The obvious downside of retreating, is the unavoidable returning. Which, to be perfectly honest, has been a bit brutal these last few days. Being greeted by an overflowing inbox, a no-fun to do list (literally, “schedule dentist appointment” is on my list – what could be worse?!), and impending medical bills on account of a (fortunately minor) injury that Kyle sustained in my absence have all rudely ushered me back to reality.
And the cold doesn’t help either.
Because not only did I enjoy the time away, but I also enjoyed who I was when I was away. I liked that I made time to prioritize the friends with whom I was and tried to listen well and soak up time with them. I liked that I was happy to take extra time moving from one activity to another without rushing. I liked that I was delighted to linger over meals long after we had finished eating because the conversation was worth it. I liked that things slowed down and I wasn’t feeling the least bit anxious to get to the next task or check something else off the list.
I’ve noticed this with other times of travel. And maybe it is as simple as vacations fulfilling their very purpose: a break from the norm, a retreat, a holiday.
But, if I’m honest, it really saddens me, because I’m not sure I really like who I am when I return.
Some days, it feels like I’ve literally been power-walking from one thing to another with my head down and my mind busy prioritizing tasks at work, home, etc. etc that I don’t notice the people or situations around me. I feel robot-like sometimes, with so much of my communication with others being electronic (either text or email) – it can feel like I don’t actually even have a real conversation with people some days. Add a spicy commute on the bus where I often try hard to avoid eye contact because volatility usually runs high and I want to be inconspicuous, and a transient neighborhood where some folks move in and out so quickly that I don’t have a chance to learn their names, and others are so suspicious, they look at me like I’m a fool if I do attempt greet them.
It seems like my cool, fun-loving, carefree self goes on vacations and slows down to savor the people and experiences around her, while her high-strung, anxious, live-or-die-by-the-list (and clearly not a part of the Cool Group) twin sister lives at home organizing All of the Things and double checking them because if she doesn’t the world will likely end.
But perhaps that is the very purpose of retreating and taking a break from the normal – to remember that I really do have the capacity to slow down and be a little more carefree like my vacation-self apparently is. And I don’t have to be an emailing, bus-commuting, cubicle-dwelling robot, but can take the time to slow down and savor.
Because the list can wait. (And that dentist appointment surely can too!)