I just came back from a vacation, the first real, honest-to-pete, traveling just for the pleasure of exploration and bonding with one another that my partner and I have had the opportunity to enjoy together in years, most of our trips being family visits or retreats that we’re working at or quickie one-night getaways around Colorado. All of these, mind you, are normally both fun and fulfilling, but five days on the beach, letting our eyes rest on the waves in varying shades of blue rolling gently up onto the shore, well … It’s a different animal.

The holiday season this year left me feeling emotionally stirred up, at times very frustrated, and in the end unsure of myself and how I am supposed to respond to the world around me, with some degree of accompanying anxiety or malaise or depression — whatever you want to call it — the intensity depending on the day. But as our departure on this trip was set for New Year’s Day, I held the intention that the days “off the network” would be a way to hit the “Reset” button on my life. Like any good vacation should, the time away inserted a pause into my usual routines, interrupted habits (hopefully productively), gave me some space to see where changes could be helpful. There were a few main areas that kept floating to the surface like buoys bobbing on the ocean, just far enough out that it takes a hard swim to touch them.

One of those areas was busy-ness.

When I look back on the times when I’ve felt frustrated with my life in 2015, felt like I was spinning my wheels, like I didn’t know where my life was going or what my purpose was or who I was helping with my existence, those were often the times when I had gotten to feeling cramped, overcommitted, hemmed in, stuck in a self-created cage.

I am blessed to have a full time job and an abundance of activities to fill my time. Only thing is, I sometimes find myself filling my time so full that there is no room for dreams to grow. I guess I am restless both geographically and spiritually, and when my life gets so crowded that I can’t find a pathway out of the hustle, I start to have breakdowns.

I’ve already gone through a process of letting go of things that I’ve outgrown or that aren’t making me happy. I’m down to the things I’ve held on to because I love them. But I understand that I need to make some difficult choices now and let go some more — let go of some of the things that actually do feed me — because when a garden becomes choked, even with nourishing plants, it becomes harder and harder for anything to grow.

And there are things I want to grow. Solitude. Quiet meditation. Writing.

So on the updraft of Reset, I will be practicing this letting go, looking for a new balance that includes more space for my dreams to grow in.

As I have the goal of bringing writing from the sidelines to the forefront of my life, I’ve been thinking not only about what needs to be rearranged for it to fit, but also —

What do I have to say? What is the purpose of my talking at all? Questions that require silence to explore. And there were other questions that arose as well, in these beginnings of mental space, questions about my outlook, my role as a writer, as an observer and commentator, as a scholar outside the academy, as a witness to and participant in culture. (Some of these I will talk about in more detail in the next post — I started to go into it here, but the tangent got too long and split into its own separate essay, oops!)

I’ll be delving into these questions in the weeks to come. And if I find anything out,

I’ll let you know.

Funny how traveling brings the gaze right back to the self. Wherever we go, there we are, right? So what’s in this bag that I can’t help bringing everywhere with me?

Christmas Break

It’s the night before New Year’s Eve. I’ve just spent the last hour and a half (okay two hours–I’m slow) making General Tso’s Tofu. (Yum!) Sam and I are having a tv-watching marathon with whatever series DVDs we could find at the library. We just finished the first two seasons of Drop Dead Diva, randomly enough. I’m pretty charmed by it, actually. You go, Jane!

I am taking a mental vacation. I am so happy to be a teacher right now, because I really need this break. I can’t really believe it’s still December, because I was triple-timing it at the beginning of the month, training for and starting a new job while getting through finals at the community college where I teach. I pushed myself with all I had, and was not NOT enjoying myself despite going crazy, until I got sick with some throat and chest thing that actually forced me to cancel everything I had on my calendar and stay in bed for three days. Then I got better enough to go Christmas shopping really fast and then fly to California for the actual holiday with his side of the family. It was a very fun trip. But it was not relaxing.

Incidentally, I may have written last year about my idea that Christmas, if it’s going to be focused on for three to four months, should really only occur every, say, three years. It’s kind of like a presidential election, or like the Olympics, when you think about it, in terms of prep time and attention demanded. Though I don’t think people could hold out for FOUR years between Christmases; or maybe three just feels like the right amount of recovery time. Well, this year I have amended that plan to allow for one long Christmas season followed by two short ones, when we only focus on the holiday for a couple of weeks. Since last year was a LONG Christmas, in my mind I declared this year a SHORT one and tried to disengage from feelings of obligation or external pressure to maintain holiday spirit for multiple months. I don’t know if anyone else is buying this plan, though …

But anyway, that was a tangent. And even with my long-short-short plan, I do still agree with my friend Amy’s recent Facebook post reminding us that according to the Catholic Church, which pretty much started Christmas, officially ends the Christmas season on January 13, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. Which is longer than most people think. It’s really the PRE Christmas excess that needs to be curtailed in my opinion — the pre-Advent part that’s all about guilt and purchases. The POST Christmas season can go on for even longer as far as I’m concerned. This is the time when we can enjoy the beauty of, say, the lights we put up without thinking about how behind we are, or what we still need to buy. We can take it a little easier, rest and breathe and integrate and receive all the loving energy we generated with our Holiday Hoopla (as some lovely Denver gals call the festivities they hostess).

So, now I am taking a time out before jumping back in to syllabus writing and event planning (both things I do enjoy!) and job training and studying math so I can get a good enough score on the ACT (I have to retake this for the new job, which involves test prep tutoring, even though I have, yes, both gotten into and completed college a long time ago–although without much math, damn!) with hopefully some time in there for guitar practice. I know when my body is intervening to tell me I’m doing too much and I need to slow down. I don’t want the only time I rest to be when I’m sick. I’m lucky to have the space to be able to make that choice right now, and it will have to tide me over through a lot of upcoming insanity!

And when I take a mental vacation I notice certain nice things like … my creativity coming back. And I start getting ideas for things I would like to write, or organize, or learn … And I feel a little bit of resignation, knowing I’m very soon to go back to ultra busy life and that most of these ideas will never be followed up on. But a few of them will. And again I’ll resolve to keep some time for myself, to rest and integrate and work on projects … and I will probably do a bad job of it … but maybe I will get a little better every time until I stop needing to get sick or wreck my car (twice) or have some other crisis in order to give myself permission to take a break. Well, maybe someone will call me on that.

So, ta ta for now. It’s back to relaxing. Which leads to blog posting! Coincidence?

I think not. 🙂