Vacation envy

My wife and I were discussing whether envy could be positive. She was of the mind that envy could be a motivator, that seeing what others have can spur ambition. I felt that the resentment inherent in envy undermined any positive outcome. After all, envy is one of the Seven Deadly Sins, not one of the Seven Really-Not-So-Bad Sins.

Studies have shown that social media can make people feel bad about themselves, and not just because they clicked on that post entitled, “She Dressed as a Stripper at an IODE Meeting And You Won’t Believe What Happened NEXT! But Then Again, You Might!”

The reason is envy. There you are, sitting in your boxers, eating leftover Kraft Dinner, when you stumble upon Facebook photos of friends frolicking in the tropical surf. They’re sipping vodka drinks piled with exotic fruit. And they’re not even wearing sunblock, because wherever they are, the sun is cancer-free.

You see that and you wonder, “Why can’t I be somewhere warm? Where’s my exotic fruit?”

I know several people who have escaped this relentless winter in this way. I don’t think I’m envious but I do wonder how they manage it. More to the point, I wonder why we can’t.

Deb and I make a decent income. Or at least I assume we do. Maybe I’m underpaid and don’t know it. It’s not like I can go up to my co-workers and say, “I make X-thousand. How much do you make?” It’s just not done. While we share almost everything about our lives these days, personal income is one of the bits of privacy we cling to. Why else do you think it was so titillating to learn, in the “Blurred Lines”/Marvin Gaye lawsuit, that this single song generated $16 million? $16 million! That’s X times more than I make a year!

Whether our income is above or below average, we nonetheless always seem to be just getting by. Without going into greater debt, there’s no way we can afford a getaway. Plus, the roof needs to be redone, the cars need repairs, the gutters are falling off, we need new kitchen counters, there’s tuition to pay, I need new glasses and probably a root canal, there are braces coming, and our ancient furnace – the furnace! It’s freezing sitting here in my boxers!

Just last week, we had two automatic withdrawals refused at the bank. The two companies that we owed the payment to charged us penalties, and the bank assessed us two service charges of $45 for non-sufficient funds. That’s right: the bank took money out of our account because there was no money to take out of our account.

I was thinking all this lying in bed Monday morning, the start of a week of vacation to coincide with Abby’s March break. Outside was snow and ice and unrelenting cold. There would be no frolicking this week, no exotic fruit. I wallowed. Wallowing is one of the Not-Very-Good-At-All Sins.

But once the sun came up and I got on with my day, I experienced the small thrill of knowing that I was lounging mid-morning while everyone around me was working. There’s something illicit about that, like faking a sick day. It felt a little like freezing time, but maybe that’s because I had just read a book about a man who can freeze time. Of course, he uses his power to remove women’s clothes, so maybe we should just forget I mentioned it, along with my reading habits.

There was something liberating in stopping what I was doing in the middle of the day and repairing a tuning post on Abby’s guitar. A little later on, I sat and played piano for a while, the first time in weeks. I ate a cupcake for lunch.

I realized that free time, not the destination, was the real vacation. Call it rationalization, but I could imagine myself in some tropical clime fretting about travel connections, what we were going to eat, what might eat us, what to tip, who to tip, worrying about our possessions, complaining about the (other) tourists, wondering what the cats were destroying back home.

Plus, I don’t even like exotic fruit that much.

I’m grateful to live in a solid house where everyone is healthy, eats well and sleeps soundly most nights. I’m grateful to live in a part of the world where, in the middle of a vacation day, I can put on my boots and go for a worry-free walk.

But just a quick one: it’s friggin’ cold out there!

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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57 Responses to Vacation envy

  1. Yup. I wonder how others manage to do the tropical holiday, too. Lots of debt, maybe? At least the weather is okay here. 🙂

  2. Paul says:

    Nicely said Ross. I figure that I’m about 10 years older than you (yesterday was my birthday!) and what you are feeling is normal. The wages that you and your wife are earning are supporting yourselves and your kids. Your kids are almost adult in age and require as much to support as adults. I think you have 3 kids – so 2 wages are supporting 5 adults. Right now is the highest cash outlay time of your life. Soon your kids will be off earning their own wages and living in their own places and you will have a mortgage free house, no education payments, feeding and clothing only 2 adults and will be making the highest income of your life. Have no fear my friend, brighter times (financially) are coming.

