Staycation

Week one of rest and recovery is already behind me. It’s an interesting thing to tell yourself you have two weeks to do only what you feel like doing. There’s a certain restlessness that ensues. Voices in my head tell me I’m supposed to be doing something productive. This has led to signing up for a couple of online classes–one for my future work and the other for enjoying life.

But which class have I spent time on? Well, it’s not the one on enjoyment. Ironically, the topic I’ve been procrastinating is separating self-worth from exhaustion and productivity.

I suspect the idea of not exhausting myself through productivity is scary.

After all, what’s one of the first questions we ask one another when we meet in a social setting? “What do you do?” How many times have we asked that question? How many times have we answered it? How often do we answer with our jobs?

“What do you do?” has all kinds of implications. We don’t ask “What’s important to you?” or “What do you like the most about yourself?’ or “What do you most want to be remembered for?” Can you imagine someone asking you something like that upon first meeting? It would feel far too personal. Instead, we ease our way into finding out what really matters to a person by asking them about their career.

Yet, what do we actually learn about a person by asking about what they do? I think about the mothers and fathers I’ve known who have chosen to stay home with their children in favor of a paid career and their discomfort with this question. Whenever I have blundered into asking a stay-a-home parent what they do, they have usually answered with a self-conscious, “Well, I don’t work. I stay home with the kids.” To which I have inevitably replied, “Well that’s certainly work! There’s nothing easy about your job,” in my attempt to make them feel valued.

Yet even this response points to our cultural expectation that hard work is what makes a person valuable. Acknowledging that parenting is hard work may be accurate, but it still values work first. Imagine if someone said, “I try to do very little. I spend most of my day just being.” Wouldn’t we immediately want to know how to “do” being? What does that even look like?

I have spent the past week spending more time relaxing, but this tends to mean a combination of being more active and then vegetating. I’ve ridden my bike more, walked more, hiked more, done more yoga, done more shooting, and laid on the couch more. I’ve also played a lot of euchre (it’s a card game) on my iPad and napped.

The paradox of letting go of my career identity seems to be that I find other things to do instead. Is this progress? Or am I just distracting myself from deeper truths that can only be revealed in stillness?

Socks and Sandals

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I’ve allocated for myself two weeks of vacation before I start working on Coop Guitars. I have decided to spend this time taking care of myself by doing only what I feel like doing.
Today, I felt like riding my bike to a yoga class a 20 minute ride away. So, I rode my bike 20 minutes across town and took that yoga class at 10:30 in the morning–a time I’ve never been free to go to yoga class before.
I breathed through the class with the presence of mind I always want in yoga class but rarely achieve.
As I rode my bike back across town, climbing a hill into a head wind on surprisingly fatigued legs, I wanted the traffic light mid-way up the hill to turn green. I was determined it was going to change. And it did! But it changed to a left turn arrow and I was going straight.
Had I trusted the strength of my will to control traffic lights less, I might have unclipped a shoe from my pedals. Instead, I crashed to the ground in one of those humiliating moments I have become all too accustomed to. On the plus side, I have gotten pretty skilled at falling. I managed to fall slowly enough to only scrape one knee slightly.
This just goes to prove you can’t always get what you want. Not even when you’re on a vacation to do only what you please.
I popped up quickly, hoping to avoid alarming any drivers who were probably wondering how on earth I managed to fall in the first place. I pedaled home surprisingly non-plussed. After all, it was a moment and it was gone.
I returned home to a quiet dog who had been home alone for 2 full hours. This is a new record. My husband returned for lunch at the same time. We sat on the floor with our ecstatic dog running in circles, flopping himself over periodically on top of us, and giving us stinky dog kisses whenever we didn’t move fast enough. We laughed at his antics and sheer joy that we had returned safely.
Then, I felt like walking the dog. I slipped my Chacos over my socks. I felt like wearing socks with my sandals. I walked around the park for the 2nd time today feeling my feet in my socks, warm and comfy. I listened to the frogs singing of spring. I looked for the Flicker calling loudly in a dead tree. I watched a turtle swimming slowly through the wetland. I saw a friend and chatted with her about the joy of walking in socks and sandals.
Then, I made myself a smoothie. Full of goodness–local honey, whey protein, frozen organic berries, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Then, I decided I felt like writing a post on a day when I don’t write posts anymore.
It’s funny what can feel like an adventure.

Time Out

This is my last day of a one-week vacation.  Instead of going somewhere, a friend came down for a week of hiking in the area.  I managed to disconnect from my day job completely.

The reality is that work is going on without me.  I may have a few messes to fix when I get back, but those messes probably would have happened whether I was there or not.  And if I weren’t there, someone else would figure out how to clean them up.

I choose to take from this the lesson that if there is time for me to take a week away, there is time for me to take a breath during the day.  There is time for me to stop at a reasonable hour and pick up again the next day.  There is time for me to take care of myself regardless of what messes come up.

I re-learned the truth of how important unplugged time is to me.  Going out into the wilderness where there were no sounds besides the wind blowing through the trees, water tumbling over rocks, and occasional conversation with my friend brought with it a sense of connectedness with the world around me that hours in front of a computer cannot achieve.

The computer, whether for work or just for fun, takes me away from the here and now.  Choosing footholds along a rocky trail puts me intensely in the present moment in a way that’s hard to achieve typing on a keyboard or reading an email.

I also re-learned the power of physical exertion.  The sense of aliveness and appreciation for every bone, muscle, blood cell in my body intensifies as the trail becomes more challenging.  The ability to move myself rhythmically up a steep rocky climb turns into a sense of power and wonder.  The body is a marvelous thing to inhabit when it’s working well.

And, I re-learned the joy of pushing limits just a little.  Hiking with a friend who hasn’t hiked much helped keep me from over-doing.  It kept the soreness to a minimum and allowed me to enjoy what I was capable of without suffering what might otherwise have been the pain of over-exertion.  Happy medium is called “happy” for a really good reason.

Taking time away also gave me the time and energy to consider alternative possibilities.  The freed energy led to imagination and my imagination went wild.  At the end of a week of time “off”, I find myself full of hope.  Hope that I can make time for what is most important to me.  Hope that anything truly is possible.  Hope that life can be joyful on a daily basis.  Hope that I can return to my “normal” life and make it a little less normal and a little more peaceful.  Hope that if I can do that, the world as a whole can be more peaceful, too.

It was a good vacation.