Feeling uneasy, mildly anxious and worried, I had to sit down and ponder why, eventually pin-pointing that it all came down to feeling guilty.
What terrible thing had I done?
Taken a two week holiday.
14 days of relatively unstructured time spent within a two hour vicinity of my home, either alone, or with just one other person.
No overseas jaunt to an exotic location with my man.
No vacation of quality time with my big, beautiful family.
No fabulous laughter-filled break on a girls trip away.
And certainly not time spent on traditionally lofty nurturing or fulfilling activities like going to a health farm, carrying out aid work for the underprivileged or meditating at a silent Buddhist retreat
Just 14 days kicking about doing the most indulgent, average things.
+ Watching TV shows like ‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’, ‘Teen Mom’, ‘Jerseylicious’, ‘The Kardashians’ and (my favourite), ‘The Real Housewives of Beverley Hills’
+ Meandering through the park and wandering along the beach
+ Spending mornings perfecting a cup of coffee before making a trip to the bakery to buy a particular loaf of sourdough, then afternoons devoted to cooking dinner
+ Reading chick-lit novels about heiresses, grand affairs and shoes, with titles like ‘Happily Ever After?’ and ‘The Summer Without Men’. One book even had quotes written all over the cover from quality media like The Sun, Heat and The Daily Mail describing it as “Pure indulgence – bonkbuster escapism” (and they were correct!)
+ Laying on the couch listening to new music. As in, putting an album in the CD player and listening track by track, with no other distractions, sometimes pausing beteween each song to read the lyrics, ponder about it’s meaning and listening to the singer’s teeny subtleties
So why the guilts?
1. I’d left work at a particularly busy period
2. I was terrified of “wasting” my precious time
I was even worried about what everyone else thought about how I was spending my time. I could just hear colleagues, friends and family thinking “She’s taken holidays and she didn’t even do anything good / make time to come and see me / save the world?”
This is, of course, incredibly conceited – as if anyone would care less what I did on my holiday. Every one is either too busy to think about it or busy planning their own.
So it really comes back to me and the pressure that I put on myself. And after speaking with some friends about this, I’m far from alone. The amount of stress that we put on ourselves is, frankly, unfair. Would we apply that same pressure to our loved ones? Hell no. So why do it to ourselves?
And in fairness, I actually did quite a few awesome things on my break too.
I spent a week recovering from a minor operation that I’ve been wanting to do but putting off for about 10 years. I finished writing a particularly tricky chapter of my novel. I spent three glorious days in the blue mountains with my bloke where we spent days rambling through the bush and nights in front of an open fire in a loft apartment overlooking a forest. We even sorted out our finances and tax (yawn) so that we can finally start looking to buy a house.
And I realised one thing.
As simple, often trashy, low-brow and generally the opposite of mind-blowing so many of my two week vacation’s activities were, I made sure that they weren’t mindless.
I was 100%, wrapped up in the moment, MINDFULLY present during each of those occasions.
On my solo Foxtel marathon I drew the blinds, settled into the couch with cups of tea, wrapped myself up in a faux fur throw rug and snuggled the cat as I blissed away hours watching intriguing US and UK reality television.
I wasn’t just making coffee - I became Bec the Barista, grinding a unique mix of specially bought beans, concerned with producing the perfect crema and frothing organic, full cream milk to velvety perfection – all for just one delicious, consummate cup. And ditto for dinner – Chef Brown appeared and sourced the freshest, most wholesome goods then prepped, chopped, sauteed and roasted until a perfect plate was served.
Spending time outdoors became an almost spiritual encounter – the warm sunshine wrapping my Winter-starved skin like a soft blanket, the smell of the salt spray from our gorgeous Aussie ocean stimulating the senses and being enveloped in the still, lush green forest of a national park, inhaling the most pure, bracing Blue Mountains air.
I generally kept off of Facebook and Twitter, devoting time to “doing” rather than “describing” (or that most distracting and time-wasting of pursuits – “comparing”).
And it wasn’t until I returned to work, feeling calmer and more energised than I have in a really long time, that it hit me that making time for the activities that relax and nourish you – no matter how “boring” they may appear to be – has very little to do with being selfish. There’s more to life than achieving or (gasp) even caring for others. Taking time out to do things that sustain and rejuvenate readies you to face another day and gives us strength to help us evolve.
It’s easy to fall back into the bustle and craziness of work, social engagements and home-life but I’m quietly determined to try and maintain some of my holiday bliss. Meditation and taking time to be outdoors will help. And not getting bogged down in the minutiae. Just taking each moment as it comes and appreciating as you gently squeeze the goodness from it.
I was also lucky enough to come back to a job that I love, working on some stunning music. So take a few minutes for yourself, sit back and relax, pour yourself a glass of wine or a cup of tea and I hope that you enjoy the beauty and gentleness of these two divine songs as much as I have – guilt free of course.