    Without a doubt the key is to do exactly what you are doing – appreciate the good things in your life: health, family, stability, eating cuppycakes, lounging mid-morning and freedom to walk about without fear for your life (oh, and the cold keeps away the bugs).

  3. Karen says:

    Um, this post coming upon that last post about how you and your wife got lost in the woods, makes me think that the two of you in a tropical destination probably involves malaria and being eaten by the natives.

    Better to stay home. 😉

  4. It might be my old lady decrepitude talking, but having time, not being rushed, being able to sink into the moments – these things are invaluable and do more for the soul than grandiose vacations.

  5. ksbeth says:

    yes, time is the vacation, you are right. p.s. how about steam up the bathroom and go have a margarita in the tub?

  6. I don’t get the whole income thing either. No matter how much we have (or don’t have) it’s basically enough to scrape by. Until the cat eats a length of string and needs thousands of dollars worth of surgery, that is.

  7. I’m all about the stay-cation these days. Loved seeing this side of you, Ross 🙂

  8. pinklightsabre says:

    Where’s my exotic fruit? I liked this one. I’m still drinking my coffee and ‘webby.’ One thing I like about vacation/unemployment is having your outfit picked out in advance: the same one you dropped on the floor the night before.

  9. Dina Honour says:

    I live in Denmark, the happiest nation on Earth. One of the things a lot of people don’t know about Denmark is that they carry one of the highest levels of personal debt in Europe (which is not surprising given that a cup of coffee costs about USD 5.50)…I suspect your peers are inner Danes…

  10. I have taken some pretty good vacations, but I have never wanted to spend for a week on the beach. I guess it helps that my body is the type that needs to remained covered.

  11. Envy is terrible for me. It never once motivated me to do squat. When I see what others have, I mainly feel bad about myself. Pretty healthy, right?! Envy is a major part of why I don’t have a Facebook page. I already know everyone is richer, better looking, has smarter kids and enjoys their work. I don’t need Facebook to prove it for me.

    Free time is the ultimate commodity. People mistake money for material goods or power. It’s not. Money is FREEDOM.

  12. I could have written this same post (although not quite as eloquently, of course). We are sailing on that same ship, just can’t seem to ever really catch up. You have a good attitude about it though, that’s important!

  13. franhunne4u says:

    You know the difference between effing cold and freezing cold? About 4 inches.

  14. freebutfun says:

    Lounging at home does sound pretty appealing!

  15. Ned's Blog says:

    I’ve had that same feeling, wondering if I’m just frittering away our combined income of $X-thousand on things like electricity, car insurance, the mortgage and Netflix. But I really try to remind myself that having enough should BE enough. Sure, we won’t be taking any trips to the tropics unless there’s a heatwave around our bamboo tree, but that’s OK. We’ve have our extravagant Netflix subscription 😉

  16. Ned's Blog says:

    By the way, I tried to get on to your blog all day yesterday and it wouldn’t come up. Was Canada closed?

  17. I wonder about how others can travel like they do too, believe me. I’ve been trying to travel a lot more in my own backyard lately. It’s fun and free. 🙂

  18. Tracy@CrazyAsNormal says:

    Another tic for the “pro” side of not swimming in money – we’ve been trying to plan a girl’s overnight trip for 9 this summer – I’m the only one that can do it any weekend – no vacation conflicts clogging up my calender. BAM. 😀

  19. markbialczak says:

    Print this post out, Ross. Once the kids graduate from college and get great jobs, leave a copy at each of their houses by oooops! Enjoy their group gift of an exotic-fruit-location for you and Deb!

  20. Liz Hott says:

    Came here to catch up on your sarcasm and wit and instead you’ve gone fully heartfelt! What’s happening in the world?! (I kid, I kid. This is great!)

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