Angie and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad vacation
First, a disclaimer:
Indulge me in a little “woe is me” melodrama here. I know there’s a lot worse in the world than what I went through this week, and that I’m incredibly fortunate in the grand scheme of things. And I’m also allowed to have a fucking bad week, so I make no apologies for airing it out so I can process it and get back to my usual chipper self 🙂
Brace yourself, the ranting, she is long…
It all started with that thing we love to hate: fucking goal setting
I was so proud of myself too. This year I finally set goals that weren’t solely about business or clients – the most notable being a quarterly week off. No reason other than I want to, and I need to practice what I preach about taking breaks to rest and recharge. I can’t yell at others to take care of themselves if I’m not willing to do it for myself.
I actually set it up… the entire year. Every quarter, the last week, I’m out. Historically I have not been great at this and always wound up taking a call or a project or something and comforting myself with the fact that I was MOSTLY off. But MOSTLY off is not the same thing as completely disconnected… and disconnection is the important thing here.
I’d honestly forgotten about it, which is why I’m glad I blocked out weeks off for the remainder of the year. I got a calendar reminder a couple weeks out and started reminding clients it was coming so we could wrap up projects.
All of them did… but one ran long. I should have known that was a portent of what was to come…
what went down…
One chiefing project I was working on was supposed to wrap up Friday so I could be fully disconnected. It wound up running late and I had to tackle it Sunday. I did it, figuring “well at least I’ll be able to take the rest of the week off, so long as the team gets the finished thing to the right people…”
At some point while I was working on this weekend project, I noticed some tooth pain. Since I’ve had the extreme displeasure of an emergency root canal before, I opted to make a dental appointment to make sure everything was alright. I made it for first thing Monday morning, figuring, “well at least I’ll be able to take the rest of the week off…”
First thing Monday morning, the electrician shows up at my door as I’m trying to leave for the dentist.
No appointment, no advance call, no warning. Bro, I could have been in the shower, in bed, or just lounging on the couch in my underoos. This is why you CALL PEOPLE and don’t just drop in. I asked him to come back because I needed to head to an emergency dental appointment.
He leaves, I head to the car. Car battery is dead.
The night before, I’d taken myself to a show called the Tournament of Kings at the Excalibur casino here in Las Vegas. I guess when I got back, I THOUGHT I turned off the lights. I’d left on the fog lights though, and the battery was pretty well gone. I had to climb in through the driver door, the only one I could unlock with my key (the rest are electronic) and drag the battery-powered jumpstarter out of the trunk.
Truckers’ daughters are always prepared for the eventuality of life on the road. Good thing too, as there was no one nearby to ask for a jumpstart anyway.
Turned the machine on and got one bar… low battery. Fuck. Well, let’s try it and see what happens…
THANK JEBUS that itty bit of remaining juice was enough to jump the car, and the battery is new enough to have drawn an alternator charge right away. Cool, battery prob taken care of.
Now let’s head to the dentist… fuck I don’t have any more time to hit up a drive thru for a bit of breakfast. Oh well. Let’s do this thing.
Got 95% of the way there when I was suddenly stuck at a light cycle. Seriously, the left-turn light cycled through four times and my lane (one of two turn lanes) had barely budged. As I got closer to the front I could see someone broken down. And of course instead of “zippering in” the cars that were stuck, most of the folks in the other lane were blowing by and not letting us in.
So I’m Texan. I made an opening. It pissed off some guy in a Honda Civic who followed me for about a mile honking, gesturing, and flashing his lights.
An aside: why are Honda Civic drivers so angry? They strike me as the chihuahuas of the car world. Look dude, I know I only drive a Kia Soul but I’m pretty sure my car can take yours bro.
Also, if this dude’s mannerisms resemble your coping behavior when you feel slighted on the road, then I’m going to gently suggest you have your blood pressure and your priorities checked. We both made it through the light with ample time and no car damage. At that point the anger was definitely a choice, as was the choice to try and scare the shit out of me by behaving like an unhinged lunatic behind the wheel of a half-ton death trap.
I arrived at the dentist with one minute to spare… and the hits just kept on coming.
Turns out my minor tooth pain wasn’t a tiny cavity in need of a filling as I’d hoped. It was a cracked molar.
First bright spot of the day: this dentist could make and install the crown onsite if I was willing to hang out. It doesn’t always work that way, but somehow I lucked into a facility that could do it all.
