Bliss or Pipe Dream?

Back to the grind stone.
On my way home from Mexico aboard Delta Airlines, I watched an episode of On Creativity, a serial that offers insights into the creative world hosted by Paula Wallace of the Savannah College of Art & Design. In this episode, one of her guests was Steve Lassater, co-creator of Pixar. During the interview, they showed his commencement speech at the college and he brought out of a bag a very well loved Woody doll from The Toy Story that had been sent to him by a young boy who no longer needed to love this Woody doll.  This boy included a letter that asked Mr. Lassater to bring Woody to a place where he could be with other dolls forever more. This was a tearful reading by Mr. Lassater as he held the Woody doll up to his audience for viewing, one could see that one foot was missing, the clothing on the doll was faded and stained and the limbs were limp and well worn. During the interview in general, the idea was conveyed by Mr. Lassater of the importance of carefully selecting a vocation for which one would not ever feel that they had worked a day in one’s life. Am I doing this with my life? Do I live to work? Or, do I work to live? I do enjoy the travel gig, in general. However, there are so many instances during the course of my work that I find my efforts less than appreciated or even respected.
While on my trip, I received word that one client had called the office ranting and raving about her rental car not having been fully prepaid and that she hoped the rest of the trip I had planned for her would not be an equal disaster. Never mind that during the booking process, I told her over the telephone that it would not be possible to set up her pre-cruise car rental on a prepaid basis as there was not a rental company that offered that possibility.  Instead, her rental rate would be guaranteed using her credit card but that her cost would be paid locally at time of rental pick up at the Houston Airport. And, with her final document package, I included a cover letter that went over all of the details including her car rental and it stated the same as noted above. These details were conveyed orally and in writing. She wasn’t listening, and she didn’t read. And, she then reads my administrator the riot act and uses explitives in the process. Nice. Another client was informed by telephone voicemail and email that I would be out of the office until December 8th, and that I would contact her on my return to set up an in person appointment to go over their final documents for their Europe trip happening over the holidays. While I am gone, she just shows up at the office asking to see me. Another client requests a 28 day honeymoon to Southeast Asia to start January 2nd, 2016; his inquiry came in October 26th. I work on this with two revisions, sending him complex independent custom itinerary proposals with everything they wanted to experience, including cooking classes, temple tours in Angkor Wat, couples massages, all private services, interior Asia flights, and five star hotels. And he sits on it for almost two months. Now, he is ready and I am scheduled to talk with him this morning. With his commitment, we now have to rush to book everything and hope things are still available because he just couldn’t get around to it.  And, take care of the Visas on a rush expedite basis.

I wish I could say that these stressors do not affect my gut. But the truth is, I just got done with an endoscopy yesterday and the damage is fairly severe… meds and modified lifestyle are required to heal. So, does this work give me joy? Am I in my element? Or, am I just another dog in the musher’s sled, always feeling the crack of the whip at my back and pushed to move move move… to someone else’s demands.
What would I do if I could do what I wanted to do? Well, I would learn to write well. I would busy myself in learning the craft, every aspect of it and making a life of writing for myself. I wouldn’t just spend an hour or two before work and some left over time after work and on weekends. I would throw myself into it with all my might. And, would this put me into my true bliss? Or, is this a grass is greener thing? Seeing all fo those resorts for the purpose of serving a bride somewhere wishing to wed on a beach, is that my calling? Serving clients traveling all over Europe and Asia, is that really it? Or, is it writing? How do I know the answer to that?  Is my writing dream a foolish pipe dream?
For now at least, one step in from of the other. I have over 50,000 words to work on to create a first novel. And, I must continue this daily writing practice, sign up for courses, workshops, get to know other writers perhaps. Come out of the vacuum.   Possibly work towards a retirement of writing bliss?  At least that’s a goal.

A Romantic Beach Escape- Anyone?

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Perhaps the best place to start today is with the feeling I have as a single woman participating in a four day workshop in Jamaica at a couples only resort. As a travel consultant, my role is to be knowledgeable about every aspect of travel. I have specialized for quite awhile in travel arrangements to Scandinavia and Europe. Several years ago, I took a path away from mass market travel where I represented every corner of the globe and every possible travel product. During this hiatus, I enjoyed a time away from selling everything from Vegas to Timbuktu, and instead focused my energy primarily on soft adventure and cultural travel to places like the raw appeal of Iceland, the fjords and coast of Norway, the charm of countryside Sweden and Denmark and the cultural richness of Russia. While this still meant I was working in many cases with couples and families, the primary focus has not been on creating a romantic paradise for honeymooners, destination wedding couples and romance driven clients. This past year, I circled back and am once again digging into mainstream cruises, beach vacations to all corners of the earth and my boss has asked me to join the destination wedding team. I had specialized in weddings in the past and have a strong knowledge base and so I rekindle this area of my expertise. I am in Jamaica for a refresher course on a specific collection of properties that focus entirely on a couples vacation experience.

