Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I’m Back To Reality

Today I am back to reality. My family and I have spent the last eight days at Disney World. I let myself live both mentally and physically in the land of make believe for a full eight days. (Yes I said “let myself live” because this was an intentional act, to give myself permission to escape from reality.)

It was wonderful.

(Just opening the Disney travel home page and listening to their music is a little escape from reality in fact! If you go to the website you’ll see their promotion for the Year of a Million Dreams sweepstakes where they are giving away one million prizes in this calendar year. In case you doubt that they are really doing it I’ll share that our entire family won a prize one day while at a park, something they call a Dream Fastpass where we could go on all the Fastpass attractions in that park that day using the Fastpass, at the time of our convenience.)

This trip was a celebration. It was a trip we had postponed for nearly five years. (The kids have been very patiently waiting all this time.) This is our first vacation in five years to a ‘vacation place’ that we planned and paid for. So this was a special trip for us, it wasn’t a common thing, and we were grateful for this fun week. And it was very last minute also, booked just ten days prior to our departure date, which was atypical for us to do.

I shed all care for the outside world during that time and it was great. I barely thought of my personal life, of challenges, of problems, and of my relatives. I didn’t think of my volunteer jobs and responsibilities. I didn’t feel guilty for missing a Cub Scout Pack meeting. I forgot all about winter weather and Connecticut and of life in Fairfield County. I didn’t think about anything to do with homeschooling except to be grateful that we could travel without being tied to travel only on ‘school vacation weeks’.

I didn’t ponder anything intellectually challenging or expend mental energy on anything bothersome happening in our culture, in America (like the Presidential race and primaries) or the world. I didn’t ponder much about the marketing giant that Disney is and I didn’t let myself feel that I was a victim of it because last week I was a willing participant in the experience. I didn’t think about the complaints about Disney movies or any of that angry stuff. Rather than being annoyed that nearly every Disney animated movie starts with the mother dying or the child being an orphan I reminded myself that a good story has to start with a challenge and some conflict to resolve, and left it at that. (If you don’t believe me you may want to read about mythic structure in stories by reading either “A Hero With a Thousand Faces” by Joseph Campbell or the new third edition of “The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers 3rd edition” by Christopher Vogler.

I was so out of touch that while on the plane ride home while channel surfing during a commercial while I was watching a new-to-me show “Make Me a Supermodel”, I found out the State of the Union Address was happening. (I felt ashamed to have been so in the dark.) In my defense, when I found out it was on I did watch some of it. No one in my line of vision was watching the President speak either. The 30 something man next to me was watching “Family Guy” a cartoon rated PG-14, which I watched for a couple of minutes and was shocked at the content of. Others around me were watching the same model show as I was and also "America’s Next Top Model", ESPN (did you know Disney owns ESPN?), "Brett Michael’s Rock of Love II" (a reality show on VH1 in the style "The Bachelor" which has been pornified and pushes boundaries in my opinion). At one point while on the plane ride home, I stood up to stretch my legs and it was a sight to see a dark airplane with every person watching TV on all different channels, plugged in and focused on the little screens, with only one person watching the President. I wished I had my camera handy as I would have loved to take an existing light photo of that as there was something very creepy about the whole thing. But I digress…

Back to the trip itself, I didn’t wonder was emails were coming in (I still haven’t opened my email.) I didn’t feel the urge to peek at my blog or publish a prepared posting for five full days. (That is an amazing thing for me, trust me.) I didn’t write anything nor did I create anything at all (art wise). This trip was about consuming and living only in the moment.

Ignorance is bliss let me tell you. I feel like I willingly went to live in Plato’s cave by buying that Disney resort vacation, and living in that artificial world, but now I have to come back out to the real world. It’s almost too bad that I can’t go back to living my whole life like that, in that land of being just a passive recipient of fun and entertainment, where I’m living in a literal artificially constructed world where fun and entertainment are daily goals which always get fulfilled, then to go to sleep, wake up, and do it all over again. Other than parenting my kids, I had no true responsibilities. It was so easy to live where the only decisions I had to make were about which park to visit, which rides to go on, what to eat for meals and which souvenirs to buy.

“One of the great ironies upon visiting Disney World is the wave of relief that overwhelms you upon entering the place—relief to be free of the nerve-shattering traffic and the endless ugly sprawl. By contrast the Disney resort seems like a verdant sanctuary. That was the plan, of course—Team Rodent left the park buffered with thousands of unspoiled acres, to keep the charmless roadside schlock at bay.”
- Team Rodent by Carl Hiaasen, page 5

In fact as we drove around the resort I observed the careful planning that made it seem like the place was huge and undisturbed. They don’t do that everywhere, I noticed but they do it at intersections and places where you are likely to notice, it seemed to me. Careful observation revealed to me that planning by architects and landscape architects reveals that things are tucked away and hidden carefully to make the place look more pretty and larger than it is. I noticed careful landscaping hiding what would be considered normal wild roadside plants and swampy areas. Just as in Epcot where they make you walk a long time to reach your destinations, the roads and roadside landscaping do make you think you are in a fancy, sprawling resort, when in fact I was surprised to see that we were practically a stone’s throw to Epcot despite its gates being a five minute drive away.

Truth be told, our “moderate level” Disney resort was nothing more than a cheap motel on grounds seen more typically at high-end resorts. But I put these observations and opinions all to the side, as I did also the complaints I had about our room, and let myself believe the image that was being displayed as believing the myth made me happier and happy was what I wanted to be. And so I was happy. And life was good.

This feeling so far removed from the real world was accomplished in part by the fact that my husband accidentally forgot to bring the electrical power cord and battery recharger for his laptop. We didn’t want to pay $10 a day to the Disney resort to get high speed access, so I was online only for about 20 minutes, with a slow dial up connection in those eight days, limited by the low and eventually dead battery. My husband had to drive to a nearby Panera Bread a few times to check his business email on his handheld. He kept in touch with the world more than I did, relying on his cell phone to talk with relatives and business associates. I was intentionally withdrawing from the real world.

We were so busy and having so much fun that we both didn’t even have the time (or much desire) to watch TV news (we just wanted to crash at night as soon as we returned to the hotel room). We were so far removed from real life that my husband didn’t even know that the Fed lowered the interest rate by ¾ of a percent for a day and a half. (As my husband told his friend that is a true measure of what a good time we were having on our vacation, to be so out of touch with the real world as to not know that!) And yippee also, because that is now saving us hundreds a month!

We got home at about one this morning. After sleeping in, the kids and I are reacquainting ourselves with our home. I’m doing a laundry marathon. And still resisting opening my email…

Some other time I may write about our experiences and give tips about visiting Disney World and do a book review on the fantastic travel book that I used to help plot our trip. I have abandoned the Birnbaum Disney guides and converted to “The Unofficial Guide to Walt Disney World With Kids” by bob Sehlinger and Liliane J. Opsomer with Len Testa.

Books Referred to in This Post

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