We are back home after a week in Kauai, and I could regale you with vacation slideshow descriptions of melting orange sunsets and glittery blue tropical waters and obligingly dramatic whale breaches, but do you want to hear about how amaaaaazing this getaway was OR how it almost all went to complete shit in the Lihue airport?

Travel woes tend to be more memorable than travel wins, which is why I’m sure the beach times will fade all too quickly but I’m not likely to forget the visceral flop-sweat sensation of our vacation being waylaid by quarantine exemption rigamarole and it was ALL MY FAULT.

If you haven’t traveled to Hawaii post-COVID, there’s a fairly involved process in which you must apply for quarantine exemption, either by providing a negative test or showing that you’ve been vaccinated. This is all done via the Safe Travels website, which is not technically a complete piece of shit but is definitely shit-adjacent, particularly when it comes to mobile access.

I’d done all the prep for me and the kids weeks before we left, laboriously filling out the forms and uploading vaccine card images, but for whatever reason when we arrived in Kauai only my own vaccine info was there. This we discovered after being shuttled to a special line for people who hadn’t been greenlit prior to departure; your special QR code gets a green checkmark once you’ve been approved, and most folks were cleared before the flight and had wristbands to prove it. (I had of course noticed this, in a hmmm kind of way, but figured it was like the TSA line: sometimes you sail right through, sometimes you get the intimate muffin-top pat-down.)

Inconvenient and irritating, but not a complete disaster since we all brought physical copies of our vaccine cards, is what I thought. The person checking for the GREEN CHECK could surely just verify the children’s actual irl cards with her own eyeballs and issue the check RIGHT THEN, is what I thought. But instead we were booted from the (increasingly, worryingly long) line and told to re-upload the images before we could try again.

So while many many many minutes ticked by and we all came to deeply regret the various February-in-the-Pacific-Northwest outfits we had worn on the plane, I entered into the fight of my life with that goddamned website and my phone. I re-discovered how well I function in stressful situations, which is not very well at all, and of course I could not get over the fact that I had already uploaded the images weeks ago and kept loudly mentioning that as though anybody cared, as if one single overworked and over-it airport employee was going to be like, OH WHY DIDN’T YOU SAY, right on through with you guys then!

Anyway, it all eventually worked out, the images got saved in the right way and despite no one actually checking our physical cards, I guess that was good enough and certainly not a pointless bit of bureaucracy that could easily be circumvented with a free image editor, and on we went to baggage claim where our suitcases had been forlornly rotating on the belt for so long they’d been placed in the lost and found.

Everything else was mostly smooth sailing and it was a lovely and peaceful stay. Our last trip to Poipu was in 2017, and while of course traveling now is different and vacationing with teenagers is uhhhhh different and I’m different (for instance, more prone to having a sagging body part rudely squeeze itself out of its Miraclesuit confines, ruptured-Pillsbury-can-style), there was a lot of fond familiarity.

We booked this trip so long ago, far enough back that it felt safe to make the commitment — surely things will be okay by THEN — and then of course things remained uncertain and Not Okay, and pretty much until we had cleared the Green Check Big Boss I was more than half-convinced the trip would just … evaporate, to be filed into the bottomless pandemic bucket of Let’s Keep Perspective and Gratitude (But Also Wow This Fucking Sucks). It felt like a dream being there, the good kind that I want to try and hold onto.

(I know, right? How did they get this BIG, and how is Dylan serving such strong ‘I had to find a Halloween costume at the last second so I guess I’m a tourist’ vibes?)

My waistline and the state of the world aren’t really connected and yet I pretty much view them as one and the same: DECLINING INTO ENTROPY.

Probably if you boiled all the past entries of this blog/my brain into a condensed slurry it would have a depressingly high percentage of body image issues and yes I sometimes DO think about what it might be like to not constantly dwell on my own perceived faults, like maybe I could free up some neural space and actually remember some stuff and not be forever wandering around the house like Pulp Fiction Travolta going hmm, what’d I come in here for? And of course now that I’m nearly fifty (!) years old I think back on how eternally mad I was at my younger, less-ravaged body and I’m like oh HONEY, so you’d think I would be better at giving myself a motherfucking break, AND YET.

It’s just … there are *flaps hands* things happening. Thingsssssss. New things. For instance, I have gained some weight in the last couple years, no denying that. But instead of my whole self being, you know, proportionately larger, I’m kind of … a whole new shape? One that doesn’t actually fit very well into clothes any more? I’ve never had an hourglass body but nearly every extra inch now gets packed into my midsection. My waist is one clothing size, my boobs are another, and the rest of me is still another, are you feeling me on this? Like nothing fitted fits, because the size I am doesn’t really exist.

My hips don’t uniformly curve out any more, they have these poochy saddlebags. My jawline and neck are blurring and crumpling. My hair, my god: it wasn’t voluminous to start with but now it’s pitifully thin and dry, and when I put it in a ponytail you can SEE parts of my SCALP.

There are times when I feel closest to my best self, when I can neutrally acknowledge that I am an aging human. I can even feel gratitude, and maybe on a really good day, grace.

But most of the time I am a self-centered hot mess and going through Old Lady Puberty has been a real bummer on top of all the other more legitimate and important bummers.