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Becoming a specialist in the “Travel for Romance” niche means delving into every aspect of making a couples trip highly memorable and enjoyable. My goal as a dedicated travel specialist has always been to create a vacation that will have clients thinking back fondly to their time together, away from the stress and daily grind. I can’t help think of my own life experiences having lacked any luster in this department. And the truth is I am sure that many couples heading for a romantic get-away likely encounter a reality less glimmering than the glossy brochure pages of an adult-only all inclusive in the Caribbean, with its perfectly bodied models lounging on beaches and taking in that couples massage in little huts with the white flowing sheets wafting in the breeze. The reality is likely a bit less gilded.
My last travel memory with my ex-husband included shouts at me across a crowded gate area in our connecting airport city. His rage at me was embroidered with explitives because I had dialed my cell phone to check on the house and dog sitter since she had not appeared at the house before we headed to the airport. I was nervous that she might have forgotten her arrangement with us for some reason, and we had not been able to reach her by phone prior to our departure. I was merely calling to make absolutely sure that the dogs had not been abandoned by us and that someone was with them by now, and if not I would call my plan B option. The problem was that I had not asked his permission. This phone call was going to cost money and he was trying to figure out a way to avoid the phone call in order to save money. The fact was that we only had so much time before the next flight, and the dogs were our babies… and we had to get down to business and make sure all was ok. Mama was checking on her brood, after all. The good news is we did reach her and all was fine. This miserly behavior on his part followed us throughout the trip. Since I had coffee with my breakfast in the morning, later in the day when I wanted a coffee- he refused me. This sounds minor, but it was this tension over every decision that made the trip dreadful for me. A heaviness hung around my shoulders which made my chest feel heavy, as if I was pressing against a hurricane force wind gust most of the time.  I couldn’t seem to get my footing. Everything about that trip was an effort, there were not any moments of tenderness. Our time in London, the Lakes District and Cornwall were fairly rigid and mechanical, moving from one place to the next to take that next thing in and mark it off our list. During this final trip that led to our last months together before I would finally leave him, I recall having this urge to flee, all the time. I wanted to get away from him and find a quiet spot, somewhere to sit down with a coffee, pull out a journal and write, or read a good book. I wanted privacy.
This longing for my own space where I could breathe and live more fully has been with me ever since I left him more than eleven years ago. I have remained single by choice because the idea of getting entangled in another lie, another hidden monster behind the initial facade of love and tenderness, frightens me. And it is that feeling of being caged by an impossible and ornery person that keeps me single. One day, perhaps, those love songs I hear streaming through the public areas of this couples only paradise might once again apply to me. Maybe I will get caught by the bug again and feel the surge of joy and awe at being part of a world built for two. Still, my memories feel fresh and I lived through two cautionary tales. With my second husband, I left him because he was mean more than he was nice. We tried counseling, which did not work well because he felt that the counselor was stupid. The minute we would leave the office, he would launch into a diatribe on all the reasons this was a complete waste of time. In hindsight, I agree with him on that point because there was no way that counseling was going to work since he did not feel we had an issue- or rather, that he had an issue. The issue was all me. My “love” partner was the kind of person that put a wet blanket on any kind of notion of lavishing the spouse with messages of affection. Mind you I am not high maintenance. I don’t require much. But a little indicator of having any kind of fondness for me would have gone a long way. There were never any efforts made for birthdays, nor for Christmas – not because he would forget, but because no one was going to tell him when to offer up gifts to someone else. No Valentines’ Day special expressions- and back then, I worked in a major department store (still as a travel agent) that would deck itself out each season- to the gills. For Valentines Day one would encounter dangling hearts and bursts of flowers on every floor – weeks before the romantic date, to entice consumers to buy that special treasure for their lover or spouse. Every department had their announcements that this was the place you could find that personal gift which would convey the deepest love and appreciation you carried for your beloved. In the end, with my spouse, the final expression I received on the final Valentine’s Day of our marriage was “Don’t Expect Anything!!! Because, if you expect something from me on this Hallmark driven day- you can expect to be disappointed”. There- in case I was not clear on his intentions. For New Year’s Eve that year, I reached out to a friend of his- asked him to call my husband to go out on the town… a sort of boys night out. My husband was more than delighted at the prospect of having some bar hopping fun with the boys. It did not occur to him that he should want to spend New Year’s with me. So off he went, and I packed my bag to head up to my parents for the night with sumptuous Lobster, Filet Mignon with Bernaise sauce and sautéed mushroom caps and, of course, some bubbly. I took one of our dogs with me, my Skye Terrier whom I had in my life long before the marriage. I wasn’t planning to actually leave him that night permanently, that was not my intention. But after the New Year celebrations and no phone calls from him to wish me well or find out how my evening went (I could have called him of course, but something in me prevented me from calling), I felt an exhaustion overcome me that blanketed me like one of those old dental visit X-Ray blankets they would lay across your chest to protect you. I just couldn’t go back to him. So, I looked at my parents over breakfast, and said: “I can’t go back”- simple. Dad immediately had my back: “Ok sweetheart, you got it”. They were so supportive because they had witnessed so many moments of my spouse’s narcissism over the years, his rudeness to them, his lack of care for me. Dad was only too willing to help make an exit from him a reality. They had been sitting in the wings for a couple of years just waiting for an indicator that I was finally ready.
Ah, so romance and the supportive role I play in making it happen for others? Well, I take the plunge and detach myself from my own reality and offer bursts of joy and excitement for the couple, after all- they are blessed and the fact that they are now taking their own dive into a partnership gives one hope that love can and does exist. So how about that Beachfront Walk-Out with private plunge pool only steps away from Azure Blue Caribbean Waters with a romantic beach dinner by candlelight to get things going? Tomorrow, shall we schedule your private couples massage combined with a soak in the tranquility tub with champagne service and chocolate covered strawberries? In a couple of days, we set you up with a private catamaran dive excursion with your own captain. Sound enticing? Let’s help you celebrate this once in a lifetime opportunity to kick off your lives together as a married couple. Salut!