Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Incredible Lightness of Getting Away

Do you need a vacation, or a vacation from your vacation?

Just the anticipation of an upcoming getaway is sometimes enough to help us get through a little more of what we thought we could no longer bear. We’ll push that much harder just to get through to the long-awaited time off and trip away. We may even be willing to lose sleep to get done what needs to get done, tie up those loose ends, and make our transition back that much (hopefully) easier.

I love the anticipation of vacation, even if it’s months away. I’ll make lists of things to pack, places to go and things to do before I set off on the horizon. When I have enough time in which to do this, I enjoy the planning and slow anticipation of a carefree lifestyle and renewed outlook. But often, this ends up being a luxury I can’t really afford, with time and serenity being somewhere off in the elusive distance.

Ideally, who doesn’t plan at least somewhat for vacation? We have to plan the destination, the getting there, getting around and getting back. We might plan activities ahead of time. Are we swimsuit ready, do we have the right suitcase, who will feed the pets, will we get all our work done at the office, and will we be able to foresee and sidestep any mishaps that may arise?
Even with all of this strategizing, we feel fortunate to be able to get away, don’t we? With our busy, demanding lives, vacation at times and to some can seem just a pipe dream, however. But I will argue that not making some time to ‘get away’ – whatever that means to you – actually hurts us more in the long run.

Whatever ‘high maintenance’ qualities vacation can take on, think about the demands of our daily lives. There’s so much coming and going, preparation and expectation, consequence-handling and reacting. When one problem is solved or dissolved, we move right onto the next one. Many of us feel responsible for everything around us going smoothly while we’re being pulled in multiple directions at one time. We probably don’t feel we have much – if any – of a cushion to fall back on, whether in terms of money, support or sanity. To ‘drop it all’ for a week or so can even bring on more stress and anxiety.

But again, I argue - To question not just how we got here, but why we’re still here (in this frantic pace) is precisely what the subconscious will do while you’re “away”. That part of you that knows what joy and peace and wellbeing feel like will shed its business suit and languish in every moment of free time you allow it. It will frolic, laugh and play, siesta in the afternoon, and buy silly souvenirs. But when you’re not paying attention, it will do some of the most important work - It will evaluate your life, hone in on what matters most, and point to what’s getting in the way.

This dialogue between our frantic self and our serene self is crucial in the balancing of our lives. And since vacation is the serene self’s time to shine, the frantic self (usually willingly) steps aside. Yet it is only by working together – being whole - that we can see the grains of wisdom falling through our butterfly net or out of the vast cosmos. And the easy feelings that vacation eventually brings relaxes us enough to let the clarity and meaning in.

“The best news of all is that we never really lose vacation mind,” Stephen says. It is entirely possible to feel peace in the midst of the anxiety and whatever else is going on; we don’t have to always remove the anxiety first. With vacation, Stephen adds, “You’re rolling to a stop rather than putting on the breaks. You are simply enjoying yourself naturally, rather than trying to force it.”

So have you taken a break from your typical life lately or are you at least planning to?

A new perspective can truly be a blessing, even if we simply replace a fraction of our usual daily routine with a dose of vacation bliss. What can really be so important that we don’t take care of our deepest needs? Whose world are we trying to keep spinning atop those various plates and dancing puppets? And if it’s our most personal, intimate world that’s got us so uptight and anxious, now’s the chance to rethink, re-focus and recreate. Starting someplace exotic.