We spent this past week in Florida, at my in-laws’ winter home in a golf community in Boynton Beach. We do this every year, my husband and I making the two-day drive with our dog, the kids flying with their great-aunt.
I love going to Florida. I like road trips with my husband, I love that magical shift from 20 degrees to 80 degrees (in just two days!), I love the sun and warmth and swimming and golfing and eating more junk food than usual, and I enjoy the time with family.
But I also get frustrated at having to step out of routines that are just getting started. This happens every year. Our Spring Break trip interrupts my flow just as I’m starting to recover from the interruption of the holidays. (Why does it take me so long to recover from the holidays? Too much sugar, dark and cold winter days, my February birthday that I pretend lasts a week, kids having snow days, a long visit with my Mom and sisters, etc.)
Hoping to stay connected to my “real” life during this year’s Florida trip, I packed my yoga mat, my ‘serious’ books, and my laptop. Would these things nag at me all week, or would I actually use them? I worried Florida would make me so dissatisfied with Pennsylvania that I’d slide back into my old ways of survival and escape instead of living my new, committed life.
Perhaps if I worked harder, it would be easier to fully “vacate” my routine and indulge in distractions for a week. (Okay, so I seem to be headed toward an exposition on vacation and what it means, but before that, a quick caveat: as nice as Florida is, it’s not vacation—I want to help my mother-in-law with the meals and cleaning, I still have to take care of the dog, I still have to spend most of the day maintaining relationships instead of doing my own thing.)
Anyway, Florida-with-in-laws aside, vacations feel like a disruption to a life that I’m trying to create for myself—a life that nurtures me. A typical vacation is an escape from the typical grind. But I don’t have a typical lifestyle, and I don’t want to live by working furiously, neglecting body and spirit, and then running away now and then. I want to live in a way that brings rest and work together every day, a life in which what I do is mostly what I want to do, a life from which I don’t want to escape.
Sure, part of me wants to forget about yoga, meditation, and writing. They require spending time with myself, and time with myself can feel scary and unsettled. (What if I discover, in those quiet moments, that I’m a failure, or lazy, or uninspired, or stupid?)
And sure, I want breaks now and then. I want to see different places and people sometimes.
But my atypical vacation would have to include yoga, meditation, and writing because, ultimately, these things help me remember who I am. They help me relax. They allow me to take time for myself. And isn’t that what vacation is all about?
A vacation that would feel good to me would be one in which I could abandon chores but maintain my work—and still have time for adventures. My ideal vacation would be something like this…
Doesn’t that sound perfect? It may not be my husband’s idea of a great vacation, but he’d make do.
Ideal vacations aside, I managed to feel somewhat balanced in Florida. I did yoga twice, my mat outside by the pool, and once (a brief routine) in the hotel room on the way home. I meditated twice, sitting on a chair in the bedroom; I read some poetry; and I even wrote a tiny bit, thumbing words into the “Notes” app on my phone. These things felt good. They weren’t quite enough, but they helped me quay anxiety and enjoy my family. They helped me enjoy the swimming, golfing, shopping, eating out, novel-reading, sunbathing, and napping. And I had fun watching the dog swim in the pool and walking with him on streets replete with flowers, palm trees, green green grass, and a semi-tropical breeze.
We arrived home last night, before 6 p.m. despite Daylight Saving’s Time. Feeling anxious about getting back to routine, I did the week’s grocery shopping and laundry, unpacked everything, and checked my work email. I wanted to create open space for today, space in which to feel normal again.
So here I am, 11:20 a.m., writing but feeling nervous that I still won’t have enough time, sorry that I didn’t get up earlier. This is the stress that I don’t want to feel, the stress that seems an inevitable accompaniment to work, the stress that I want a vacation from.
Maybe (obviously!) that’s the key to vacation: no stress. I could have the ideal vacation listed above and still feel stressed about whether I was doing the right thing at the right time, whether I was writing enough, whether I was having enough fun. Or…I could have a mid-March Pennsylvania, cold and windy, chance of snow every day, and feel peaceful, moving in the flow, happily doing work without rushing through it, content and assured.
So can I give myself a vacation today? Can I forgive myself for sleeping in until almost 9 a.m. after a two-day drive, a time change, and a weather change? Can I trust that I’m doing what I should be doing? Can I trust that everything I want to happen will happen in its own perfect time?
Maybe. In the meantime, I’m glad to be back (and glad that I’m glad—I’m lucky to have a life I want to be in, fully).