When A Vacation Felt More Like Hell Than Heaven…

I always try to write with the intention to inspire others by making myself fully transparent to the masses, sometimes even painfully so at my expense. As I write this on my travels back from a long-planned and somewhat COVID-delayed summer vacation to Mackinaw Island and the Upper Peninsula, I’m struggling to find that and hope by the end I can.

Three years ago, my partner Chris gave me an envelope for my birthday on June 11th. In it was a heart-felt letter wishing me a truly wonderful birthday, a promise to take me on an all-expenses paid trip to Mackinaw Island and the surrounding vicinity, including room, transportation, and meals, and a map of the area. Sadly, my health issues kept getting in the way of that from ever coming to fruition with each passing year. But when 2020 arrived, I felt tremendously better, mind, body, and soul. I was getting more physically active and so with renewed vigor and excitement for life, I finally opted to redeem Chris’s vacation coupon that had sat on my desk for over 1000 days gathering dust.

We were going to take an extended Memorial Day weekend trip to St. Ignace, Michigan, where once there, we would stay in a waterfront room at a Best Western resort. From there our plan was to spend a day up in Sault Saint Marie to see the Soo locks and another over on Mackinaw Island. The two other days planned away were going to either be chill days at the outdoor pool and hot tub or local travel to other touristy type of things.

Then COVID hit in early March and began to expand quickly. The health improvement I had been experiencing rapidly disappeared leaving me wondering if the trip should be postponed again, as trying to go on vacation when my health issues are seriously problematic is as much fun as sitting in a car on a 100-degree day with no air conditioning, stuck in bumper to bumper traffic moving at 5mph.

But, I kept the faith and left the trip booked. That is, until hotel management informed us they might not be open by Memorial Day and even if they were somehow, that restaurants and attractions probably wouldn’t be yet. In light of that, we made the frustrating decision to postpone to the last weekend of August with the hope that things would be far better by then, both with my health and with COVID. I spent the summer doing everything I could with the former. I exercised more, got out more, helped others more, and even took a number of short trips where walking was involved, and somehow all if it helped me enough to feel ready for the trip again. As for the latter, I was ecstatic to see how Michigan’s number of cases drastically decreased by the time August arrived and our trip mere weeks away.

On the day we were to leave, August 26th, we both were excited. I spent a few hours in the early AM cleaning up the yard and ponds, watering, and getting everything done outside, while Chris cleaned up the inside, so our housesitter didn’t have to worry about it. As we put our final things in Chris’s car prior to departure, a huge windstorm swept in and blew a bunch of debris back into all the places I had just cleaned up. Immediate annoyance set in for my OCD self. Was this an ominous warning of more of what was to come? My partner convinced me it wasn’t and helped me to let it go as we pulled out of the driveway and headed northwards.

I really want to say that everything just kept getting better from there, that loads of stress came off my back, that I felt better on every level with each passing mile, and how amazing the trip ended up being overall. While I do have gratitude for some of the things I saw and experienced, which will be covered in the next Grateful Heart Monday entry, everything felt more upside down than right side up the entire time we were away. First it was with a number of health issues returning I hadn’t seen in years. Next came a drastic increase in my partner’s back pain, along with his negativity surrounding it, that prevented him from doing much of anything that involved walking. That was followed by someone on a balcony near us constantly smoking weed that made it next to impossible to enjoy the scenic views. The weather turned unseasonably cool, cloudy, and rainy after that. And finally, it all came to a head with constant bickering between Chris and I. After four days of this and totally vexing our friends who had met us up there, we decided to cut our losses and head home a full day early.

I know I didn’t go into much intricate detail of how off this vacation really was for Chris and I, but I didn’t think it would be of much benefit to dwell on those parts. What I think is more important to focus on is the reality that life sometimes doesn’t go anywhere near the direction we’d hope for. I’ve been experiencing this for well over a decade now no matter how hard I try, and have had to accept that sometimes the direction of our sails isn’t up to us. And sometimes our boat doesn’t feel like it has any sails at all and has left us stranded in the middle of nowhere, not moving at all. I find when those times happen, when trips like this one occur, when a vacation feels more like hell than heaven, where we can’t seem to adjust our sails into any positive direction, that all we can do is turn it over to God, and trust we’re still being guided, even when it feels like we’re not.

What’s the alternative? To bitch and complain? We did enough of that in the midst of all the sorrow and frustration during our vacation and it only made things feel far worse. So, I leave this where I started it, with disappointment and sadness, but also with hope and faith, that there will be other vacations, better days of health, more intimate moments to share with Chris, and brighter days with God to come. And maybe, just maybe, that perfect rainbow we saw literally a few hundred feet from our balcony right after we made the decision to leave early was a sign from God reminding us of that…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson