I am on vacation. I love vacations but I’m not very good at being on vacation. When asked the difference between me being on vacation or me being at work – my answer was ‘wearing shorts’.
That’s not a good answer let alone a funny answer. Fortunately I have got much better than I used to be (at taking vacations rather than humour). Better at switching off (my cell phone) and turning off (my thinking). Time away from work is good for us. Good for our friends, our family and good for our work. Good for our minds and good for our souls.
I used to give back vacation days to my company all the time. Quite a strange concept really when I think about it. I never use to get any additional pay, nor praise, nor promotion. I just worked more days. I don’t now.
The thing about vacations – the obvious and beautiful thing – is that I always feel better, stronger and more able after I have had time off. Insurmountable problems seem straight forward. The unattainable opportunity appears within reach. And the everyday frustration miraculously becomes a daily delight. That confounding conversation morphs into a game changing exchange.
And I am sure distance is crucial to a good holiday. Physical distance to an extent – but more so mental distance. I have to feel a long way away. I have to be distracted. By where I am, who I am with, what we do…and by what I don’t do and where I am not, and who isn’t there. Both literally (who is there next to me) and figuratively (whose emails am I reading and phone calls am I taking).
Not being where we are routinely allows me to think differently and to think different things. Ideas I have supressed or not assessed become obvious. Possibilities I have precluded become realities. Topics, ideas, solutions and opportunities that would never have occurred to me become the norm. But for this to happen I have to be distant. I am out of office. I am not on line. I am off email. My phone rings unanswered…or silently…or both.
The distance concept can sound strange…but it’s true. How often do we say or hear…’I don’t have time to think’? Or ‘I have no space’? Our surroundings can constrain our creativity. When we are too close to something there can just that one way of viewing and thinking. One way of doing or answering.
And then I am away. Waking from that afternoon nap; looking up from that book I promised myself; or turning for home from that long walk – a time when work seems a million miles away — that we suddenly find the answer I’ve needed all along.
A long weekend. A week away. Ten days. It’s not so much the length of time for me – it’s the place. It’s the difference and distance. And for me it’s my family. That unconditional love and simplicity of pleasure that comes from being distant together.
So I have my shorts on. My legs are on display (I know – too much information). We didn’t do anything today. But we did nothing together. We sat with friends. Told stories and listened. Laughed. And laughed some more.
An occasionally I thought. Ideas came to mind. Things to do. Or not. Or change or increase. I did word puzzles and read the news, and chatted about unrelated and different and important topics. I let my mind wander. And then I didn’t.
Guilt is the most useless of all emotions. I am on vacation and vacations are important and are deserved. I have no guilt. Just shorts.