Canyon Ranch is the kind of place where they have prunes at the salad bar, lectures on the function loss of an aging brain, early morning water aerobics classes, and courses on how to moisturize your elbows so you aren’t embarrassed to wear short sleeve shirts during menopausal hot flashes. It’s a place where you hear conversations about the frequency of people’s bowel movements regularly (pun intended), and where everyone’s biggest worry (including myself) is what time they should schedule their nightly massage.
I had been researching the resort for a few months but didn’t commit to going until I reached the other side of a pretty epic bender. You see, this past Sunday I was invited to a wine tour. The wine tour tuned into drinks at the Peninsula. Drinks at the Peninsula turned into an embarrassingly awkward tragically disastrous sexual experience; and the tragically disastrous sexual experience turned into a 2am $34 Domino’s pizza delivery. (And spending $34 at Domino’s is like spending $34 at McDonald’s: it pretty much means you purchased one of everything on the menu. You could basically feed a family of 6.)
Now most of you 20-somethings and early-30-somethings might be thinking “what’s the big deal? This is just a normal weekend for me and my mates.” But not for me. I’m different from your average bear. I rarely drink (my sponsor won’t allow), I almost never have sex (this even confuses my therapist), and I DEFINITELY DON’T eat Domino’s pizza. In fact, I’m still in shock that my credit card company didn’t call and alert me or decline the Seamless Web order.
Basically, I’m like a small child. I need constant structure. Without my self-imposed schedule, rules, and routine, I crumble. I’m the type of person that during a power outage could probably figure out how to make crystal meth just to pass the time. You know that saying “the devil makes work for idle hands?” Yea well, I’m pretty sure one of my grade school teachers came up with it to describe me at a parent teacher conference.
So keeping the above information in mind, you can imagine the level of pure disgust I felt when I woke up with a bag of frozen raspberries taped to my head, six cardboard Domino’s pizza boxes thrown about the living room, two condom wrappers (the only victory of the night) lodged between my headboard and a Facebook feed filled with my usual drunken propaganda (which of course needed to be deleted immediately ). In this moment I was damaged, lost, and vulnerable that if a Jehovah’s Witness would have knocked at my door I would have started crying, hugged them, renounced all my possessions, and moved with them to their compound (or something like that ).
I spent the better part of day lying in bed, drifting in and out of something I’m going to refer to as “mini-sleep naps.” I was feeling entirely new levels of sorry for myself. It was my hangover ritual. I punished myself over and over again by counting the drinks, counting the calories, and piecing together the events of the evening.
Admittedly, it was challenging to recall anything past about 9pm. Eight full months without intercourse and all I can remember from the evening’s “intimate moment” was that it involved a self-diagnosed mild concussion, a teenage girl, a broken glass vase, and me locking myself in the bathroom for an extended period of time (not necessarily in that order).
Only in Sarah Miller world would I have zero happy sex memories but remember every single GMO-filled bite of that naughty devilish 2am carbo-load delivery. In fact, by the very end of the night, I had even sobered up enough to vividly (very vividly) remember my last thought before passing out. In all my glory it was: “YESS … there’s totally some Domino’s left over for breakfast”. (Which would have been a fine goodnight sign-off if I were a 13-year-old boy, pre-rehab Britney Spears, or pregnant Jessica Simpson.)
Upon reaching the point where I felt totally satisfied with the amount of brain power and number of hours I devoted to fully saturating myself with regret, I decided I needed to get up, shower, and dig myself out of this whole I created. It was never easy but I always came out the other end of situations like these a little bit wiser. (And truth be told, a tad bit fatter. The fucking Domino’s ……the fucking Domino’s.)
In the process of changing my bed sheets I had the brilliant idea that a wellness retreat was the answer to all my problems. I was convinced if I could just get out of the city for 4 or 5 days that I would return feeling refreshed, happy, and fully detoxed. I suppose booking this trip is kind of like when an overweight person catches themselves binge eating on cookies at midnight when all of a sudden an infomercial for P90X comes on and they order it because it’s obviously going to fix the hole in their sole, mow the lawn, do the laundry, and give them a six pack in 30 days or less. (Disclaimer: results not typical.)
So with this delusional philosophy in mind, and with the phone in one hand and a bag of frozen veggies nursing my head wound in the other, I called and booked the trip to Canyon Ranch Lennox. The whole process took only minutes and in about 24 hours I would be zip lining, sipping organic detox teas, and doing trust falls with other fairly well-off mentally unstable professionals.
I left early Wednesday morning from Penn Station via Amtrak. The train ride went smooth and I was feeling extremely impressed with my decision to go to the ranch. I just knew this was going to fix everything. What could be better than a “dry” resort in the middle of the woods with tons of group activities? . It would be just like rehab but with better food, wireless internet, and a heated indoor pool. It’s basically a sober atheists version of heaven.
Unfortunately, from almost the moment I got there I had this sinking feeling that it wasn’t going to be the answer I was searching for (and counting on). I walked into the resort kicking myself for turning a blind eye to some red flags that I had noticed on their website just moments before booking my stay. I wouldn’t even waste an hour going on a date with someone who believes in tarot card readings, but here I was devoting 5 days, a few thousand dollars, and my gosh darn sanity to an establishment that not only endorses its legitimacy but charges a premium for the service.
