Tis the season…

“I am on vacation, away from my office, Email access is remote so I may not respond until my return.”

We seem to need vacation.  My father had the month of August off, but we went near nowhere (once a drive to DC to see a friend along the way and see my Dad’s clients in Florida) But after that, if “Staycation” had been a word it was our mantra, save the last few years of my residence with them before high school when we visited the cabin my father bought (cheap) from said client.

Then it was training for football, earning money at college, seeing a girl somewhere, coaching football, being an overall genius, and every other Zen Avoidance Effort I could conceive of.

Then it was kids.

Our boys made the tradition of being together 24/7 a necessity. Since my wife and I had no collective families, we bought one. Perhaps the nicest kid place I have ever heard of, a resort in Vermont is where we would spend the first week of August. After 20 years, it became a stolen long weekend, or one magical week after my wife took the Bar Exam.

It was heaven. And work. For the kids it was a pastoral, gastronomic and sybaritic heaven, and it worked. We have hundreds of memories. I have since worked at losing the 1/3 of myself that the first 15 years of vacation at the resort helped to lard on. Thankfully the resort has a gym.

The kids are gone now. One child never returns, the other child returns occasionally. But my wife and I go back to Vermont. Religiously (while we avoid a Sunday at church). Why?

I do not know. But I do know that I have never felt I “deserved” a vacation. In my working years, I have always had an office filled with folk who I either work for or with, and those folk “need” me.

In truth I know I need vacations.

My audio-taped response whenever I explain why I shall be away: “One week off a year, whether I need it or not.” But it turns out that I need it. I know this because one year, in the last 23 of my work, I did not have one.

It was ten years ago. I was “on vacation”, and had left extreme directives for my staff on what needed doing, when. It included, as always, daily faxes of what was done. The first night the crucial set of drawings was not there in the fax machine at the resort, and so a full-on weekend of anger commenced, with no returned calls or emails. It meant that Monday morning, predictably, I left “vacation” and took control.

The employee who (once again) did not do as promised had to go, and then I required three faxes a day of progress, my mark-ups, and on we go for the remaining 6 days.

It was work.

No vacation meant that around November, I was pretty crispy. But the work, as required by the State of New York, got done.

Why should I come to need this relief? Doing what I do for a living is as natural as breathing. I needed to remotely control my office or I could not relax. I know God is with me, the food and swimming and kayaking and biking were still idyllic. My family was there and we loved each other.

But I needed to control what I had obviously failed to control.

So I did what I had always done, what would come to be known after 50 years as kicking ass. I got performance by performing, and the results were factual, not emotional.

But I missed vacation.

I think it could be said for those addicted to the world of getting things done, vacation is what church should be, or at least what the Sabbath was. If you knew you were loved by a God that controlled everything, your control was not so much.

I have lost that 1/3, built 800 things, written 8 books and taken 22 vacations—and 1 vacation where I worked. I have performed. And the only way to perform is to control enough that you can succeed at devotion. It is a faith in me.

Not God. Especially not Jesus (who I am sure had control issues).

But at near 63, I think, maybe, I get it some. This year, two days into “vacation,” I had some bad mayonnaise, which meant that the following 12 hours was spent fulfilling the promise of disease. And I did not feel cheated because this week’s method of control, “vacation,” had a higher level of real control: my body. I knew that the horizontality was a gift, as was the nearby toilet.

Would I have fired that employee a decade ago? Yes. That is where I am trusted to control things for places like New York State and some pretty beloved people. But now I may not feel a victim of their incompetence, I may just feel they need to know that when they assume they can control something, faith in that power is, ultimately, meaningless.

You are always left with God, and you, on vacation or not. The venue of your life is not the issue, it is your connection to faith beyond your venue, your control.

For me, I do not think heaven is “vacation.” Heaven is where I sense it might be right now in fleeting glimpses and gifts, in the thrills of love and beauty that have no control or justification, and are certainly not caused by going on vacation.