Monday, September 6, 2010

Day 233: The art of vacation (or a vacation from art)

Do forgive me for the radio silence the past two weeks.  I was on a John Denver-inspired vacation along the country roads to and from the Shenandoah River and other parts of Virgina, including the quaint Chincoteague Island famous for its wild ponies.  (I guess I'll have to try again to actually make it to the Blue Ridge Mountains and West Virginia).  I embarked on the vacation with thoughts of lots of time to do things like write blog posts and second drafts, but somehow, that isn't what happened.

Vacation is a funny thing.  Before you go, you envision all these endless hours stretching in front of you, free of the encumbrances of work, bills, pet-feeding, etc, giving you limitless time to sleep, eat, read, lounge, take a walk or a swim, and (if you're like me) get lots of creative work done.  And yet, there is a little problem with that equation.  The endless hours of sleeping, eating, lounging, reading, and walking don't also allow for endless time of getting creative work done.  One must still choose between biking to the beach to play in the surf and staying at the condo to work on one's second draft.  A difficult choice.

I'll admit it -- I don't vacation well.  I don't weekend well.  I don't take-a-day-off-well.  I don't relax relax well.  I have a very hard time doing any of those things without feeling conflicted about the creative work that I am not doing.  This is not always true -- and I am getting a bit better, especially with my boyfriend's help -- but it is definitely a large problem of mine.  Because I must take days off and weekends and vacations - from my creative work as well as from the day job and voice teaching work - in order to have the energy to do my creative work at my best.  Not to mention in order to not give myself ulcers or high blood pressure.

My boyfriend always tells me, pick one or the other.  If you decide to work, focus and work.  If you decide to relax, then just do it and don't beat yourself up about it.  (Oddly enough, I often find myself telling him the same thing). Because if you don't, you have the worst of both worlds -- you didn't get work done and you didn't really relax because you were too busy feeling guilty.  I've gotten better at doing that in the moment, but unfortunately the guilt over not working often still comes back to bite me the next day like a bad hangover.

All this is not to say that I didn't enjoy my vacation.  By and large, I really did, and didn't feel guilty for taking it.  But I also had days where I got very frustrated, where I felt like the world was passing me by, that I was losing too much traction on all my important projects by not being able to really work on them on the road.  I found myself wishing there were a cosmic pause button where everything could stop -- not just me -- so that I could relax without losing any time.  And now that I'm back, I have to figure out how I'm going to catch up on everything. 

Yet, I must also admit, I do feel more relaxed and recharged.  I am not dreading going to work tomorrow -- I actually feel ready to dive in and take things on again.  Despite feeling the need to get caught up, I also feel like I now have the inner resources to do that.  So perhaps that is the secret -- vacation isn't the time to get things done, it's the time to recharge your batteries so that you can get things done when you return.

It sounds so bloody simple when I put it that way.  How come it doesn't feel that way in the moment?  I must learn to start managing my expectations.  I need to allow myself not to take a vacation only from my day job work life, but also from my art work life.   Will someone please remind me of this before my next vacation?
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