In the first hours of the first day of 2017, while I lay snuggled in my bed, dreaming of my imminent move, my new apartment blew up.
Well, a pipe did, technically. In a building with 87 units, mine was the one with a pipe under the kitchen sink that decided to explode shortly after the clock struck 12 and the lease transferred to my name. I discovered this the next morning when I stopped by to drop off a few more valuables, too breakable for the moving truck. The hardwood floors were buckled and creased, and water sat like a wading pool in the hallways of floor 3, floor 2, floor 1, and even the basement.
Like wasps, all the things I suddenly needed to do circled my head: find housing, stop the transfer of my internet and electricity accounts, cancel on the movers, reverse my change of address. It was actually a few hours before I remembered, crap: I had a trip to Antigua scheduled for three days after the relocation, in what I thought would be a glorious drop-your-stuff-and-enjoy-the-move-being-behind-you escape.
Reasonable friends advised me to cancel or at least postpone it. There was so much I had to deal with here, so much uncertainty about where I'd stay now and where I'd move next. I had a potential legal snafu coming up; should I try to get my broker fee and other moving-related charges back? Was this really a good time to jet off to the Caribbean?
The answer, it turned out, was: hell, yes. I ignored everybody and rifled through all of my boxes to piece together a hot-weather-appropriate suitcase (I never did find the red bikini I had in mind or the comfy Vionic flip-flops I typically wear to the beach). Then I locked the door to my chaotic old apartment (my old landlords, mercifully, gave me some wiggle-room on moving out), piled high with yawning boxes and sprinkled with valuables I'd salvaged from the flood. I headed to the airport, and for the first time in a week, I felt the knotted muscles in my abdomen relax.
They say you can't run away from your problems, but if my three days in Antigua are any indication, you certainly can take a break from them. I stayed at Blue Waters Resort—a sprawling, sun-soaked escape dotted with beautiful gardens, separate pools, and hidden white-sand beaches. It's the kind of place that's so breathtakingly beautiful, even that chattering monkey mind sits back on its haunches and goes, "Damn." (And beautiful is a bit of an understatement; Prince Harry himself chose to stay there during his traipse through the Caribbean this winter, so yeah, it's a good one.) For me, it was a much-needed break in the frenzied thinking I'd been doing ever since I woke up on January 1. It wasn't, as my friends had warned me, ill-timed at all.
For type-A personalities like me, relaxing and just walking away from a buzzing mass of to-do's feels impossible, impractical, ludicrous—but, ironically, I'd argue that getting away can actually help you accomplish everything (without feeling like a stressy mess). After all, there's Wi-Fi in the Caribbean, too, so I could check if there were any updates. (There weren't.) It all got me thinking: Where did we get this idea that when a stressful situation is at hand, we must deal with it by squeezing tighter and keeping an obsessive eye on things we can't control? The trip reminded me that perspective isn't something you can only circle back to later; it's possible to jump on it even in the eye of the shitstorm.
On my last afternoon in Antigua, I hopped on a boat trip out to Great Bird Island, a small, rocky islet with walking trails and incredible views of all the tiny islands surrounding it. We anchored and first spent some time snorkeling. Paddling past rippling sea anemones, striped fish, and crazy, geometric coral, I had no choice but to stay present and take it in; the little glimpse into this hidden world reminded me that the earth is still awfully great, even if my new apartment was under a few inches of dirty water.
Then, we docked by the coast and climbed to the island's highest point, watching the sun bow behind lacy waves and gold-lit islets. I knew that the very next day I'd need to board a plane and return to New York City, where inches of snow had fallen and my new apartment was still a big question mark, on the other side of a thicket of red tape, insurance, and contractors and claims and lease adjustments. But I also knew it was all going to work out, that all the problems were momentary, and that in the grand scheme of things, none of that really, truly mattered. There have been tough moments since I got back, instances when my abdominals draw in protectively and my heart rate speeds at the reminder of all the practical unknowns. (Spoiler: I still don't know where I'm going to live.)
But if it all falls apart in my palms again, you know what? I might just say Phuket. And go to Thailand.