For the last 40 years my family has gone on a week’s vacation in early August to northern Michigan. In 1981 there were only four of us, but the three boys got married and had children of their own. So now we are up to 15. Because of COVID, some of us didn’t make it this year, but those who did had the usual great time. As an added bonus, we missed the criminal storm that hit Michigan Avenue and the meteorological storm that hit Oak Park.
Vacations are great because they shake up your life. Northern Michigan is very different from Oak Park. You see and do different things. You think different thoughts. You have more time to think.
So on my summer vacation, I climbed a giant sand dune with my son and two oldest grandchildren. Swam in a clear lake, and jumped off a boat dock. Got knocked down by waves in Lake Michigan. Saw both the bluest and starriest skies in a year. Tried my hand for the first time at pickle ball. Saw a glowing sunset in a cloudless sky over Lake Michigan. Ran in the darkest dark. Played golf with 11-year-old Lily, my oldest granddaughter. I brought a scorecard with me of the last round of golf I played with Chris before Lily was born. I wanted to cry.
Here’s what I did not do on my summer vacation: I did not worry about institutional racism, global warming or income disparity. I did not think about Joe Biden, Donald Trump, Roger Stone, the post office, or school openings. I did not fret over the adequacy of my wokeness or the burden of my white privilege.
Don’t get me wrong. I care about all of these things — just not as much as other things that are more important to me.
My preening egoism had caused me to believe that I somehow have some agency over the world. I don’t. I need to disengage from the world of politics and COVID. I can wear a mask and vote. That’s about it. I can walk with Marsha, run in the early morning, read my John Adams bio, play with my grandkids in the sprinkler, have dinner with friends, prepare for my philosophy class, watch Endeavor and tour Morton Arboretum.
On my summer vacation, I figured out that the limited pursuit of a happiness that is possible is preferable to wallowing in fear and anxiety on matters over which I have not a scintilla of control.
Oh and I realized I need to take more Michigan vacations.