Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Notes from Abroad

Well, not really abroad so much as not here.  You see, FryDaddy and I have just returned from vacation - the first one we've taken in quite a while that didn't also involve taking work with us.  (We cheated on that just a little, but no hard core writing/research was done.  Promise.)  How strange is it to feel like you're playing hooky when you're on vacation?  But such is the life of the typical American.  And nuts to it, I say.

It's true.  As a society, we work more hours than the rest of the developed world, have fewer days off, and rarely take all of the one we have.  Even then, we tend to be wired into the world, so we check e-mail, the office has our phone number, etc., etc.  I'm telling you, this blurring of home and work is not healthy.  Many workplaces don't quite trust working from home (how can we be sure they're not just goofing off?) but nearly everyone I know does it, they just do it for free.

This is why we need vacations that are actually vacations.  Speaking only for myself, it usually takes me a good, solid 24 hours to unlock enough to realize that I don't have to go in the next morning.  So here are a few things I learned this time around - and I was quite surprised by them.  Let's call them "beach epiphanies."

  1. I've been going to the same beach for (gulp!) 35 years and in that time, I've been the sun-bleached kid who thought lifeguards were practically God on a tall chair; I've been the teenager hesitantly trying out flirt moves; I've been the "too cool to be here" college girl; I've been the young adult using the beach to escape adult responsibilities I wasn't quite ready for; and now I'm the older, more certain of herself woman looking at the lifeguards thinking, "They're just kids."  Life is transition.
  2. You know what?  People just aren't that bad.  I had gotten in a very bad habit of starting my day with the news, which - let's face it - is driven by ratings, so the stories tend to be sensationalized and awful.  On top of that, I had gotten in the even worse habit of reading my news online, and taking in the comments.  I'm all for letters to the editor, but anonymous comments are atrocious.  Far from elevating the conversation, they disintegrate nigh-instantly into name-calling, political posturing, and cut&paste festivals.  The human race doesn't come out too well there.  My fall resolution - I'll keep reading the news, but no comments, and not first thing in the morning.  (By the way - this is going to be hard for me.  Encouragement is welcome.)
  3. Walking on the beach with no particular goal to reach in no particular time is a Very Good Thing, as Pooh-Bear might say.  It's also a great place to people watch.  It makes me feel better about the human race to see so many people reading.  (I don't really care what they're reading, as I subscribe to the idea that good books are what you make of them.  Personally, I'm hip-deep in an English murder mystery right now and I'm loving it.)  It's also great to see hulking teenage boys carefully guide their football practice around the little kids splashing in the tidal pools, oblivious to the NFL tryout four feet above their heads.  It's charming to see teens trying on adulthood and gaggles of colt-like girls giggling in the surf.  And I am reminded that most people are hard-working folk who just want to provide for their families and be happy in their work and lives.  We're not so different as the political spinmasters would like us to think.  Oh, and I also enjoy catching up on local news, such as discovering that "AMBER LUVS HUNTER 4 EVER."  Or at least until high tide washes away the evidence.
  4. I got married for some very good reasons and a bone-deep belief that God gives us chances, but it's up to us to seize them.  Work brings value to our lives - it may be up to us to find it somedays - but just as all work isn't equally valuable, not all idleness is equally useless.   FryDaddy and I needed some unstructured time to spend together and remember a few things.  We succeeded.
  5. Pencil in - on second thought, use ink - some time for you and yours over the next two weeks.  Yes, you can do it.  No, time spent snarking over bills and chores doesn't count.  Whatever it is, it has to be fun.  Nothing work related.  Remember why you work so hard in the first place.  And remember that you, too, need to be cared for.  Think of it this way - sometimes idleness is sacred.  When's the last time you went to church?