I’m back after four weeks of vacation, and in all honesty I will say that it was more stressful than you’d normally expect, for vacation time. Don’t get me wrong- there was good stuff going on, including family time, time away, time camping- but there was stress involved, too.
The first week was spent here at home, with a houseful of people. People I love. But I have lived on my own for almost twenty years, and having a houseful of people, no matter how dear they are, was exhausting. The second week of my vacation I flew to California to be with my parents, who live across the bay from San Francisco. That visit was filled with the sorts of challenges that happen when parents are in their late 80s, going through the life changes and medical issues that are the normal part of that stage of life. Trying to be a dutiful daughter in absentia, from a distance of almost 6,000 kilometers, means finding creative ways of trying to help them maintain the independence they protect so fiercely. I need to make the most of the short amount of face-to-face time we have together.
I am blessed with extended family who do live near my parents. My cousins and their spouses are so generous with their time and their love, that they go out of their way to make check in on my folks every few days. They offer to take them to appointments, they stop in for coffee, they make sure that if there is anything my parents need, they find a way to make that happen. I don’t know what we would do without them. They give of their time and their energy out of the bottomless well of love in their hearts.
The third, and half of the fourth week, were spent “glamping” with Stephen, with one week in a local hideaway, and half a week visiting friends near Saint John. This was time spent decompressing from the first two weeks. The final half week of my vacation I spent at home alone, basking in the silence and the solitude.
And on the next-to-last day of my vacation I had the pleasure and the privilege of going to Berwick Camp (first time visit for me!) to preach at the Sunday evening opening worship.
The thing that struck me most about this year’s vacation time how much I craved that time alone, by the end of it. As an introvert, it was vitally important to me to have my solo time. I’m grateful to Stephen that when I told him I wanted to be alone for at least a few days, he understood entirely. No guilt trip, no, “But I’ll miss you!” Just, “See you later!”
I wonder how much of us get caught up in the busy-ness of our lives, even our so-called leisure time, to the detriment of our inner peace. There’s a culture of busy-ness that can be very seductive. Almost a one-upmanship issue. ‘Look how much I’m doing! Look at how busy I am! I must be important, because I am putting in so many hours of work each week! Over and above 40 hours!’ We can get caught up in a spiral of working longer and longer hours, taking less and less time alone with our own thoughts and feelings, needs and desires.
Now, I realize I’m speaking from the perspective of an introvert. I’m aware that extroverts have a different way of re-connecting with their energy. Extroverts re-energize by immersing themselves in people and company. So what I’m saying here might sound really bizarre to an extrovert. But you introverts will know what I’m saying. Time alone, time of solitude, doing whatever, whenever, is vital for my/our mental health. My time alone was spent doing housework: catching up on laundry, chasing cat hair with the vacuum cleaner, watering plants. I watched lowest-common-denominator TV and read books and ate potato chips. Many potato chips. And it was life-giving. I wish I had another week to do more of the same.
We all have the things in our lives that are life-giving, and we all deal with things that can suck the energy out of us. The important thing is to recognize which are which, and to make sure the balance is tipped to the life-giving side as much as possible. Our scriptural warrant shows Jesus going off by himself when necessary, to reconnect with his God and with his own sense of self, and mission, and ministry. If we are to live the life of abundance that is God’s wish for each of us, we’d do well to follow the example of Jesus, and to challenge the demands of busy-ness that life can throw at us. My vacation time was a good experience for me to re-commit myself to taking care of myself. I think that next year I’ll build in more quiet time, when I plan my time off. I’m already looking forward to it!