Second bright spot of the day: not only are the dentist (Dr. Uy of Smile Horizons Dentistry – they get my highest endorsement) and her awesome assistant Aimee incredibly personable and calming… the also had the freaking coolest tech I’ve ever seen.
Seriously… a ceiling mounted TV above the reclining chair so I could Netflix and (get) drill(ed).
There was a fucking cool ass wand thing that created an incredibly detailed 3D model of my teeth. And they had one of those awesome X-rays from that movie The Whole Nine Yards. It’s called a digital panoramic X-ray (watch like 5 seconds of this if you want to see it in action) and it was about five million times more comfortable than the old bitewings that used to make my mouth into a muppet’s.
It took about 3.5 hours but eventually the crown was installed and I was loosed into the world with instructions to not chew anything sticky or super crunchy for at least 24 hours. It also took damn near all my concentration to not accidentally chew a hole in my fucking face due to all the lidocaine.
The rest of my Monday passed without much fanfare.
I headed to bed early, prepared to enjoy the shit out of the rest of my week.
Tuesday, I wake up to a note from the Airbnb host, who wants me to coordinate a better time with the electrician. He can come around noon. OK… guess it’s not going to be a “wake up and party on the Strip” kinda Tuesday.
He’d been called in by the host after I reached out about a disturbing electrical problem I’d encountered where, without warning, a GFCI outlet in the kitchen would arc fault and take out the lights and entire circuit, all without tripping the breaker.
It wouldn’t have bothered me much if 1) it wasn’t so strange – I’ve seriously never had that happen in my life anywhere I’ve lived, and I’ve lived A LOT of places, and 2) it happened six times in a week, and many of those happened while I was on client calls or podcast recordings.
It’s slightly bewildering to see your monitor go black and the lights go out while hearing people asking if you’re OK because of your baffled face. Turns out the internet is on a different circuit and my laptop kept things going on battery despite the blackout. Fucking weird.
So he gets here around 11:30, trips the outlet a couple times so he could see what I was seeing, then gets to work. That involves me sitting in the apartment with the power out while he tinkers around. SUPER FUN TIMES Y’ALL.
He somehow moves the lights off the same circuit as the outlet and tells me he thinks that will fix it (he did it in half an hour, which constitutes magic to me). He wishes me well and heads out.
Cool, I’m gonna eat lunch and take a nap, then head out to explore!
I was mostly right on that score.
I did eat, and nap, and head out. I found a really cool hidden craft cocktail lounge over by Fremont Street. I was sold when I saw they did artisanal cocktails, and everything on the menu was half off at happy hour. You have to push through a graffitied wall to get in, and it’s easy to miss.
I took my book and a notebook in case I felt inspired to write, and sat down to enjoy a “Making Fetch Happen,” with vodka, apricot liqueur, strawberry-dill puree, and fresh lemon. It was DELIGHTFUL and I started thinking, “awwww yeah, this is fucking vacation.”
Until about half way through my second drink, when I suddenly started feeling very nauseous. I asked for the check and stood up to visit the restroom – only to experience excruciating sciatic pain in my leg and back as soon as I did. I knew my exploring was done for the night, and I downed a couple Aleve in a desperate attempt to stave off the pain.
It did not stave off the pain. I got home and did yin yoga stretches, covered my sore muscles with mentholated CBD rub, and took yet more Aleve. My night went by in a blur of fitful sleep and pain. At one point I remember waking up and frantically Googling “when you should go to the ER with sciatic pain” and trying to figure out whether this was something more serious.
Mostly I needed to know if I should cancel the massage I’d booked for Wednesday morning – is this something massage would help or make worse? Am I harming myself and my health if I opt for massage instead of medical attention?
In the end, I opted for the massage.
I was excited about this place because it’s a European style spa – meaning separate areas for men and women, because it’s clothing optional. But not only that, there are hot tubs, saunas, steam rooms, showers, quiet meditation rooms, and all kinds of beauty and bath products you can use. Yes, you pay a much higher price for the massage, but that usually comes with unlimited access to the spa facilities the day of your treatment.
Meaning I arrived for my 10:30am massage and I didn’t leave that place until 4pm.
I’m not going to pretend a massage will solve an acute pain problem for everyone, but Mansoor “magic hands” is really knowledgeable about the human musculoskeletal system. He immediately zeroed in on the problem areas and explained the likely culprit was too much sitting and not enough stretching.
