Mindful with Irene (33)

For the first time in eight years, Irene went on vacation as a family; well, as a composite family, that is. Everything seemed perfect. Until the animation team kicked in.

Holidays. Anyone who has been following this blog knows that, since my divorce, I’ve had issues on how to deal with these. Because if there is no longer a “family holiday” on offer (my ideal: A FAMILY camping holiday in France), then what else is nice? Over the past few years, I’ve tried it all: stay-cations; the camping-just-with-the-kids vacation; the boyfriend-tags-along-while-I-holiday-with-the-kids vacation; the together-with-my-ex-and-our-kids vacation; and the with-another-divorced-friend-and-our-kids vacation. During each of those holidays, there were days that were great and days that were not so great, but overall I was always happy with them.

But something still gnawed at me: for I had not quite found the ultimate holiday make-up. Or so I thought. And secretly, I believed that the composite family holiday would bring ultimate happiness. I suggested it once to New Love, and one year later, during the school holidays this May, we went off to Greece. Together. With five children! But, as a precautionary measure: we took separate apartments in the resort.

After just one day, friends and colleagues were apping and messaging me: HOW’S IT GOING??? (Just goes to show you just how much a part of my life they are!) I happily wrote back: “It’s wonderful, it’s going really well, I’m so happy!” Who wouldn’t be: the resort was beautiful, the sun was shining, the kids got on well with each other, and I had an amazing view of the sea from my balcony.

But then came Day 2. And it brought with it buses full of Germans. And teenagers who would rather lay about in the lobby with their iPhones than go swimming. And noisy activities organized by the animation team. And clouds in the sky. And a pre-planned romantic morning stroll that didn’t take place because New Love had rolled over in bed and fallen back asleep rather than get up. And then I was angry and sad. Grumpy and disappointed. And I missed the family holiday, which—as far as my memory was concerned—always went so smoothly and fine. I ended up going for a walk by myself, meditated, and once again thought about my family holidays and just how perfect they really were (had I maybe romanticized them?), and I looked at what was going on in my head. After a few hours, the clouds literally disappeared, the sun broke through, and things in my head were better. I had learned a beautiful lesson and had to laugh at myself: the composite family holiday also had moments that were great and moments that were not so great. For heaven’s sake: couldn’t I have foreseen that earlier? But hey, a Greek beach isn’t too bad a place to learn such a lesson.

Irene, together with Astrid, is the founder and creative director of Flow Magazine. She lives with her children (10 and 13, co-parenting) in Haarlem, the Netherlands. Each Friday, she writes about how various Mindfulness lessons apply in her daily life.