Waves of awareness

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I’ve always looked forward to vacations and generally had a good time. Part of what kept me at my last job at the university so long was that I was given very generous amounts of paid vacation(for US standards at least). The thought of only getting 10-12 days of earned vacation was unpalatable. I decided to switch jobs anyhow, and then found out that I could transfer my accrued leave to my new position, it gave me peace of mind.

This year my vacation felt different that I felt that I really needed it. In the past I’ve looked forward to and enjoyed them for the change of pace and environment and the opportunity to spend more down time with the family, but it wasn’t the same sensation of needing that break. I’m not quite sure why this is. My job is not stressful and I get along relatively well with my colleagues, but perhaps being in an office all day makes me feel wiped out by the end of the week. Other than working in fast food while I was in high school, I haven’t really experienced this before. I feel lucky that in my work since graduate school I didn’t really feel wiped from my work. I may have been tired if I stayed up late several nights in a row to get something done, but not this sense of mounting exhaustion as the week comes to an end.

This vacation also just was a blast. When I arrived at my in-laws house that first day, I immediately felt like I was in vacation mode, as compared to most times when it takes a few days to settle in.
I surfed nearly every morning, and the conditions cooperated so the first week at least I got really enjoyable waves every day and even had a great time at Newport Beach. (Usually it’s too flat and I have to go to Huntington)There was something so invigorating about surfing good waves in the morning, then having the rest of the day open. Just being able to be active and in the water everyday felt so healing for my mind and body.

Another factor that made me enjoy it so much, as silly as it sounds, is that my girls were able to get past their fear of waves enough to finally go boogie boarding. My wife only was half joking when she said that this was a dream come true for me. I don’t know if I’ll ever be fortunate enough to have one (or both) of my daughters accompany me surfing, but being able to finally play with them in the waves was a delight. My older daughter has wanted to boogie board for several years now, and despite being an strong swimmer, she had always been held back by her somewhat irrational fear of waves(anything up to her ankle was too much). Since they both could it enjoy the waves more, we spent much more time at the beach than our past trips. My younger daughter isn’t a strong swimmer, but still enjoyed floating on the board and having me pushing her into waves. I was grinning like an idiot the entire time. I was finally able to share an activity that is such a huge part of my life with my daughters. I felt so alive and connected to my kids.

I came home feeling sad to say goodbye to the carefree time we’d had, as well as the warm water and fun, but feeling content, and appreciative of my how much my daughters have grown. Being more connected to them more than usual also gave me a different perspective.

In the end, I think it’s the opportunities that vacations give people to reset their internal state that I appreciate. During my normal week, it’s a rush of making lunches, taking kids somewhere, going to work, coordinating pickups , heading home, eating, putting kids to bed, maybe watching a TV show with my wife, then going to bed(usually after wasting too much time on the computer). By being able to put my work aside, and not worry about a million things I not only have the time to do the activities that I want, but also to spend more relaxed time with the kids. We went for bike rides(another new skill for my younger daughter), swimming, to get donuts, or ice cream on a few occasions, I just felt more engaged.

I’m excited that I was able to connect more with my daughters around the beach, but at the same time I’m wary of not letting this be, in my mind, the only way I can connect with them. My father-in-law who always laments that he doesn’t get enough time with my kids in order to connect with them also claims he can only connect with the kids when swimming. In other circumstances he just kind of tunes out. We all went to dinner with him and he basically ignored his daughter and grandkids and spent the whole dinner talking about an app he has been working on for years. To me it was kind of shocking, he doesn’t get to see his daughter or grandkids that much, but he just tuned them out the entire time! I don’t want to end up like that and through watching his interactions or lack of have intuitively known that I also have to engage the kids in activities that are meaningful to them.

In the end, during this last vacation to experience of sharing an activity that means a lot to me with the kids has opened my eyes or perhaps reawakened me to the pleasure of engaging more with the kids. I can come up with all sorts of excuses for why it doesn’t happen at home(e.g. they only watch TV, etc) but I want to be mindful of ways to engage with them. As they get older, hopefully their increased skills and interests will not be outweighed by the normal desire to not want to do stuff with their parents. We’ll see.

Until then, I’m pretty sure I am going to take advantage of a program where I can take a 5% paycut for an additional day of earned vacation per month. I’ll be one hour short per month of what I used to earn, but I’m think that the payback in terms of time with my family (and now the physical rest from work) are very much worth it, not to mention that I think my body will need the break!