• Lijing Cobb

Life vacation

Vacation: an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in traveling.

Routine: a sequence of actions regularly followed; a fixed program.

These two things are by definition almost exclusive of each other. We establish routine in our normal life, and vacation is to get away from our normal life. So whatever rhythm we follow in our normal life, when it comes to vacation, that rhythm is invariably disrupted. Sometimes we try to hold on to our routines unsuccessful, and sometimes we want to get as far away from our routine as possible. Sometimes it is a tug of war between the two.

My routines that I want to hold onto but are being disrupted are: reading every day; writing every day. Routines that I am successfully holding onto are: well, really only one, exercising every day. And new habits that I’m picking up because it is vacation time are: drinking every day, and eating ice cream every day.

Oh boy. Does this happen to you?

Why do we give ourselves permission to do the things we deem unhealthy and bad for us in our normal life when we go on vacation? Is it that we go on self-destructive mode on vacation and say, screw it, I’m gonna do whatever I want and that’s all things bad? Or is it that we are just pretending to be “good” in our normal life and the real us get loose and romp around without supervision on holiday? What's going on on vacation that’s making us change our behavior so drastically? What’s going on in our normal life that’s making us put up the pretense that we are so ready to abandon when we get loose from the restrictions of our daily life? Why do vacations and normal life have to be so different?

I think our normal life is all kinds of screwed up, honestly. My friends in Florida we are visiting now got it right. When they got here two years ago and discovered that they could go to the pool and ocean every week on their days off if they choose to, and they can walk, run, and frolic outside whenever they feel like, they decided that this is going to be the permanent home for them. When we live a life that feels right, we don't necessarily have to leave it, right? We can make it work, can't we?

What happens if we live every day like we are on vacation? Do vacations become extinct then? Can we then behave consistently good always and never be naughty?

It is interesting that I just used all those binary epithets to describe routine and vacation, like good and bad, right and wrong, nice and naughty. We live in a world with infinite shades of colors: why do we feel the need to put things into just a few categories, smile and applaud one, frown and condemn another? What’s making vacation “nice” when we choose to do “bad” thing? How does daily life become “boring” when we try to stick to a “good” set of behaviors?

When I’m at home, seeing kids off to school, working with clients, cooking, cleaning, grocery shopping, reading, writing, taking kids to their activities… repeating it on a daily basis, there is a stress barometer that rises every day, until I feel like, ok, this is it, I gotta get away from it all no matter the cost. When I’m on vacation, lazing around, not cleaning, not cooking, eating and drinking all the time, letting kids get away with a lot more than they usually do… towards the end of our vacation I start to dream about home life and the steadiness of it all, and can’t wait to get home. Obviously the logic is simple: it takes removing oneself from one’s station for its goodness to emerge in its full glory.

But I guess the lesson to be learned here is to try to get a little bit of vacation into my life on a more consistent basis so as not to build up the pressure to the exploding point. Maybe getting more curious about what’s happening around me and go, like a tourist on vacation, check it out without hesitation. Maybe go spend a night and day at a friend’s house (or have them over) as a mini vacation, and enjoy some free time when kids play with their friends and adults sit adulting. Maybe be more relaxed about what needs to happen on our days off, but come up with some options and let the rest take care of itself. Making our daily life a bit more novel, unexpected, fun, and NOT so routine: that’s the key, right?

Hmm. That sounds good to me. Staying with a girlfriend for a week also allows me to observe how someone else runs their house and steal their tricks. The single most important word I learned from my girlfriend this time is “easy.” She came up with something different to eat every single day, and when she proposed her meal ideas she would always conclude the conversation with “Good. That’s easy.” Honestly, it was not easy at all getting meals ready for 9 people, but her words carried their weight and her attitude made it seem just that, easy. Effortlessly she routined our stay into a memorable vacation filled with excitement and relaxation at the same time.

Perfection, isn’t it, when someone’s got it all figured out?!

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