Guilty. Like a lot of ADHD folks I sometimes get lost in work for hours and don’t even realize I haven’t eaten let alone stood up.
tortured massaged my ridonkulously tight glutes, he explained… it probably wasn’t sciatica in a strict sense. It was likely extreme tightness of the piriformus muscle in my glutes, and that I should look up stretches and mobility exercises for that and my IT band. The tightness in all that plus my hamstrings was leading to both severe back and leg pain.
That beautiful magical-handed motherfucker was right.
I’ve been mostly good about regular stretching in the past two days and the difference it’s made in my pain level is downright astonishing.
After 80 minutes of hot stone massage bliss, he led me back to the spa and recommended I spend time in the sauna, steam room, and hot tub before doing a cold plunge. I spent the next several hours partaking of the different amenities, and at one point nodded off in the quiet room for a delicious nap.
Now here’s the only down side of the day…
Remember I mentioned nausea as the first indicator?
Yeah, severe sciatic pain can cause nausea, indigestion, constipation, and inappetence.
I knew I needed to eat and drink a lot of water. My body, though in considerably less pain, wanted NONE OF THAT SHIT.
I did make myself eat some pretzels, and some peanut butter toast with bananas. That’s pretty much all I could keep down.
Then I headed home and slept for 14 hours.
Thursday morning I felt a lot more human and a lot less pain. Almost forgot I’d have to head back out to the dentist for a follow-up appointment and cleaning. So I killed time reading and still avoiding eating until it was time to go. Turns out I had a small cavity too, that needed filling. All in all I spent about $2200 on my fucking mouth this week. I’d much rather spend that doing other things, but at least my teeth are fine for the time being.
Halfway through the dental appointment my appetite started coming back and I was starving. Thankfully it didn’t take much more than 90 minutes, and I was able to hit up a happy hour for half-priced appetizers.
Now I imagine you’ve probably experienced nausea-to-the-point-I-can’t-eat before. I don’t know about you, but when I get my appetite back after that, I kinda wanna order one of everything off the menu because it feels like nothing will feel the gaping void that is my stomach. In reality, I will eat about 5 bites of something and be full to bursting.
I wound up bringing the leftovers home and promptly conking out for another 14 hours.
And here we are, Friday afternoon… the first full day of my vacation where things are relatively normal, I have no appointments, nothing hurts, and no one is bugging me with work problems.
Here’s my point in telling you all this…
By Tuesday I was at a level of frustration that amounted to “why do we even have fucking vacations if everything is going to go sideways right when I’m trying to relax??”
*shakes fist at everything in general*
But when I sat with the frustration and discomfort and really thought about it, something occurred to me…
All of this stuff would have happened whether I was on vacation or not.
There’s not a single thing in that laundry list up top that wasn’t already on track to happen, from the car battery to the tooth to the electrician to the back pain.
If I hadn’t been off this week, I would have had to take the time off anyway because there’s no way I could have worked through all that shit happening inside three days.
We often joke about how, if we don’t take time off, our body will force us to.
I almost ran face first into that wall at speed.
Yeah, I’m sad I didn’t get to spend the week stuffing my face and having delightful Vegas adventures. But I’m also glad I didn’t have to disappoint clients while I dealt with my shit, on top of all the pain and setbacks and timing issues.
My friend Patrick Kenney likes to say, “it’s happening FOR you, not TO you.” I think I finally get it now.
Why do we even have fucking vacations?
To keep shit like this from becoming our entire lives, vs one week of exasperation, pain, and blown budgets.
Maybe you are in a place where you can take time off. Maybe you’re not. There’s no judgment here – I know what it’s like to be stuck in a place where you don’t feel like you can disconnect (or worse, can’t afford to be away for even a day – fuck the capitalist system for that particular bullshit).
So I hope you take mine as a cautionary tale…
Get up and move and stretch your body. Don’t get so sucked into the work that you forget to move.
Drink water like nobody’s business. Get some fucking sleep.
Step away from the computer before somebody gets hurt.
And by somebody, I mean you.
If you’re an aspiring freelancer who’s working up the courage to leave the day job… good news! I’m sharing all the things I WISH I’d known before making the leap so that hopefully your journey goes a little more smoothly than mine.