I did not want to come home from vacation Sunday. In fact, I dreaded it, but not for the reasons you might expect.
I did not dread returning home to the freezing cold New Jersey weather from the warm, sunny Bahamian weather, even though I loved the sun and hate being cold. Although I do wish my tan had lasted a wee bit longer.
I did not dread having to do a ton of laundry when we got home—that’s what happens when three out of the four of us bring almost every clothing item (and shoes) we own on the off chance we might have needed them. Call it the price of being prepared.
I did not even dread returning home to regular food from a cruise filled with more food than I could eat in a lifetime, although we certainly did try!
No, what I dreaded most was returning to the “constantly plugged in” status my life was before our vacation.
My email is on from the minute my kids step out the door until I go to bed. Same with my Facebook account. Yes, I’m one of THOSE people. And I used to feel guilty about it. I used to slink around and not respond to people’s posts immediately so they wouldn’t know I was there. I’ve hidden (I think!) my profile so most people can’t tell when I’m logged on. But then I realized something important.
See, I’m a mom and a writer. I spend most of my days at home by myself. When I’m not taking care of my house or my kids, I’m writing. I don’t have the benefit of working in an office, surrounded by people whom I can talk to whenever I need a break. I can’t hang out with my friends all day long—they have busy lives too, and if we spent all our time “doing lunch,” we’d never get anything done. And believe me, we’re a lot busier than you think we are. So, my connection to the outside world is through email, Facebook and other forms of social media.
One of the other things I do is volunteer with my Temple. That requires me to converse with many people, answer questions and help out with projects. Most of these things are done through email. Because my email is open all the time, I see most emails as they come in, enabling me to respond quickly and be productive. That’s not a bad thing!
But, this vacation, I decided to do something different. My family was traveling for a week with my parents. Since that’s kind of like stepping back in time, I decided to truly make it an “80’s vacation”—minus the clothes and the hair—and sever all ties to my computer for the entire week.
It was daunting, especially the thought of not writing for an entire week, but I thought it was important. First of all, if I can’t stay away from my computer for a week, I have a bigger problem! Second, no one is irreplaceable. There are other people on my committees who can fill in for me. Third, it’s a slow week. And fourth, I wanted to be truly present with my family the entire time we were together. I didn’t want to be listening with half an ear while I was checking my email. I didn’t want to post pictures of my vacation for others to enjoy, rather than enjoying my time myself.
So, I shipped my computer off to the Geek Squad for a much needed tune-up, changed the settings on my iPhone so that I couldn’t connect to WiFi even if I wanted to, and brought my iPad only for reading (I swear!!!).
The first day was hard. Partly because we were home and out of habit I kept looking for my computer. But after that, it was so relaxing! I couldn’t stress over nasty emails or emails that asked me to do something. I didn’t have to make sure to forward information to anyone. No one online stalked me or knew what I was doing every minute of every day. And my family and I shared jokes and laughs without constantly posting about it (although I’ll admit to writing down a funny thing my 11-year-old said, just so that I could remember it in the future), allowing us to respond to each other and have an even better time. I didn’t post my pictures immediately—I doubt in the long run whether it will matter if I post my pictures the second they were taken or a few days later. I’ll still have the memories, and my friends will appreciate my limiting the number of pictures I actually post.
I also gained a valuable lesson regarding my writing. Taking a break allowed the juices to flow. It let ideas take hold in my brain and rattle around a bit. It let me relax enough for the worries to slip away and the ideas to enter. I came home inspired and itching to write!
I also learned several things about myself on vacation. Number one, I had a lot more fun interacting with people in person than I ever do online. Number two, my stress levels decreased drastically and I was able to relax. And number three, I can survive without my computer. So much so that I dreaded coming home and turning it on.
You can see how long THAT lasted!