram.

Admittedly, the word “holiday” is somewhat of an exaggeration.

The kids will attest to the fact that the word “holiday” is something of an exaggeration. This year – at the old man’s suggestion – our family fun was curtailed to a long weekend, with budget, time off work (he works for himself, from home) and our sanity, cited as his main reasons behind the decision. I imagine, however, that he may also have based the decision on the greater mathematical probability of the four of us walking away from this trip unscathed with only a 48hr window of dysfunction.

A distraction would keep us from straying into dangerous territories.

It was decided that an active holiday would be a better fit this year. We agreed that a distraction would keep us from straying into the dangerous territories of searching questions and judgments – the common ones being, how we ruined the kids’ childhood, which of them is our favorite, were they adopted, and how much we intend to leave them in the will? So, we booked a hotel in The Hunter Valley – a wine-tasting region, about two and a half hours from Sydney which was close enough to evacuate at short notice and removed any possibility of Kurt projectile vomiting on a flight full of unsuspecting travelers, as per Bali ’09.

Acclimatizing your kids to the “wine cures all problems” philosophy of life is one holiday choice.

I should point out that in acclimatizing our kids to the “wine cures all problems” philosophy of life,  I am not looking for a Parent of the Year award anytime soon. I should also mention that our kids are 21 and 24, respectively.

I had been elected to share a room with Kurt to give the four of us a better chance of sleep – because I snore and he never sleeps anyway – but within two minutes of us downing weapons for the night, he had migrated to the sofa bed and the old man was begging to come back into my bed. Apparently, NC was noisily updating a climate model  in her sleep.

The priority of any holiday has to be the hotel breakfast. 

Truth be told, the real priority of the two days had less to do with wine and much more to do with the hotel breakfast. The three of us have been on best behavior over the past few weeks, out of fear that the old man might pull the plug on such an extravagance and eating strategy had to be discussed furtively. However, it was discussed at length, down to the final detail of who would secrete the miniature croissants and Vegemite pots back into the room. Needless to say, Kurt was elected for this task, on the basis of his natural talent for testing the law.  And apart from cold bacon – the downside of strolling into breakfast five minutes before the buffet closed – breakfast was a resounding success.

Kurt was elected to steal extra croissants from the breakfast room, on the basis of his criminal record.

Indeed, we ate and drank well, which is what holidays are all about, even though dinners turned out to be almost as interesting as musical bedrooms what with NC being a vegetarian, my attempt at dairy-free (this week), the old man’s passion for burgers, and Kurt’s metabolism, which relies on a minimum of three bowls of Aldi’s Chocolate Pillows per day or it shuts down.

We have developed a newfound maturity as a family.

It turns out that we are developing a newfound maturity as a family, and a compromise was found. ie. we ignored the fact that NC is a vegetarian.

 

 

 

Learning How To Relax With Anxiety

We lead increasingly busy lives and I find it hard to relax even when I do have free time these days. Although I continually moan about having no time to relax, for some strange reason I feel more fulfilled when I’m busy, even though I know that it’s not a healthy way to live as I get older. car-888913_1280

 

I envy faiths such as Judaism and Christianity, which impose a day of rest. It’s the sort of discipline I need; an enforced break from the continuing bustle of trying to cram something into every minute of the day. I’ve tried relaxation methods such as meditation but always feel silly and I’m coming to realise that the calm provided by alcohol is not the ideal choice for my middle-aged body.

 

Living with an increasing anxiety problem aided by medication is like existing somewhere between a dulled life of “fuck it” calm, where nothing really matters, and a state of frenzied agitation. I rarely experience a happy medium in terms of balance.

 

On good days, my medication gives me a false sense of security of the world, where everything is just fine.

 

Until it’s not.

 

I’ll give you an example. A few weeks ago I drove my car around town in the rain and noticed that my tyres weren’t gripping the road as well as they should, which is when I remembered that the mechanic at my last service – over a year ago – had recommended that I would need to change them soon.

 

Unfortunately, “car stuff” falls into the “onerous task box” in my brain which is why I’d procrastinated about the tyre issue. I’m very negligent when it comes to the wellbeing of my car because I don’t understand them, and albeit a feminist, there is a devious part of my brain that puts them in the ‘man job’ department, even though I have a man who is not interested in cars either and has a similarly lacklustre opinion of them. My meds had helped me merrily ignore a potential safety issue for over a year, yet within minutes of my brain acknowledging that “Houston, we have a problem”, my anxiety had turned the problem into a catastrophe.

 

I needed new tyres. NOW!

 

Anxiety meds are fantastic in terms of dimming danger signals to help you cope with day- to-day challenges, by promoting an “it’ll be fine” attitude in the wake of any potential crisis or indeed anything that is under-stimulating, and going to get my tyres checked is certainly not high on the list of things I want to do on the weekend. But my brain began to ruminate subconsciously over the problem that night and after an associated nightmare about someone checking the baldness of my tyres and looking at me in that disappointed way that only your parents do, my anxiety was triggered. When I woke up the following morning I had one mission.

 

If anyone is considering a new business venture, the sale and fitting of wheels and tyres look like a good option to me, especially if you like working Sundays because so few retailers are open. I can’t believe that everyone else in front of me in the queue that day had experienced a similar night panic about the grip on their tyres – some of them were probably just normal petrol-heads salivating over new rims – but the whiff of testosterone nearly knocked me out as I walked into the one showroom that was open in Sydney.

 

To increase my anxiety and the mind-numbing tedium of an almost three hour wait, in my panic to leave the house quickly in the face of certain death on the road due to my shortsightedness, I forgot to take my phone with me. (This happens with increasing regularity at the moment and if you’ve ever done it you’ll know that it gives you the vulnerability of what I imagine it’s like to turn suddenly blind). Generally, it’s obviously a bit of a first world issue, but I had arranged to meet a friend long before the tyre man would finish and that worry induced a mild state of panic as I waited and fretted with not even social media to distract me.

 

It also served to prove once again how absolutely brain dead you become in middle age when you can’t remember the telephone number of one person in your life.

 

But trying to retrieve a number out of my cluster of dying brain cells did help to pass the time as I sat in that showroom, trying to ignore the torturing sound of drilling that pierced its way into my skull each time I thought I’d remembered any number sequence that might help me contact my friend who was waiting for me at the beach on the other side of the city.

 

Which is where I should have been on a Sunday. Relaxing.

 

By the time I was back on the road, as hyper as if I’d drunk six black coffees, it was inevitable that my patience would be thin, proven by the voice inside of my head that curses each changing light with, ‘Go on, change you fuckers,’ on what should have been my day of rest.

 

And I tried to remember to breathe.