"That this blue exists makes my life a remarkable one, just to have seen it."
-Maggie Nelson, Bluets
I thought of this quote often as I looked out into the impossible blue of the Cretan Sea. My husband and I just spent two weeks in Greece, an extremely generous graduation gift from my grandmother (without it, we never would have been able to take this trip. Thanks, Gram!). It was our first vacation in two years, our first trip just the two of us since our honeymoon in Greece four years ago. That trip was indisputably the best trip of our lives (isn't your honeymoon supposed to be?) and, ever since, we'd wanted to go back. We spent a few seconds questioning ourselves for choosing to return to a place where we'd already been, instead of trying somewhere new, but, we reasoned, we'd be on a different island this time, like going to a different state, a whole new experience. Instead of our honeymoon trip to Paros, Milos, and Santorini, this time we'd spend four days in Athens and eight on Crete, first in the city of Rethymno and then the smaller town of Elounda.
Now, let me be clear. My husband and I are still very much in love, as we remind each other repeatedly every day. But lately, we'd both been busy and hadn't had much time just the two of us. Spending nearly two weeks exploring, relaxing, lying on the beach, and floating in the bluest water imaginable brought us closer, gave us a chance to remind ourselves what it is we love about each other. Here's my how-to guide to reconnecting and taking a break from everything else together.
Rely on each other while traveling. Airports make you anxious. All the people, the chaos, the delicate balance of making flights and connections, the fear of your luggage getting lost, the waiting, all the things that could go wrong. Sometimes you get a bit worked up and your anxiety takes over. It doesn't help that he gets irritable and kind of grumpy sometimes when things go wrong. Lean on each other instead of pulling away. Since going through couples therapy, you've learned to communicate your anxieties more, which helps, to have him aware of what's going on with you, even if he can't do anything about it. Don't be impatient or snappy with him. He squeezes your thigh while stuck on the tarmac for more than two hours, reminding you that he's there. He laughs quietly to himself while listening to Conan Needs a Friend on his headphones. Smile at his goofiness. Be grateful that he's by your side, reminding you to keep calm.
Take your time. You both needed a vacation. You've been working hard, writing every day, submitting, getting rejected over and over (and a yes! Two! A miracle!), busy with writing groups and work and fun things with friends that have made your schedules not very compatible. You haven't been spending a lot of time together and, when you have, it's mostly been watching TV or reading after long days. Allow things to move slowly. Don't schedule or over-plan. Give yourselves the time to enjoy where you are, lie back, and look at each other.
Appreciate everything. You're on a trip you never thought you'd be able to go on this summer. Somehow, you've been magically transported to a beach on Crete, just each other and no responsibilities. No one has to get up to feed the animals. No one has to go to work, or go straight to their computer when they get home. No meetings or obligations. Look up. See where the cloudless blue of the sky meets the brilliant blue of the water. Float. Feel the gentle push of the waves, the temperate but refreshing water. Touch each other. Point out the fish and the birds and everything beautiful you see. Enjoy every bite.
Pay attention. To where you are, to each other. See his good-natured grin. Laugh at the way he sticks his tongue at you, a quick flick like a lizard. Hold hands. Kiss often. Hug in the water. See the way his hair sticks up with salt?
Remember. Let the tastes and smells and sights remind you of your honeymoon, your last trip to Greece. Remember every meal, the salt on your skin, the beaches and ancient ruins and dinners over the water, the private plunge pool. Remark on how much Elounda reminds you of Milos, how much Rethymno is like Paros, how ruins and antiquities remind you of Akrotiri. Reflect on your memories from the past ten years, since you were mere babies of twenty-one and met in a hot basement party at the beginning of the summer. Camping and ski trips and misadventures. The magic of your wedding. Everything that gets set aside in the day-to-day, forgotten amidst to-dos. Talk about everything. Remember why you love him.