Like math, vacations are hard

The psychological condition that precludes me from total vacation relaxation has not abated this year. In fact, I believe that I have created more projects for myself than I could accomplish. Granted, some of the projects may appear to be relaxing; reading a huge stack of magazines (the fact that many of them contain Halloween recipes should tell you how far behind I am), having my friend Suzanne teach me how to knit (tomorrow…can’t wait). Still, they are on the “to do” list (and none of them are home improvement projects, so there). And I have been checking e-mail throughout my time off. I know, I should be better about disconnecting. But at the same time, I have viewed this break from the office as an opportunity to get caught up on some stuff. And I have done a little of that. Not enough to rid me of that slightly panicky, why-did-I-commit-to-all-this-stuff feeling in the back of my mind, but enough so that I don’t have an actual physical sensation when I walk by my home office. Did I mention that I am a total head-case? I thought I did.

What I have done this holiday season is a ton of shopping. And I have convinced myself that it was warranted (Chloe? On sale? Yippee!). And I have a big bag full of stuff from multiple shopping trips, tags still on, taking up space in my bedroom. Some people derive a sense of accomplishment from collecting things. Me? I like the sensation of newness; the novelty of wearing something for the first time or discovering that it looks great with something I have owned forever and considered giving to Goodwill. I like putting together an outfit and then adding one things that “goes” but doesn’t “match”. You might think of it as vanity; I prefer to think of it was Darwinian; without the reproduction part (sorry to disappoint; my family already knows; no babies in this household). Anyway, see how I totally justified shopping as something I do because I am a mammal? Yeah, that is the kind of stuff I spend my vacation time thinking about. See why I don’t have time to relax?

New this year was also allowing friends to celebrate my birthday. I’m not sure why I have typically been embarrassed by the prospect of this. I kind of agree with Rory. I didn’t have much to do with the birthing part. I kind of just sat (sat? really?) there and then got really pissed because I was cold and the lights were bright and a bunch of people were staring at me and all I could see was up their noses. I couldn’t even keep up my end of the conversation at that point. So the purpose of celebrating the day when you are your most inept? You know, just drooling and pooping and stuff, doesn’t make sense to me. Except that I figured out this year that it really doesn’t have to be all for me, and that I need to let people be nice to me. Having a b-day the day after Christmas gave me a great excuse for not letting people celebrate it. I could say no and then not feel badly about the fact that I NEVER remember anyone’s birthday (and have to look at a calendar to know when Thanksgiving falls each year…a Thursday, I think?). Anyway, this year, I let myself enjoy my birthday and it was good. See all the introspection that results from a crappy year (never to be mentioned here again once the calendar strikes 1.1.08)? Let’s call that progress.

In the interest of putting 2007 behind me, I do have one project that has been looming and today is that day to git ‘er done. I returned from Ohio this fall with our family pictures (and a bunch of cheese, but that is another story). For whatever reason, having copies of our family photos is important to me. This year, I’ve been able to reconnect with my family in a way that was really impactful. As much as I have always felt that I have been on my own, I missed that sense of where I came from (remember the teary high school reunion? Yeah, that’s what that was all about). They say that you can’t go home again, but what they really meant is that you can, but it hurts. And stop being such a wimp about it. So anyway, those trips home led to some conversations that really made me think about what I am doing here (yeah, like, on earth) and whether I have really been honest with myself about what I want and what I am willing to do to get it (like stop being such a chicken). And start investing time in people I care about and stop pretending that I need to do this all on my own. Hey, it’s like therapy but without the judgment and the bill. Geez, I’m almost in the domain of tacky new years’ resolutions (or worse, Dr. Phil) but I won’t go there. I’m more of an evolution than resolution gal. Work in progress, etc. Anyway, the people in my life that made me feel like a superstar are gone now. And I have this huge pile of pictures that need to be scanned. And I am already upset thinking about it. But it’s important so I am doing it today. And I’m not sure why I just shared all that (it’s kinda cathartic though). But I am having a little problem with insomnia so let’s just blame that, shall we? I want to get it done before the new year starts. I need a New Year, not just a new year. And that’s that.

I’ll blog something work-related soon. Blogging the personal stuff, at least this time, was my feeble attempt at work-life balance. It is vacation time that I am taking after all.

Comments (8)

  1. Chris and I went over to Scott Hanselman’s house a few days ago to work on a couple nerd projects. While…

  2. Vacation is easy.  It’s the getting ready for vacation that’s searingly, abdominal-crampingly painful.  Returning from vacation is just a migraine headache.

