Wednesday, August 13, 2014

No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem

Last week I went on vacation with my entire immediate family to St. Simon's Island. By "entire immediate family", I mean my parents, all five of us siblings, all of our significant others, and each family's kids. As we don't all live in close proximity, it's not often that we manage to get the whole crew together - probably every couple of years or so.

St. Simons Island, if you're not familiar with it, is a small island off the coast of Georgia that's rather historic and, while it offers beach rentals, is not built up like many other beach rental destinations. Sure, there are a few cheap beach shops and kayak rental places, but the majority of the island seems to actually live there, at least part of the year. It has a more "off the grid" kind of feel.

As you may know, I often times have a tough time unwinding. I can get lost in a good book for hours, or spend some time in quiet contemplation writing or meditating, but "chilling out" isn't really my thing. Partly, I think it's my general type A personality. Partly, it's my cyclothymia. My brain is always going. I mean always. Reading works because it gives my brain a story to get enraptured with. The same with writing. Meditation works because, quite frankly, I don't do it for all that long, and even then, I'm much better with guided meditation which allows me to focus on a story, than I am just sitting there quietly. In day to day life, I'm the queen of sticky notes, calendar reminders, and"to do list" alerts on my phone. I have numerous methods of jotting down notes, thoughts, or things I must remember at any given time. My phone, computer, and ipad are never far from my sight, lest I miss an email, text, or push notification. I am made instantly aware of the Facebook comments on the comment to my comment - and get an email about it in case I miss the push notification. When I put it in writing, I have to admit, it sounds a bit over the top.

So two Fridays ago, when we left on our drive to Georgia, I did something remarkable: I ensured that my Out of Office messages were enabled, shut down my computer, and turned off almost all of my push and email notifications, including those for social media. As I got into the swing of the week, surrounded by loved ones, the sun, the sand, and the casual way of life on the island, I left all of my electronics for hours at a time. A couple of days into the trip, I all but abandoned shoes, and barely wore anything except my bathing suit during the day and pjs at night. I relished coming downstairs in the mornings to the chatter of my family - usually my parents and a couple of the kids who arose earliest - and the smell of coffee brewing. I began to let myself be free of the "rules" I somehow managed to create for myself about constantly being in contact with everyone and having to constantly be working on something. I didn't worry about the workouts I was missing or the extra few calories I was eating, because I knew it was temporary. Eventually, I'd have to get back to "real life". Without realizing it, I was absolutely "working" on something - my peace of mind.

I was incredibly sad to leave the island, and the family. Being with people who love all of me, including my condition, as opposed to despite it, was incredibly healing. I felt free to completely be myself for the first time in ages. Upon returning, I chose to keep a large number of my push and email notifications turned off.  Oddly, the decision wasn't as difficult as I thought it might be. Yes, I now have to check for work and client emails more frequently. Yes, I have to watch a bit more carefully what I eat, and include a bit more activity in my daily routine. But I'm forcing myself to re-examine the rules I've set for myself and ask myself why they are there in the first place. Are they really helping me? Now? In the long run? I'm also trying to retain a bit of that sense of love, acceptance, and self-freedom that I acquired there. It's tough for someone like me who's never had a whole lot of self love and confidence to begin with, but I'm trying.

I realize I can't be on vacation every day, and that we must, of course, earn the money to take those kinds of vacations in the first place. I'm back to work at my part time job and back to running my company. I haven't completely abandoned my computer or my phone.  But perhaps now, when I do pick up my phone, I'll be more likely to choose my meditation app, or my skyguide app that allows me to find all of the constellations in their current locations, instead of replying to that Facebook comment on a comment of a comment.

The beach on St. Simons Island on an overcast day.

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