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SANDY BANKS / Life as We Live It

Vacations Should Replenish the Soul

July 27, 1998|SANDY BANKS

Vacation: Freedom from any activity; rest; respite; intermission. A period of rest and freedom from work, study, etc. A time of recreation.

--Webster's New World Dictionary

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According to that definition, I guess you could call my time off a vacation.

There was plenty of recreation, a respite from the deadlines that nag me at work, a welcome intermission in my daily routine.

So why, after only two days back, do I feel so tired, so stressed and harried and out of sorts? So desperately in need of a . . . vacation.

It's not just the packing and unpacking, the laundry and cleaning and post-trip putting away that has tired me out. It's the vague feeling that I took too much with me, and brought too little back.

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For the record, I wasn't lounging in Hawaii, sipping tropical drinks. Or sunning on the deck of an ocean liner cruising toward Montego Bay.

I was at home the first week, trying to keep my sister from Ohio entertained--while the mercury climbed to record levels and my air conditioner strained, then snapped under the load.

The second week, I headed with my kids for Santa Barbara, rendered limp and senseless by the unrelenting heat and eager for the balmy days and nights I thought for sure we'd find.

But the joke was on us. Our departure day here dawned cloudy and cool, the hot spell apparently having burned itself out. And most of the days we spent in Santa Barbara were shrouded in clammy mist under overcast skies.

Still, both weeks had bright spots and high moments.

It was great seeing my city through the eyes of a tourist as I ferried my sister around. Strolling the Venice boardwalk while she stopped at every kitschy shop. Boogie-boarding at Zuma Beach under a sky so blue that the sand sparkled below. Crowding onto the Farmers Market patio for its popular Saturday night karaoke jam . . . things I'd do only in the name of showing someone else a good time.

And Santa Barbara was a perfect place to relax. Our quaint, old hotel was kid-friendly, with grassy grounds and its own strip of beach. And our room overlooked the hotel's pool--which seemed like a great idea, until I realized it meant we would go to sleep each night and wake each morning with shouts of "MARCO!" "POLO!" ringing in our ears.

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The most relaxing part of the trip for me was our moonlit stroll along the hotel's tiny sliver of beach. The girls squealed as they dashed in and out of the waves, and I let the water lap at my toes while I worked through the worries, fears, anxieties that tumbled through my overloaded brain.

Watching the waves reminded me how I fell in love with California, as an Ohioan on my first visit here. My late husband and I were on our first post-honeymoon trip together. Too broke to afford an oceanfront hotel, we booked a cheap Mid-Wilshire room and headed in our rental car for the beach each day.

It was the only tourist attraction we cared to see. And by the time we headed home and to work, we'd created a vision of life in our minds. We'd move to California and buy one of those homes you see on stilts by the water's edge. We'd wake to ocean breezes and fall asleep each night to the gentle lapping of the waves.

You know the rest. . . . We found jobs and moved here and discovered how preposterous our dreams of Malibu-living were. We could barely afford the two-bedroom fixer-upper in landlocked Van Nuys that we managed to buy. And between working, commuting and fixing up, there was no time or energy for those seashore visits that had fueled our dreams.

And our concept of vacation changed, to mean trips back East to visit the families we missed so much. They were not "intermissions" but missions--to reconnect, refuel, rediscover what was missing in our new lives.

I wish I'd thought about that as this vacation began. I wish I'd focused less on recreation . . . and more on restoration, on using those days away to find what I would need to nourish my soul upon my return.

I think I feel another vacation coming on. . . .

* Sandy Banks' column is published Mondays and Fridays. Her e-mail address is sandy.banks@latimes.com.

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