I was in paradise and I could not relax.
The room smelled of jasmine and citrus and other lovely things, and the masseuse, a comforting middle-aged woman with a soothing voice, kept telling me to relax my shoulders, so she could smooth out the knots that had formed in my back muscles.
Good luck, I felt like telling her. Then I thought to myself: what the heck is the matter with me, anyway?
I was supposed to be enjoying myself. Every year, my two girlfriends and I take our annual beach trip to Rehoboth, Delaware, where we spend several hedonistic days at a five-star hotel, pampering ourselves with outlet shopping, meals at fancy restaurants, and massages. I use the term “beach” lightly, as time actually spent at the beach during these trips has rapidly dwindled over the years. Sitting by the hotel’s pool has largely become preferable to braving the ocean’s freezing cold water, intense heat, and grainy sand.
Our tradition has continued faithfully, even after my marriage and the birth of my son. I was determined to keep up this annual ritual with my two closest friends, both of whom are still single. I wasn’t going to let any major life changes get in the way of sisterhood, my yearning for the ocean and the occasional piece of pizza on the boardwalk.
Life, as it turned out, pulled the rug out from underneath me anyway.
As I lay there on my tummy, listening to the rhythmic East-Asian music thrumming in the background, I tried to enjoy the sensation of hot stones skimming across my body. You don’t get to do this every day, I tell myself. If you were home right now, you’d be changing diapers, coaxing your son to use the toilet, wiping his face, cleaning out smelly cat dishes, and running away from your husband and his desire to have late evening sex, even though you’re too tired and all of your limbs feel like jelly.
The sad thing is, away from my family and home I felt an overpowering urge, a craving to be in bed with my husband right at that moment. I did not want to be on a massage table more than 130 miles away. Tears pricked at my eyes as the masseuse continued to work away on my stress-filled body.
I’m homesick, I thought in horror. That type of emotion happens to campers who are ten years old. Not grown women on a luxury vacation at a beach resort.
I closed my eyes and tried to relax, but my mind had turned into an out-of-control car on the highway that wasn’t going to pull on the brakes anytime soon. I thought about all of the unfinished projects I had waiting for me at work. A visit with my parents was coming up soon, and I fretted over confronting my mother. Our relationship had been strained over the past few years and things weren’t getting any better. My father was taking immunity shots to ward off another appearance of malignant melanoma. He and my mother were incredibly stressed and nervous these days and they weren’t the type of people who handled stress well to begin with.
And, my period was several days late. I wondered if I was pregnant, even though a home pregnancy test taken just before the trip told me otherwise. The truth was I was probably delaying its arrival by worrying about its disappearing act.
My friends and I were all sharing a hotel room to save money, a small price to pay to stay in such a luxurious setting. During our two nights together, I found I couldn’t sleep. One friend snored and the other kept having coughing fits during the night. The earplugs I’d brought with me didn’t work. I crushed myself into the bed’s squishy pillows and concentrated on the air conditioning’s white noise to help me drift off.
In the morning, both of my friends were well-rested and ready to face the day, and I had dark circles under my eyes.
The night before we went home, one of my girlfriends lamented that “we’ll have to wait another year for this.” She suggested scheduling a beach trip during the winter. I looked at my clothes hanging in the closet in our hotel room and wondered just how soon I should start packing them into my suitcase.
In the morning, we all sat outside at breakfast and I tried to enjoy my coffee, the French toast and kid-free meal. I lingered over my newspaper and felt the sun on my face. I ate my yogurt with blueberries and gave my dirty plates to the hotel staff, thinking what a luxury it was not to clean up any sticky breakfast food. I bantered with my friends and laughed at the celebrities in the paper’s lifestyle section.
I finally breathed in a sigh of true relaxation, though it was just hours from our vacation’s end.
As I maneuvered the car out of the hotel parking lot and pointed it toward home, I smiled a secret smile. I’d just gotten my period.