Photo: Eros Hoagland/Redux
Meredith: It's ironic that Katie and I coedit the section of this magazine called Live Your Best Life, because that's not what's going on at 3 P.M. most weekdays, when we e-mail each other from cubicles 15 feet apart: "Coffee?" We shuffle to Starbucks, reciting our worries. For me, these have lately included my wedding, a freelance project, moving, and a slew of new responsibilities at O. My manic schedule leaves scant time to exercise, sleep, hang out with my husband, or anything else that might make me feel less like a bloated robot, so I palliate stress with caffeine and sugar—and my work wife is happy to join me. By 4 I'm stumbling to the office "free" table to scavenge for cupcakes, and if the offerings are good, I e-mail Katie ("OMG an edible chocolate box of truffles!"). In this way our friendship has blossomed, like so many others, over bitch sessions and indulgence of each other's bad habits.
Katie: But our gluttony is anything but gleeful. Maybe it's the fact that I get winded walking up the escalator. Maybe it was the time I realized while buying coffee that my morning cup was still on my desk, not even half empty. Whatever it was, I've begun to see my own caffeine and sugar intake as rooted less in innocent indulgence than the anxiety that constantly plagues me (which gets exponentially worse when, say, my husband is unemployed for nine months, as he was last year). Meredith's hangdog expression—like the one she wore the time we shared, God help us, a chocolate-covered cinnamon roll—indicates that she's arrived at a similar conclusion. Which might be what prompts me one day to send her a very different 3 P.M. e-mail.
"So there's this wellness program in Mexico," it begins. I've stumbled upon a paradise near Playa Del Carmen called El Dorado Casitas Royale, whose Destination Wellness packages seem respectably rigorous (with the $500 three-day plan, participants get up to three one-hour sessions with a personal trainer, unlimited fitness classes, access to the gym, and two massages), despite being situated in a swanky resort. In other words, I sense that it's a place where we can feel good about working out and then feel even better about hitting the beach with a piña colada.
"I've got too much work to do," Meredith replies. I respond: "Which is why you need a vacation."
Day OneKatie: I'm making good time on the subway to JFK—until it slows to an inexplicable crawl. I arrive breathless just a half hour before our flight to Cancún. "You're really late," the ticket agent huffs, snatching my passport. Long after takeoff, I'm still stewing: The stressor is gone, but the stress remains. It's the story of my life. My husband found a great job last fall, but I still flinch every time I pay a bill. We joke that I have "financial PTSD," but the truth is, it's not just money that gets me worked up. Spend nine months in a state of sustained panic, and soon panic becomes your default setting. To wit: On the plane, I have to pop a Xanax when I realize that the customs form is in Spanish and that I can't recall, after three years of language classes, what pregunta means. Which is ironic, because in addition to my atrophied body (it's hard to care about fitness when you're fighting to keep your lights on), I'm bringing to this vacation una pregunta gigante: How do I stop feeling like this all the time?
Next: "How can a few months of stress-driven neglect cancel out years of diligent work?"
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