'We're too busy!" My husband and I say this to each other at least once a day. We keep track of all this busyness in my appointment book, his Palm Pilot, and a computer-printed calendar in which we try to coordinate our schedules. But of course, who doesn't think he or she is too busy?
I believe the dirty little secret is that most of us like being busy. Yes, we're tired, we're stressed, but we're needed, we're necessary, we're connected to the world.
My husband and I went to New York this summer - the favorite city of "Type A" personalities on vacation. We don't waste time in New York. Just walking down the street (very fast) feels exhilarating and purposeful. This is a focused vacation, we're accomplishing things.
We see friends, have business lunches, go to the theater, shop, sightsee, walk from Midtown up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art through Central Park and back again. We check our faxes at the hotel, our messages, our e-mail. We stay connected.
This summer, we combined New York with three days on Nantucket. In theory, it seemed ideal: After the excitement and energy of New York, we could kick back and relax .
It was my first trip to Nantucket, and I found it beautiful - but very quiet. Other than exploring the island by bike, there wasn't much to do. We decided to save the other productive outing we could think of, a visit to the Whaling Museum, for the last day.
The first morning, we slept in (something we couldn't do in New York because we might miss something). Around 10 o'clock, we went to a cafe. We ate scones and read The New York Times from front to back.
It was almost noon when we got back to the inn where we were staying and time to make the decision about where to have lunch. Then came lunch itself. We ate a lot of seafood, including clam chowder. We had ice cream cones on the street. We got sleepy. We had to nap. When we woke up, we read a few chapters of the books we'd brought with us. Then suddenly, somehow, it was time for dinner.
The first 24 hours of this made me feel very anxious, even a little guilty. It seemed as if we weren't getting our money's worth just lolling about town, as if we were being - heaven forbid - lazy and unfocused. We had no e-mail, no cellphone, no car. We were walking (slowly), talking, looking at the scenery, and people-watching. Time began to have a different quality. Hours melted. I took off my watch.
The second day, we took a shuttle trip to 'Sconset, at the eastern end of the island. The shuttle, a tiny bus filled with cheerful, chatty people, made us feel like little kids, as if we were going off to camp.
In 'Sconset, we stopped for lunch at an outdoor restaurant where we smugly observed a fellow who apparently couldn't leave his cellphone at home. Every time it rang, he'd leap up from his table and run out to the road to talk.
"He hasn't unwound yet," my husband said as we watched him pace up and down the road, phone clutched against his ear. "Type A," I said.
AS WE ate our lunch, we studied the roses climbing gray-shingled cottages. The air off the ocean smelled tangy and full of memory. Our sandwiches were made of freshly baked whole-wheat bread and filled with garden lettuce and real tomatoes.
Birds, looking for crumbs, swooped under the tables and then flew to the tree above us, singing. Hydrangeas, blue as the sea, bloomed in the gardens around the cottages.
How satisfying it was to be lazy. I marveled at how quickly we could disconnect from the rest of the world. Tasting our food, listening to birds and the roll of the ocean, taking in the colors of flowers, and just being together seemed productive and necessary.
We didn't even make it to the Whaling Museum.
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