CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With summer in full swing, you're likely planning some sort of vacation or timeout. This could be a traditional trip or just a little time off to putter around with home projects.
I'm always intrigued by the different ways folks use their leisure time. How 'bout you? Do you like to be on the go, exploring new places? Or would you rather curl up with a good book in the hammock?
I find my tastes have changed over time. Although my AQ (adventure quotient) was never as high as my husband's, I have definitely enjoyed my share of active vacations. Now I find I'd rather chill a little more. Any destination with a spa is sure to win my heart.
And while I enjoy being around friends and meeting new people, I'm gaining a greater appreciation for solitude. After weeks of mega activity, I'll sometimes take an entire weekend and burrow into my sanctuary (home). I call this my "mole patrol" mode. With all the noise in our external worlds -- not to mention the chatter inside our heads -- we can become overwhelmed. I'm amazed at what a little solitude can do for one's sanity. Sometimes I catch myself saying, "Oooh -- listen to the quiet."
Deep down, you know what recharges your batteries. That got me thinking about the precious bandwidth of time we allot for such recharging. And I discovered that, in many situations, routines are repeated over and over. Which is fine, if that's what you want. Familiarity and comfort can be good things and yield good times.
Sometimes, though, we just fall into patterns and don't change the dynamic. For instance, consider those gatherings of extended family. We've all heard stories from friends about needing a vacation when we get back from vacation. Depending on the dynamic within your vacation circle, you may find group respites (or adventures) stressful. On the other hand, you may find them energizing and heartwarming. It all depends on your perspective, and this is different for everyone.
I just think it's healthy to evaluate once in awhile. Does spending a week (or two) with a larger group really recharge your batteries? Or, might it be worthwhile to spend a few days in this setting and reserve a few days for yourself or your immediate family? It's that Norman Rockwell thing. We often visualize idyllic circumstances in advance. And then when we get to the actual events, we're disappointed.
Granted, this is much easier said than done. Shaking up traditions can definitely have its consequences and fallout. But so can the toll it takes on us individually when we don't stop to honor ourselves. It takes courage to stop the merry-go-round and entertain other approaches. You may decide it's not worth the hassle. Just think of what it's costing you in the long run. If you end up spending your entire time off adhering to someone else's schedule and preferences, it's bound to result in some resentment. And that's not healthy, either.
On the flipside, you may be yearning for more extended-family time and have resorted to individual or immediate family activities. Again, it's a personal decision.
As I was doing my research, I ran across some interesting resources. It wasn't easy, though. Most commentary on this subject had to do with checklists for packing, scheduling and organizing -- all the to-dos involved.
Here's some down-to-earth soul-searching information from Theresa Walsh Giarrusso, though, who writes a blog for busy moms. When she asked readers for their thoughts, she got an earful! Although I tried to be objective, most of the comments pointed out the more stressful side of the equation, no doubt influenced by the nature of the question itself. Here's a snapshot:
"It's not that we don't love each other. It's just that it's hard to get along while confined with extended family for a week. I'm not hungry for dinner at 4:30 in the afternoon, and I certainly don't want to go to the Moo Cow Buffet. Plus, what exactly up and died while you were in the bathroom? And, I told you ... leave my beer alone." -- Shaggy