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    BWS Stories - "If I Could Save Time In A Bottle"...Embracing Our Authentic Selves

    "If I Could Save Time In A Bottle"...Embracing Our Authentic Selves - The Spa Thing

    Nancy Viau is a freelance writer whose publication credits include: Family Circle Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Parents Express, Absolute Write, Highlights for Children, Hopscotch for Girls, Wee Ones Magazine, and others. Her essay, “Starting A Writing Group from Scratch” appears as the first chapter of The Writing Group Book (Chicago Review Press). Nancy wrote the following essay a few years back. She’s looking forward to reaching fifty so she can talk her family into another “Spa Thing.” Visit Nancy’s Web site at:

    The Spa Thing

    That inevitable day was around the corner—the big Four-O. I wasn’t worried or frightened that at forty, I still had at least sixteen years of child-rearing left to do. I was going strong—ready for the long term, proud at forty to be the mother of four children ranging in age from two to fifteen. But to my dismay, hints were dropped that a celebration was in the works. Friends and family wanted to wish me well through these mid-life years and make me feel better about this milestone birthday. I felt great, thank you very much. A party wasn’t necessary.

    I’m not against parties. My husband and I have attended our share of celebrations. We eat and drink our way through the night and visit with extended family. Even though the music is deafening, and it’s necessary to glean the latest gossip by reading lips, we usually have a nice time. We’re especially glad when it’s over.

    I must be getting old because a party was not how I hoped to mark this birthday. My husband thought I was kidding, “You’re just saying that,” he quipped, nudging me. “Bet you’d really like a surprise party.”

    “No party,” I said. “And it’s not because I’m sad, mad, or ashamed to be forty. What I’d like…is to go to a spa.”

    “Great! Let’s go. We’ll get someone to watch the kids.”

    My husband didn’t get it. I tried again.

    “I’d like to go…by myself.”

    “You don’t want me to come with you?” he asked.

    I pleaded my case: Eighteen years of being a decent wife and mother equaled three nights and four days alone at a beautiful spa—math Mom’s way.

    My husband wore his disappointment on his face for days. Eventually he understood. He realized I needed a break from carpools, school meetings, dinners eaten enroute to lessons, and nights shy of six hours sleep.

    Some friends offered, “We’ll go with you. It won’t be any fun without us. Others asked in hushed voices, “Are you having an affair?”

    “NO, I just want to go alone,” I told everyone. “To reflect on the last forty years and plan the next forty. That’s it.”

    I daydreamed about diet spas and health spas in the afternoon and had visions of
    adventure spas and enlightenment spas at night. I researched and researched and put as
    much attention into finding the perfect spa for me as I had done investigating appropriate
    preschools for my children. I kept telling myself, I deserve this. Make it happen.

    I finally found my spa. It was located in southern Utah and the fact that it was half way across the country only made it all the more appealing.

    “You still want to do this ‘spa thing’?” my husband asked. “Four whole days? Long time to be gone from the kids.”

    The guilt trip didn’t sit well with me. I was going for less than a week, not exactly a lifetime. Everyone would survive. I booked the reservation.

    It was wonderful to travel alone after years of family vacations. I didn’t miss having to change a diaper in an airplane bathroom the size of a small closet. I didn’t miss countless repetitions of: “Are we there yet?” and “When do we eat?” I wasn’t at all bothered by the three-hour flight or by the two-hour van ride that followed. I gazed out the window and soaked up the scenery. I chatted with people from all over the country who were on the way to the spa. We discussed our reasons for venturing to this nirvana out in the middle of nowhere. Some came for rediscovery and relaxation, some hoped to jump-start a new lifestyle, others needed time to heal physically or spiritually. Strangers became friends by the end of the ride.

    During the next four days, I hiked through mountains at speeds I usually reserved for chasing children on playgrounds. I swam in pools free from kids who felt the only form of water entry was the cannonball. My muscles stretched and reawakened as I learned Tai Chi and kickboxing. My brain sizzled as I immersed myself in Native American tradition. I dined on the finest of foods, not one of which was zapped in a microwave, served in Styrofoam, deep-fried, or covered with cheese. I allowed the experts to massage my tired body, moisturize my wrinkles, and condition my graying hair.

    I was surprised to discover that with husband and children absent, I still knew how to be me. I could carry on entire conversations without mentioning what my children accomplished in school or how difficult the teen years were. I could skip the neighborhood debate over school taxes and instead discuss global environmental issues. I had time and opportunity to voice my opinion on everything from preserving National Parks to nurturing the creative spirit.

    I also enjoyed being totally alone, especially outdoors with the Utah desert at my feet and thousands of stars above my head. Solitude was something unheard of in my busy life, and I appreciated the wonder of it, along with the wonder of nature.

    And finally, I did create a master plan for the next four decades: Cherish my family and friends, be grateful for health and happiness, and count those lucky stars. My “spa thing” was time well spent, and although my body and soul had been nourished, I realized I would always need my husband and children to feel completely at peace.

    When I walked off the airplane, I was happy that my adventure had come to an end. Four days was enough time to be gone. I grabbed a quick cheese steak and a soda for the ride home. Old habits die hard. After all, I needed the energy for the trip back to reality.

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