Today is the one-month anniversary of my eye surgery! What a strange month it has been. It took a couple weeks before I felt confident enough in my sight to return to my normal level of activity. And as soon as I did, it was time to prepare for our week and a half-long vacation. Both the surgery and the vacation were great things, so it’s not like I’m complaining. But I also rely heavily on my daily routines to keep me grounded. In that sense, by the time we drove back into town on Monday, I’d become rather unsettled, as if I wasn’t sure whether the foundations of my life had shifted around on me, or whether everything would be right where I’d left it.
This unsettled feeling is not entirely based in reality. Things are generally less shifty than they appear to be. Nothing exploded, figuratively or literally. A few of our plants were droopy, and I had trouble resuming my early-morning writing practice (more on that next week). That was the worst of it.
I escaped the month, not only unscathed, but with quite a few more happy memories made, and with drastically improved natural vision. It was just a bit of a different kind of month than I’m used to. It’s good to dig a little and discover that those foundations are pretty strong after all. It’s instructive to be confronted by my own resilience.
Or I could say that my life has an equilibrium to it, one that I’ve done some work to maintain, but which was also largely set in place for me, and from which it has been my great luck to benefit: the luck of being born in a place, and to a family, that took care of me and provided me with the knowledge and resources I needed to thrive. My foundation stones are durable and sunk deep, which is not something everyone can say.
I guess this is something I’m needing to say specifically in the context of going on vacation, because the fact that I’m able to travel during what is still a pandemic is due to my privilege of living in an area where vaccines are plentiful. There are people around the world who would love to get vaccinated, and who also want to navigate public spaces free of concern for their safety and the safety of their loved ones, but for whom that’s not yet possible. And there are people who’ve been vaccinated and who are also immunocompromised and worry that exposing themselves to large amounts of maskless people is taking too much of a risk.
So this has been on my mind any time I contemplate the less savory aspects of going on vacation, like the inconvenient fact that going on vacation necessarily entails returning from vacation. And like the pandemic-specific fact that there is now a sense of making up for lost time, which creates pressure to go everywhere and see everyone. This is the opposite of how I want to feel about it, especially since travel is a great privilege, so I am doing my best to maintain perspective.
It is important to do anything in a sustainable way. I know that going out every day—let’s be honest, every week—isn’t sustainable for me, nor is leaving town every other weekend. I want to preserve the feeling that, after months of lockdown, visiting friends and family is a great joy and an opportunity to treasure. I want to feel like I can be spontaneous and take advantage of these opportunities when they arise.
I was particularly excited about this trip, not just because it was our first big trip together since getting vaccinated, but also because it was based in part around one of those unexpected opportunities: my cousin Alex’s surprise 40th birthday party. (That’s why I was cryptic the last two weeks about where I was going.) We spent a few days hanging out, trying to avoid detection, and then after the party, we went straight to Omaha for Ashley’s first visit since 2019.
The trip got off to quite the start.
When we arrived at our hotel in Montclair, we were greeted with an amazing surprise—the New York City skyline. This, more than anything else, made me wish that I was fully recovered from the eye surgery.
We ate dinner with my dad and brother at a fantastic Ethiopian restaurant. Ethiopian cuisine is meant to be eaten using one’s hands. So if you’ve met Avi, you know that he was right at home here.
The calm before the storm. The second night of our stay was July 4, and we got a front-row seat to some ridiculous fireworks displays. It wasn’t long before this entire view was blotted out by a massive cloud of smoke.
Alex’s wife Carly orchestrated an incredible evening for all of us, including this top-notch 90s cover band. Yes, the songs of my youth are now considered retro classics. No, I’m not mad about it… really. I was too busy belting out the lyrics to Toadies’ “Possum Kingdom” to confused onlookers.
Still glowing from the surprise reveal, which was executed to perfection.
Me, over a year ago, in issue #8, for reference.
A nice surprise at the Urban Abbey coffee shop and bookstore in downtown Omaha.
The Old Market Passageway, just as magical today as it was when I was little.
And finally, the winners of last week’s caption contest:
That’s all I’ve got for now. Please take care, write back if you can, and I’ll see you next week (without glasses).
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