In my mind, vacations should be more than diversions. My goal is to use time away from my ordinary life, to restore and reconnect with my best self. Our recent vacation did that beautifully. I left my job, my home, my responsibilities and entered into an alternate reality. A tropical setting, both familiar and unknown, people who have known me all of my days, and a good mix of excitement and boredom combined in a powerful way to reconnect me to myself.
It has been a very tough couple of years in my life. Struggles at work, life and family changes and losses, have worn on me. We’ve had much to celebrate and much to grieve and all of that has taken a toll on my soul. It has felt a lot like being strapped to a rocket. I’ve been hanging on for dear life. I am a ponderer. I need time to sit back and reflect, to process information (which is why writing is so vital to my well-being), and to think deeply about what is happening both in my life and in my heart. This breakneck speed has limited my ability to process information and emotion and left me lesser for it.
There is this scene from a book I read in college, where the main character sees her reflection in a mirror and considers how “narrow and dartlike” she has become. I know that feeling, of having life push and pull me until all the flowing softness, lingering questions, and open-ended wonder has been compressed and tucked away into a narrow, efficient, steely dart. I don’t want to live that way.
I want to sit quietly next to people I love and say nothing for an hour.
I want to ride a jet ski out into the ocean only to find that I am scared, really scared, and then find the courage to keep going.
I want to enjoy a second (or third) kind of Key Lime Pie.
I want to wear my bathing suit and silence the inner critic.
I want to stand in sun struck awe at the overwhelming beauty of a deserted island 70 miles from anywhere.
I want to sit on the pier as the sun paints the sky in soft pastels.
I want to snorkel out of the safety of the bay and try my skills.
I want to explore a familiar city as a tourist.
I want to let my guard down with the people I love most in the world.
I want to explore a theme park like a 13-year-old.
I want to sail into the sunset.
Over vacation, I did these things and more. The combination of salt water, sand, and sky worked magic and gave me time to reconnect to some parts of my life that have been hammered away by time and pressure. It felt like I re-inhabited myself, like my soul opened up and filled out my life again. It was very good.
I didn’t realize how good until I returned to work. The stark reality of my full-self walking into the pressure cooker of my workplace presented me a clear sense, for the first time, of the cost of this job. I realized it was time to make some decisions. So, I am in the process of making the changes I need to be whole. It is so easy to be trapped in a life that no longer suits you, easier still to be caught as a victim of past choices.
I’m lucky. One of the most important lessons my Mom taught my sister and I is how to trust in our ability to recreate our life as needed. She did it over and over. We watched as she picked up pieces of her past experience and with sheer force of will and hard work wove them together in a new pattern. This lesson gave me hope when I was a young mom raising my kids feeling like life was passing me by. It gave me hope to walk toward a college degree in my thirties, and now, as I approach a new decade it gives me hope to know that I still have both the opportunity and the responsibility to create a life that works for me.
So, how was your vacation?
This is part of my 50 before I’m 50 challenge. I hope you follow along and join in the fun!