First an apology for being gone for so long… end of year madness turned into a much needed vacation which turned into blogs written but not posted. So, here is my first of three vacation inspired blogs. 🙂
Miserable in Paradise
Ok, I wasn’t really miserable, but “Kind of Down in Paradise” wasn’t a catchy title. I was in Paradise though… spending my days watching ocean waves crash on rocks from under a shady tree. And I was working some stuff out that left me feeling a little low for a few days despite my surroundings.
Most of us usually go on vacation to get away from it all, and this was no exception. The family had been through a bit of stress this spring, and we agreed that our summer trip would be a do-nothing-but-sit-by-the-pool/beach kind of experience. We arrived at our beachy spot with the expectation of leaving all of our worries behind and enjoying some uninterrupted family time. But as we all know, worries don’t get left behind like an extra pair of flip-flops, and my issues definitely came along for the ride.
My walks on the sandy shore included serious conversations with my husband about subjects we knew we had to deal with but hadn’t had the emotional or chronological space at home. Our time splashing in the pool included a few arguments with the kids that probably needed to occur to help us and them be heard as well as help them grow up. But most affecting my mood were my quiet moments alone which forced me to face the loss of my father… a loss I had processed intellectually but discovered my heart hadn’t quite caught up. The result was feeling a (little) miserable in paradise.
At first I was angry at myself for not being in pure bliss on my vacation, but then it hit me. Yes, vacations are there, in part, to escape the norm, but maybe (and more importantly), they are also there to unpack what has been going on in our lives with a little distance and a new perspective. It’s a time to deal with all of the things that get swept under the rug during our day-to-day cluttered lives. We need the quiet to even hear ourselves and each other, and that can lead to resolving conflicts and stored away emotions… not always the most pleasant way to spend a vacay.
Perhaps this is all that religious practice is supposed to do for us as well. In Judaism, Shabbat is to be a mini-vacation every week, filled with family and friends and prayer and peace. However, maybe it is in that silence that we find the internal dusty corners that need to be cleaned out and end up arguing with ourselves or each other over Shabbat lunch. Maybe in the act of prayer, the search for God can lead to a revelation of our unresolved issues rather than the revelation of something Divine.
Much like vacation, we have expectations that religious observance should make us feel only positive. We are waiting to feel peace, feel connection, feel Holy. When we don’t, we are disappointed and sometimes become disillusioned with doing anything spiritual at all. And yet, maybe things like prayer and a Sabbath (and a vacation) were never meant to lead us toward being “one” with the Universe but simply toward being “one” within ourselves. To do that means clearing out a lot of internal muck. And maybe instead of running away from those thoughts and feelings, we need to run to them, work on them, process them, resolve them, and only then possibly get a glimmer of peace.
After a few days of quiet and facing what needed to be faced, I did start to truly enjoy my time in paradise. It just took a little effort and work. The next time you are entering a moment of religious action (or inaction) or prayer, remember that it is probably going to take some effort and work for you to find peace then too. Don’t judge yourself. Don’t run away from the opportunity, but accept the dissonance with open arms rather than a defiant fist. Allow the work to happen without a goal in mind, and then just be grateful when that second or two of peace washes over you. Something Divine may emerge from peace, but Holiness may also appear out of resolution, and for that, the conflict must exist first.
Stay tuned for my next vacation-inspired blog which is about… yarn (I bet that’s not what you expected).
Talk soon and feel free to comment and send me your thoughts.