I had driven enough. It had also rained too much. My family had smoked copious amounts of cigarettes which provided enough second-hand smoke to send my blood pressure through the roof. My nephew had crapped his diaper so many times already that, well… I was speechless about it. To make matters worse, I had a legitimate of fear of angry kidneys making an appearance and ruining my good time on this trip, so I had flooded my urinary system with copious amount water.

This was vacation and I was having fun.

The drive from the beach-side condo to the aquarium was only about forty-five minutes. Even children could manage a drive like that without having any kind of a meltdown like throwing up or wetting their pants. I was managing the first well enough, but the gallon of water I had chugged that morning needed some place to go once my body was done with it. Fortunately, I have complete control over those bodily functions that embarrassed me once or twice…. maybe three or more times as a child, so I held it. I held it for the duration of the drive.

Long drives with children under a year old end with diaper changes. Long drives with smokers end with cigarettes. By the time we arrived, I didn’t have time for either. My bladder was also expressing a high level of impatience with the situation. But, My nephew, having a strong dependence on diapers at ten months old had made good use of the one he was sitting in. So, instead of being able to run in and pay for admission to the aquarium and promptly scamper off to the mens’ restroom, I had to wait.

My steps were rigid as I paced around the parking lot, avoiding the crying baby and smoking parents. Getting too close to either might provoke an angry eruption. Eventually though, they came around and the six of us walked toward the entrance to the Oregon Coast Aquarium. Feeling as though I was unable to walk at a normal pace, I zigzagged back and forth scowled at my family as they moved on their slow, steady course. They pointed out statues and water features as we passed by them. I was only conscious of my filled to capacity bladder and my the seemingly intentionally indolent pace at which they moved.

It wasn’t long before we made it to the entrance, paid and I literally ran to the bathroom. Life was good again when I came out. Mostly, that is. My sister expected an apology for some grumbling that may have happened and for my pre-potty break demeanor. I avoided apologizing and we went on our way. I could tell you about jellyfish and sharks, giant snakes and alligators, but this story isn’t about the aquarium. It’s about my attention-craving bladder.

After a delightful several hours, we left the magical palace of fish and other sea creatures that I’d normally never see. It was fun, but everything has to come to an end. Walking out, I paid attention to the awesome waterfall that landed in a pond full of koi. I made an attempt to examine the giant sculpture near the gate, but my family was disinterested. They had already taken the time to check it out- while I was scampering around wailing about how badly I had to pee. What a shame.

★                    ★                    ★

During my vacation, I read Island, by Aldous Huxley. The whole book espouses the writer’s philosophy on everything from education to relationships and agriculture. It all has a Buddhist slant and also includes bits and pieces of other of the major Eastern religions. It wasn’t a great book, but something that caught my attention and held it throughout the book was the brilliant inclusion of trained Mynah birds. They fly all over the island and call out to its inhabitants. Sometimes they sing, “Attention! Attention!” Other times, “Here and Now!”

Sometimes, we might as well not be where we’re at because we can’t appreciate it. Either our brain is in a totally different place, or we’re so focused on whatever, that nothing else matters. The genius behind the Mynah birds in Island is that they remind people to pay attention. If you aren’t mentally present, how can you be anywhere at all?  Your senses become less meaningful as your perception is distracted.

So, I’m trying to be here and now. I’m trying to pay attention, wherever I’m at. Sure, mental vacations might get me through something boring or painful, but is that a benefit or a drawback? There’s a lot to be said about choosing to be right here, right now.