I’ve mucked up a few vacations.
New Jersey wasn’t the muckiest. But it was the most recent. So, let’s start there.
I was with family on the northern Jersey Shore. A short ramble down the boardwalk from the Stone Pony’s Summer Stage. A few blocks up the street from Strollo’s Italian Ice & Custard.
But did I spend my time rambling the boardwalk? Going to shows at the Stone Pony? Eating chocolate custard with my aunts?
No. No. And no. I spent my time in a yellow bedroom on the second floor of an inn. Working. Crossing things off the list I kept in a red notebook. Going to bed at night feeling like I’d earned my sleep in my controlled little universe of work.
I’ve done this from coast to coast: Georgia. Colorado. California. It might be because I have so much work I can’t avoid it. And it might be because I don’t know who I am without my work.
But the real reason is a matter of measurement: I measure my days by what I do, what I accomplish, what I build. What proof of my existence I put into the world.
Vacation comes along with time in the sand, after-dinners on the porch, unplanned afternoons. And my measuring system goes haywire.
I know how to measure doing. I don’t know how to measure being. I can’t accomplish it. Can’t build it. So in my yellow bedroom, I hid from it.
On the train home from Jersey, I was tired and sad. I missed my family. Resented my work. And somewhere between Newark and Penn Station, I had a lucid moment. A painful moment.
All this ‘being’ I was hiding from – all these ramblings down the boardwalk and unhurried afternoons – that’s where some of the big work, the immeasurable work of building ourselves happens.
Of seeing who we are outside our accomplishments. Of realizing the only credentials we need to walk the earth are kindness, courage, grace, and self-respect. Of accepting that the best proof of our existence is that we risked putting ourselves out into the big, uncontrolled universe.
So, I’ve been holding up a new yardstick to my vacations, my weekends, my time.
And trying to remeasure my days.