Vacation means being able to read a book in the middle of the day, saying “Yes!” to the kids more than usual, and thoroughly enjoying the look of sun-kissed relaxation on my husband’s face. It is difficult to believe that after 15 years of traveling to the beloved sandy shores of the Outer Banks, I am still learning how to relax at the ocean. It is equally difficult to describe the delicate balance of energy and effort needed for me to enjoy this rambling, rambunctious, wonderful group of extended family, whom I love dearly. Especially when I am just beginning to understand it all myself.
To begin with, I lived the first three and a half decades of my life never realizing the speed of my own thoughts, and never taking into account that they don’t stop easily just because the calendar, the map, and my internal dialogue say they are supposed to. I truly believe that it is OK to be a person who doesn’t relax or slow down easily. But it is definitely not OK (even subconsciously) to take that out on other people—especially when they’re on vacation! So it starts by giving myself permission to go off and be alone, to read, to write, to take a long walk or a nap. This does not mean sneaking off for a few minutes of quiet in the bathroom, but instead making a conscious decision that time alone is important and necessary. For me, a trip to the beach is like an extended, week-long meditation exercise. Giving myself permission to think unrelaxed thoughts, noticing them for a brief moment like cars passing by on the freeway, and then choosing to let them go. I am learning not to judge myself for the inevitable situational over-analysis and hurried thinking, and I am trying not to give these thoughts enough time to get comfortable and multiply in my busy brain. Instead, I will be honest about who I am, and I will confidently make time to give myself what I need. Then I will choose again and again to shift my focus toward the deeply soulful, rhythmic chants of the ocean, and to dance freely in the musical laughter of my children.