Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Vacation (on exit)

Jean, over at This Too andthistoo.blogspot.com/2005/07/ouf.html evokes the panic of leaving behind that daily grind for the mandated two weeks of bliss. Whatever mind games we play inside our own heads, time marches relentlessly forward, and one day, it is time. Time to play!

A blessed break, but too loaded, too short, too… too everything. Too tired, right now, too achy, still resounding with the huge, reluctant effort of trying to take control at work, so that crises won’t erupt and make me ‘look bad’ in my absence.

I deserve to look bad. I do a really crap job of things, only just managing to hide this, thanks to a well-honed sense of what will be noticed and what won’t.

We know we need the break—heaven knows we need it badly—but stopping our frenetic forward motion is harder than it seems it ought to be. Convinced that all our little shortfalls, accumulated into dust bunnies and virtual piles of stuff in the corners, we fret that all manner of oversights will come to light while we are cavorting elsewhere. Sometimes this does happen to people—the bookkeeper who put the property tax bill in the bottom drawer because he didn’t know what to do with it comes to mind—and the fact that certain states (New York) have laws that govern certain industries (banking) and require employees to sign a statement that they have been out of the office for two full weeks a year indicates that some people think a prolonged absence from the office should be mandatory.

The theory is that a fraud scheme would be uncovered in the two weeks that the presumed perpetrator is absent from the office. Personally, I like to think that if I were inclined to commit fraud that I would be bright enough to design one that could sustain a two week hiatus, but perhaps that is overconfidence on my part.

In any case, I’m sure that really bad stuff does come to the surface in the course of many a two-week vacation. But honestly, Jean, these things tend not to happen to overly responsible people like you and me. What tends to happen to people like us is that we come back and we look at the shreds and details that cluttered up the landscape that is our desk—and we find that many of them are irrelevant. What tends to happen is that we find the courage to drop—definitively—those items that always slide to the bottom of the “to do” list right off the list. What tends to happen is that nothing falls apart, except that maybe people missed having the “go to” girl right there on the spot and maybe they value us a little more, if only for a few days.

That blessed relief is what vacation is all about.

In my over-enthusiastic, over-committed, over-responsible approach to work, I have again and again had the experience of feeling torn as I leave for weekend or longer break. Sometimes I take huge files along with me, or the laptop. Within hours the excessive sense of responsibility has evaporated, leaving all that work just sitting. Waiting. With practice, I have gotten to where I can make it wait till the Sunday night before I have to go back into the work world, and it does ease re-entry if I can do a little organizing the night before. Mondays, especially the Mondays after a vacation, are wild roller-coaster of days, but then it is all better again. Then I can feel the renewed strength and the improved perspective that is the gift of a vacation.

I’m off for a mini-vacation, myself—three days in Montreal. A tiny treat to celebrate the occasion of not being required to go look for a better paying job, a break from the fray.


zhoen said...

When we lived in Salt Lake, we would go up to Lava Hot Springs for two days. Nothing to do but soak and read and dither. It was always my birthday trip, in February. Most wonderful to soak outside in hot water in frigid weather. Once we were snowed on. Nothing whatever to do, not much open, not many people around. It slowed us down, so that it was a real break, very healing and boring enough to make work appealing again.

I highly recommend a similar vacation.

Amy said...

Sending blessed relief wishes your way.

Jean said...

Oh, what a surprise to come over here and find you quoting me! Hope you're enjoying Montreal very much, Karen.