I recently returned from our annual family pilgrimage to a waterpark in Sheboygan, WI. We have been going for five years now, always in the dead of winter. Great trip. But not a vacation.
The difference? A vacation is when my wife and I get away. A trip is when the kids are along, we have a great time but I am (more?) worn out when I return.
The park is a lot of fun and combines two of my favorite things, family and water. Too cold for a bass boat which would be the trifecta. The plan is simple. Pack a swimsuit, sweats and flip flops. Park the car in the lot for three days and wander around the resort.
I have two observations every year outside of the fun we have as a family:
1) Obesity is a serious problem and 2) A lot of people just aren't very happy, and it shows.
Maybe it's the environment. The resort has everything - we are captive and sometimes I think of the waterpark as a cage. "Come see the wolly midwestern whales." To those who say "I'm not ashamed of my body." You should be. Your kids get to watch a walking heart attack.
But it's not just the blubber that bothers me but the unhappiness. And it's not that people are overtly anxious, fighting or crying. It's just a sense from looking in their eyes that somehow, at this time and this age, life is not what they imagined.
I see the same thing when I take my kids to the park. I always observe someone not engaged, detached, unhappy. I can tell. I have had those moments. Yet somehow theirs seems more permanent, where I have usually seen mine as transitional. I have experienced plenty of pain, and maybe that's the key. Most of the folks I see are just there, unavailable to others and detached from the pain. But it's there.
And it saddens me because life brings me such joy. When I choose to embrace it.