Approximately ten minutes into the “welcome” tour I found myself overcome with both anger and with fear. The anger was directed towards the Canyon Ranch mini-van driver that picked me up from the train. The dude spent the entire 45 minute ride to the resort telling me about celebrities like Tyra Banks who (and I quote) “come to the ranch all the time”. The fear came from the fact that everyone I was seeing at the ranch was clearly over the age of 60 (but looked 50); and well, in general, aging fucking terrifies me; and by “fucking terrifies,” I mean if you ever happen to see me crying uncontrollably there’s a 1% chance its because someone I loved died and there’s a 99% chance it’s because I ran out of my favorite eye cream.
My unhealthy obsession with aging was now all around me. It was like my tailor-made episode of the Walking Dead. How can I be expected to relax here when at every moment I’m surrounded by my impending doom by my miserable fate?
I decided that for $4,900 I was going to force myself to make the most of the trip. At the very worst, I could just move my bed out of my room, into the spa, and get 24 hour massages. All while being handfed grapes and chatting with the other women residents about how I’m here celebrating my 52nd birthday. So I went to bed that night with the determination to make tomorrow a great day.
I sat alone at breakfast. I watched all the other guests come in to eat together. As I sat there I begin to fully understand why old people go to McDonald’s to eat alone and then sit there for hours to drink coffee and read the newspaper. It’s because although you’re completely alone, watching others interact provides this strange sense of peace and calm. I suppose one would describe it as a happy feeling. The older I get, the more experiences I have, the more I learn to value positive, lasting, and meaningfully relationships. I also decided at that breakfast that I was going to combat my loss of youthful beauty by continuing to keep more and more awesome. It’s difficult to notice someone’s wrinkles when you’re laughing so hard that you’re doubled over and your eyes are completely filled up with happy tears.
After breakfast I headed over to the spa area to meet for an 8:15am 22-mile mountain biking expedition. I was the only person on the sign-up sheet, which may sound pathetic, but don’t worry, I had an angle…..
The instructors’ names were on the activity sign-up sheet and I noticed that their names were Bob W. and Darren. Besides this being an obvious sign from the AA gods, I came to the logical conclusion that anyone instructing a 22-mile bike ride would be young, fit, and my potential soul mate. Anyway, even if that’s a little crazy, it sure beat the hell out of sitting around the ranch all day waiting to overhear if Betty finally moved her bowels or not.
It turned out to be one older man and one younger guy. The younger guy was about my age and the older guy was about my dad’s age. I basically road alone the whole time because I turn even fun, relaxed actives into my own version of the Olympic games. I’m that girl: sucking the fun out of family touch-football games, gym class pick-up scrimmages, and walks for charity since 1986.
You should note that riding by yourself on this particular hiking trail was the social equivalent of going to Crate and Barrel alone on a Sunday afternoon . Without anyone to talk to for 22 miles , I started coming up with “that’s what she said” jokes about the bike ride to pass the time. Enjoy :
My butt’s going to be SO sore tomorrow;
I don’t think I’m going to finish;
Wow, this is a lot longer than I thought;
I don’t care how long this takes I’m not going to give up;
This would have been so much more fun if we invited friends;
This isn’t even hard at all.
But the biggest advantage to being alone on this ride was that it awarded me the opportunity to people-watch. I scanned all the couples as I flew by them Tour de France style. I noticed some people walking together, some people jogging together, some people running together, and some people walking together who probably really should have been running together.
I watched the couples. I thought about who I’d want to be with. I thought about who would want to be with me. Who would sign up to spend their lives with someone that competitively bikes their heart out to the point of exhaustion on a relaxing wellness cycling outing all in hopes of making it to the non-existent Canyon Ranch 2020 Olympic Games.
I didn’t have the answers to these questions yet, and unfortunately, despite my best efforts to impress them with my semi-pro biking skills, I don’t think I’ll be planning a wedding with Bob W. or Darren anytime soon.
The point is I did figure out something on that ride. I figured out that I’m always going to want to go fast. I’m always going to only see the end of the ride and it infinitely annoys me when laid back people say “ its not about finishing, it’s the journey” because that’s not how I see it at all. The way I see it is that I want someone to race to the end with. To compete with me and to push me because the sooner we get the end, the sooner we can go relax and the loser (aka my future husband) can buy me brunch.
I would like to dedicate this article to three people:
1. My father: Just remember, it’s not your fault. You did your best. PS — I promise I’ll never do porn.
2. My ex-boyfriend: I waited 8 months. We both knew this was coming (pun intended) . PS — thanks for always being such a good sport about all this.
And last but not least:
3. The guy I had the drunken sexual encounter with: Thanks for not stealing the Breitling watch on my nightstand, for using a condom, and for giving me an experience that I’m sure I’d never forget if I was actually sober enough to remember any of it at all. PS — I’m just not entirely clear on why there were two condom wrappers. If you doubled up, nice work. If we had sex twice, I’m going to have to adjust your bill.