“For your Christmas present, the brothers and I want to take you and Dad to Sayulita, Mexico. And we want to pay for everything.”

What?! My oldest stepson, Pat, had taken charge and took me by sweet surprise. He, Matt, and Rory wanted us all to return to Mexico for another family fishing trip. We hadn’t gone  since they were teenagers, and they had decided it was time to smoke cigars, drink tequila, and sail over the deep blue sea.

“But we want to surprise Dad. Can you keep it a secret?”

I rolled my eyes. Keeping secrets from my husband, Bob, would not be easy.  Sure, I’d sometimes stashed the Macy’s bags in the back of my car for later (Oh, this old thing? I’ve had it forever!) but this would be a really BIG SECRET.  I’d have to clear both our calendars, schedule the air flights on a separate credit card, and—most importantly—weigh in on the lodging.

“Pat, that’s great, honey, but on one condition: I want to pick the house, okay?” Because this time I wanted to be happy.

In previous trips I’d practiced great humility and wifely obedience, virtues Bob sometimes think have long since disappeared: I’d let him plan everything including picking the vacation house sight unseen. When we’d arrived, and I saw that they were, well . . . dumps . . . I’d been deeply dismayed. But, in true pioneer spirit, I’d made the best of it, rearranging furniture, remaking beds, opening the curtains, and fluffing up pillows. I’d found some old candles I could put around the house and cut fresh greens from outside to stick in old jelly jars. My efforts were worthy of an HGTV make-over award.

Happiness comes and happiness goes
I searched the internet for Sayulita vacation homes and found the perfect place! It was a highly upgraded, water-front Mexican villa perched on a rugged bluff, with large, open tiled terraces that provided stunning ocean and bay views. Each room was decorated in warm earth-tones and the elegant baths were natural stone and travertine. Beds were lush and layered with plump pillows. The fully-equipped kitchen was open-air, with a large sit-down tequila bar next to an expansive outdoor patio. Green, tropical trees and flowers were everywhere. It was paradise . . . and affordable! I booked it.

On Christmas Eve, Bob was happy! The boys were happy. I was happy.

When we later all arrived at our magnificent casa it was even more breathtaking than the pictures had shown. For five days I slept, ate, napped, read–sipped margaritas with our friends Paul and Ronda who had joined us–and let the men do the fishing, cooking, and bar-tending. We were all so happy.

And then we flew home.

You know the feeling. The brief and beautiful escape from normal life always ends. Happiness comes, happiness goes.

We’re Made for Another World
When happiness here on earth seems elusive, it can drive us to despair or drive us to seek another world. Sometimes, when life gets log-jammed, I just want to run away. It’s consoling to read in Scripture that every once in a while, Jesus wanted to run away, too. “But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed” (Lk 5:16). I can imagine Jesus having walked for hours in the in the hot, desert sun, listening, helping, and healing to the point of being near empty. That’s when he left everyone and everything to take a hike up a hillside or hop in a boat and go into “another world” to be alone with the Father. Maybe his prayers were cried out in loud groans, quietly uttered, or they were just breathing in and giving thanks for the respite. Jesus completely opened himself to be filled divine love and life. Then he could go back and—from the overflow of Love—finish his work. It’s pretty simple, really: with or without the margarita, and on a regular basis, we need to do the same.


Adapted from A Catholic Woman’s Guide to HAPPINESS (St. Benedict Press/TAN Books 2018).