My husband and I admitted to each other on the plane home that we rarely get this tired in our regular lives. Seems visiting family for a grandson’s graduation, followed by attending a playshop in a beautiful retreat center in the midst of the California wine country have worn us out. There is of course, the stress of airplane travel itself; the hour it takes to return the rental car and get through the electronic pat downs, the forty minute delay on the tarmac due to high winds, the ten minute sprint to a different terminal in order to not miss the connection to the last flight home.
My husband would say that what we did doesn’t match his definition of a vacation. He would opt for a vacation, vacation, where we’d totally relax by laying on a beach. This itinerary is more to my liking, something that serves as an intermission from our usual routines. For me, a break from the technology that so structures my life is relaxing. When Wi-Fi is only available in a space the size of one or two picnic tables, it’s easier for me to let go of the stress of constantly staying in touch. But coming home, there’s the nearly overwhelming catch up activities; picking up mail at the post office, sorting and returning phone calls and emails, and the need to bravely face a desk of unfinished projects. It’s hard not to ask, was it worth it to go away?
Perhaps it matters what we call it. “Are you on holiday?” the English customs officer reviewing our passports asked. Since going on holiday sounded so celebratory, we decided to adopt that expression when anyone asked us the purpose of our trip.
A sabbatical is another term for an interruption from work. Ten years ago, in order to avoid the burnout that was beginning to set in to my experience as director of a clinic, I gave myself a sabbatical. Being self-employed, I didn’t work for an institution that paid for sabbaticals, but I hoped that the expense would be worth the renewal and revitalization I would bring back to my work life after having a few months away.
Since this is the first day back to work, it’s too early to tell whether the effects of this furlough, this breather, this holiday, will be to enlighten and enliven our regular work and home lives. But if it does that seems to me to be the proper measure of its true worth.