    In high-performance environments, you have a lot of mental plates spinning.  And before you check out, you have to get those plates spinning fast and get some new ones spinning just as fast.  And you have to deal with gut-wrenching anxiety the last few days before you go.  I know this from years of struggling with it.

    In almost all cases, airline travel is required; notwithstanding the indignities thrust upon us, getting on an airplane is geographical displacement.

    When you’re finally away, ’cause "vacations" at home are totally worthless and don’t even count, it may take you four or five days-at least-to not shive a git.  That’s when the vacation really starts.  If you’re smart, the laptop stays home (I’m not and it doesn’t; I had a laptop that committed suicide when I was gone).

    After several days of bliss (not unlike the days after you receive your MSFT offer letter), the vacation endorphins lose their salutary effect and you slog back to the dismal-ity we know as "Seattle in the winter."

    Then you show up early to see if any plates are still spinning.  If you have a good team, many will still be going.  If you have a great team, most will be spinning, you won’t have a "mailbox exceeded storage capacity" message, and your manager will walk by saying "Nice tan", and keep walking.

    Even if you live to work, as I do, remember that you’ll be a lot happier working when a great vacation memory flashes back every now and then.

  3. HeatherLeigh says:

    Reeve – you and I are very different WRT that getting ready for vacation thing. Maybe it was because that I boycotted travel this holiday season, but getting ready to be out was cake; probably in part because I knew I could jump online if I needed to. OK,OK, so that’s not A Vacation, it’s just vacation….vacation time, maybe. I didn’t need the stress of travel and all the people that I needed to see I have seen recently.

    As for the dismal Seattle winter, I’m positively impacted by the sunshine today. No worres abuot the trains running while I am out. Nature of our work…nothing dire happens if the trains stop for a week or so. And the boss? She’s in North Carolina.

    So I guess that still leaves me with:

    1) hideous insomnia

    2) shopping bags with loads of stuff with the tags still on

    3) inbox as much under control as when I left

    4) a feeling that this time off was semi-satisfying

    5) itchy to get back to work before my mind gets mushy

    Alas, no tan to speak of. But I did make it to the gym several times 🙂

  4. mrscrooge says:

    RE:taking more relaxing, meaningful vacations – thats certainly on my agenda for 2008 as well. Going to visit family for me, is not really vacation. So I’m going to make the effort to plan more ‘fun’ getaways, maybe coordinate with some friends and actually enjoy my time off.

    Do you really have insomnia? I was talking about this with my friend last nite, was very surprised to hear she had my same issue of just not being able to go to sleep (I usually stay up till 2 or 3am). In my case, I think its probably due to excessive caffiene (I hate the starbucks coffee but still end up guzzling 4-5 cups a day), too much work on the brain (its not stress, just thinking about stuff and working out ideas in my mind) and lack of exercise (this is huge for me, I sleep better if I’ve been working out but I just can’t stick to a schedule).

    RE:The sunshine in the past few days – its been such a relief! Even better is the fact its not been bone-chilling cold like it was last year. Have you ever tried one of those SAD lights? Me and the roommate are thinking of getting a few of those for the apt to help with SAD

    PS Have you heard of Its like a public blog of your 43 goals you want to achieve, my friends who’ve tried it swear by it.

    Happy new year and have a good day off – its our last for a while 😉

  5. HeatherLeigh says:

    Scrooge….you have the right idea about vacations. That’s what I should be doing as well.

    I do have insomnia. For me, it’s partly the brain ticking too (same deal, not stress….just thinkin’). I also sleep better if I have been working out. But if I work out late in the day, it keeps me up (endorphns perhaps?). Too much caffeine in the afternoon does the same. Sometimes it’s for no reason at all. It did feel so good to get out into the sun the other day. I do think that helps. I haven’t tried the lights yet, but I have been thinking about it. Yeah, I’ve got a whole host of those kinds of things I should talk to the doctor about (not to mention that I’m starting to get the full bloom of mild OCD behaviors, but don’t ask my mom because she thinks I don’t have it….anyone who sees my leaving-the-house ritual knows I do and I think I have had it for a long time but didn’t know what to call it). Messed up head stuff is fun!

    I’ll check out that blog. 43 seems like a bit of a random number (?)

  6. Andy says:

    Guess I must be the weird one. Vacation rolls around and I drop everything done or not, mid-sentence or not and go have fun. I don’t check my e-mail during vacation and I don’t even think about work at all until the day I get back. Work will still be there when I get back and there will always be some deadline looming and some emergency to fix. I am most definitely of the "f#ck it" attitude when it comes to stuff like this. I love my job but my job is not my life and if it goes away or I quit I can just get another one or find something else to do for a living.

  7. HeatherLeigh says:

    Andy – you are the healthy one.