rest and refreshment

The notion of rest and refreshment is one all of us come to grips with at some point in our lives. Even workaholics needs something to do that is not work that brings them a sense of refreshment. If you doubt me take a look as your local golf course or spa. Some workaholics drive high-end cars because the sensation of driving something that perfect, that rides that well, is a refreshing feeling. The difference would be time, people who are obsessed with their work do not want to spend a lot of time away from work so rest and refreshment is condensed into an experience from which they can emerge feelings somewhat rested and renewed.

But most people are not workaholics and for them getting away from work, doing things that are very different than work, not using their brains, just laying on a beach, or sitting in a lawn chair, or waking a cruise, or going on a bus tour, this is all they want and all they need to feel rested. These folks do not want so much to recharge their batteries as to lay low, go quiet and veg out.

I can see merit in both approaches to vacation, I think the former is refreshing and the latter restful but I wonder whether our human nature of needing stimulation is really addressed by either approach. My own sense is that all of us need to get away from our work and focus on something else and that something else needs to be such that it is not stressful, not something we feel compelled to do, something we want to do. I think we are creatures of peer pressure and conventional wisdom, if we hear that our family, friends, co-workers are doing something then we ourselves must do that. If everyone is exhausted come summer we too must be exhausted, if everyone is planning to go to the beach, we must head to the beach, if everyone is going camping, we must go camping. My read of people who follow this path is this, they do seem rested but they do not seem refreshed. They go back to work feeling like they did not have enough time away, they bemoan the lack of refreshment.

The people I know who do return from vacation refreshed often get away from their work, they don’t do work but they do engage something, something they truly love, and the hard work does not feel like work. It is different from their “day job”, it is using different parts of their brain, other muscles, and yet they are still engaged and stimulated to experience something separate from their job.

I remember a couple I worked with who went to a little town in Nova Scotia to work on renovations to their tiny vacation home. They worked hard but when they wanted to stop, they did. There were no deadlines, no “to do” list, they knew what came next and how to do it, and they worked at it with a pace that was of their own choosing. I know a colleague who travelled to Maine, to a town with street cars. He had earned a licence in operating these vehicles and used his vacation time (he was single) to operate these unique machines. The work was so different from Ministry that he found it all very refreshing and even restful, though he was not laying on a beach.

Perhaps we need to pay more attention to refreshment than we usually do. It is at least as important as rest when taking a vacation.