Many of you who follow my blog know that I believe that although words can be powerful and magical, they often cannot capture the complexity of our experience. Today, on September 11, 2015 I urge you to listen to this music by the contemporary composer Karl Jenkins, entitled: The Armed Man, A Mass for Peace – Benedictus, and spend a few minutes with its message. It “speaks” to so much….
This is vacation time, the summer months calling forth warm breezes and the desire to step back, to take it easy, to take time off. For many in my profession of psychoanalysis, August is the month to leave our work and our patients and to take time to rest and play. So this post is about vacations and the fact that all of us need them, and further, that we could all use to pack light and leave some of our baggage behind.
The etymology of the word vacation comes from the latin vacare– meaning to be unoccupied or to vacate. Over time, vacations became a time for physical, mental and spiritual self improvement. The virtue of leisure as a time to reconstitute and replenish was slowly introduced into our culture via medicine and religion. The former establishing the need for rest from work and the latter providing opportunities to take time off that were aimed at spiritual well being without the use of substances and other potential “detractors”. The notion that holidays help us become better versions of ourselves because of their restorative capabilities is now a well established fact, and one that most of us include in our lives.
All of us need time off.
Vacations give us a chance to forget our worries, albeit for a specific period of time. They offer us the opportunity to turn our minds away from the busyness of every day life and restore our mental and physical energy. In so doing, we are often able to come back to work and the demands in our lives, with a renewed sense of possibility and the ability to think outside the box- approaching issues with fresh eyes and minds. Think of holidays as necessary pauses to the ongoing rhythm we have established in our lives, and as opportunities to reset and reconsider who we are and what we are doing and want to do. This may require thinking about what we bring with us and what we pack in our suitcases. Do we overstuff even when we go on vacation? Or leave important things behind? What is in those suitcases anyway? What can you let go of? What do you take with you?
Pack light say I.
Yes, try to leave some of the baggage that you usually carry behind -you know, the one that makes your shoulders hurt because of its weight- and leave room for new experiences to surprise you. Leaving space for rest and play creates more space for work to happen in. I once had a patient tell me that the more she slowed down in her life the more time she seemed to have to do everything she needed to do. She was right. And so it is with holidays. Taking time off and packing light gives us the opportunity to encounter parts of ourselves that we might not pay attention to in our daily life, parts that are essential to our sense of well being. When we have space we can reconsider what we fill it with.
Whether your vacation is a staycation or your holiday takes you to an exotic place, consider the value of interrupting your life with spaces that make room to pause, breathe and just be. Vacating from the known, the overcrowded, the box that we create for ourselves and the stuff we carry along with us can lead to much needed areas of personal expansion. Holidays and vacations turn out to be real lifesavers.