The Lesson of the Saddest Day of the Year

It’s the saddest day of the year. I’ve tried different ways to avoid the sadness. I’ve tried Jedi mind tricks. I’ve tried skipping the day altogether. I even tried a designing a new kitchen to blunt the emotional impact of this annual sadness. Yet, nothing worked.

Until recently.

The sadness started 17 years ago. That’s when we spent our first week at the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We liked it so much we went back the following year. And, the year after that, and the one after that…

We fell in love with the Outer Banks. We’ve enjoyed our annual vacation on this wonderful spit of land every year since 2001.

The family on the Outer Banks in June 2018

We’ve done the vacation with just our family and we’ve done it with several dozen people all staying in the same beach house. The memories have been built one layer at a time…like an onion.

And, you know what happens when you peel an onion. Same thing happens when its time to go home from the Outer Banks. It’s the saddest day of the year. It’s not simply that our vacation is over, but I’m leaving a place that holds so many precious memories.

I don’t do sad very well. I try and avoid it. Since we’ve spent so much time there I’ve tried to convince myself that’s actually home and we are leaving for a 50 week vacation in Maryland. Yeah, I don’t do Jedi mind tricks very well either.

One year, the sadness was so heavy on the day before we were scheduled to head home that I just left that night. Didn’t work either.

And, then there was the kitchen project. When the vacation group was at it’s largest for a bunch of years we would rent these really big houses. Those houses typically had two dishwashers. We loved that. So, when we were designing our new kitchen about a dozen years ago, my wife wanted two dishwashers because we had six kids. She wanted it for practical reasons, but I thought it would be just like we were living in one of those beach houses. That way when it was time to leave the Outer Banks we were heading home to our own beach house minus the beach. Yep, that didn’t work either. Now I just had two dishwashers that had to be emptied all the time.

Leaving the last couple years, though, hasn’t been as tough. There’s wisdom that comes with aging and I see vacation a little differently now. Kind of like how I saw last week, in fact.

On September 1st I began my 20k One Year Step Challenge. My goal is to get 20,000 steps every day for a year with no breaks. Since I started some of the weeks have been difficult. There’s been the depressing weather, my wife’s cancer diagnosis and surgery, and weeks where the schedule was not my friend.

But, then last week happened.

Fall in Maryland is beautiful. We have a lot of trees and the leaves are just as colorful here as they are anywhere.

62The temperatures can be mild and when it all comes together there are few places nicer to be. That happened last week. On top of that, my wife had no doctors appointments nor did we have anxiety waiting for a test result. There’s still a treatment plan coming, but that happens later this week. And, my schedule was complication-free.

In other words. It was an EASY week to reach my 20,000 step goal every day. Not just easy, but fun too! Oh, if every week could be like last week.

And, then I remembered the lesson of the saddest day. That thing I’m learning because I’m getting older and wiser also applies to last week.

It was a gift.

As much as I would love for my Outer Banks vacation to be my life, it can’t be. As much as I want the mild weather, the autumn beauty and the uncomplicated schedule of last week to be my constant reality, it can’t be.

But, what it can be is what it is. It’s a gift to be enjoyed. It’s a gift to be savored. And, it’s a gift to be grateful for.

Come to think of it. Shouldn’t every day be like that?



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