There are times in life when, despite hours (and hours and hours) of careful, thoughtful planning, things do not go the way they should. Regardless of your meticulously-bulleted itinerary, your well-researched list of restaurants and local attractions, and your overly-packed suitcase (okay, okay, suitcases), life has a habit of getting in the way. Which explains why, on my second-favorite holiday (because, you know, Christmas), I found myself writing this blog post from bed instead of eating hot dogs and waving sparklers.
I spent the Fourth of July in Denver with my boyfriend (Shane). He and I spent months planning this trip. Long distance relationships are rough, so we poured all of our restless energy and excitement into carefully mapping out our Denver Adventure™. I would drive down, he would fly in, I’d meet him at the airport and tackle him in a hug. We had several restaurants we wanted to try, along with a few local attractions to visit – most notably the zoo and museum, a pair that we planned on visiting back-to-back on a day we dubbed “Zoo-seum Day.” Yeah, we’re that couple. We planned on rounding out Zoo-seum Day with an evening of fireworks at Independence Eve, an annual Denver celebration. I packed snacks and sunscreen and a picnic blanket and a patriotic shirt and wine and – well, suffice it to say I basically filled the entire backseat of my car. I was ready.
When Zoo-seum Day arrived, Shane and I packed up my car and set out for part one of our adventure. We had planned on getting to the zoo as close as possible to nine (when they opened) so that we could beat the crowds. We should have known what the day would become when we finally pulled in to our fourth-level parking spot at 10:45AM and battled a throng of stroller-wielding families to exit the parking garage. After a few more kerfuffles piled on, we decided to abandon the zoo and visit the aquarium instead. The Denver aquarium was fantastic – they had a great mix of fish and lots of themed exhibits (everyone knows how I love a good theme). Most importantly, we made friends with some of the cutest otters in the world and I didn’t even otter-nap one to bring home. I’m such an adult. By the time we were nearing the exit, though, Shane was growing weary. We grabbed some food, came back to the hotel, and promptly fell asleep. Apparently, he’d caught the cold I’d been battling for a week or so. The perks of being a Nanny.
When we woke up from our nap, I was prepared to enter Caregiver Mode™ and help him through the evening. That is, until I saw the several missed calls and texts from my mom. I’ll give you the short version of this story in the interest of time and feels. My mom was cat-sitting for me, and my cat had become very sick at some point in the day. Very, very, sick. After a few hours of phone calls between Shane, my mom, the veterinarian, and myself, the vet put my sweet kitty down while my mom held her. She could have waited until I got back, but it would have been an incredibly painful week for my sweet girl. So, battling the runniest nose I’ve ever seen and a killer sore throat, Shane spent his evening taking care of me instead. He talked to the vet when I couldn’t stop crying enough to speak, he helped me work through the emotions to reach a decision, and when it was all over, he let me cry on his shoulder and did his best to make me laugh (his best is very good, and I laughed a lot).
The next day, we both knew we wouldn’t be feeling up to any Fourth of July celebrations, despite it being one of the greatest holidays ever. So instead, we spent our morning watching How I Met Your Mother and eating crepes we had delivered to the hotel room. Eventually, thanks to some nap-related energy, we finished off the day by walking to a nearby Mexican restaurant for dinner and margaritas. We’ve since decided that celebrating America’s birthday by eating Mexican food is going to be our tradition. It wasn’t even close to the celebration I had carefully planned, but it ended up being the most fantastic day.
I’m a planner. I like organization, order, and color-coordination. I love maps and itineraries and Yelp reviews. I like being able to feel like I’m in control of how my day goes, but life doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes you skip the zoo and meet cute otters instead. Sometimes you catch a cold. Sometimes bad things happen when you’re very far from home and you have to do your best to deal with it. I’ll be honest, if all of these things happened to me on an average day, I would probably lose my mind. And yet, when they all happened on what was supposed to be the culminating day of my vacation, I didn’t panic. I didn’t lose my cool. I didn’t cry over the spilt plans. Instead, I leaned on the person I was with and learned something about our relationship that no Zoo-seum Day could ever teach: we work, even when life isn’t a fun adventure. In fact, we work well.
If you spend all of your time focusing on making things exactly what you think they should be, there’s no room for making the most of what actually happens. And sometimes, the most is much more than you had planned in the first place.