Sunday, December 30, 2012

Holiday enlightenment

Christmas holidays enlightened me about a couple of things.

My usual practice while on holiday is to spend some time every day answering work-related emails, reading professional papers, or just contemplating clinical or improvement work.  I decided to try something different last week.  Over the Christmas break, our family spent 4 days at Elkridge Resort, near Prince Albert National Park, and I deliberately disconnected from work.  I left my laptop at home. There was no Wi-Fi in our cabin.  My cellular network doesn't reliably cover that part of the province, so I couldn't sneak email peeks on my phone.

When we first arrived, my kids rapidly assessed the telecommunication situation.  No Wi-Fi for 4 days! Barbaric.

"Looks like you'll have to walk up to the main hotel lobby to check your emails," my wife told me.  I guess my holiday routine was predictable.

It was surprisingly difficult to give myself permission to slack off.  It wasn't a problem while we were outside tobogganing, skiing or hiking.  But inside the cabin, I had a nagging feeling that I should be doing something... productive.   If I would have had my laptop or other work paraphernalia with me, I'm sure I would have succumbed to the temptation!  Instead, I played board games, watched TV and read a book.

Lesson learned: I have to work at relaxing.

During the school year, our home life is very busy (our own doing!).  Much of our time in evenings and weekends is spent rushing to children's activities, then back home to get ready for the next day.  This can lead to some stressful family interaction (Hurry up! We're going to be late!).

Even on holiday, old habits die hard, and we over-schedule our vacation activities. (Get your boots on - we're going tobogganing at 2:45.)  I surprised myself a couple of times when the kids weren't ready to head outside, by flopping back down on the sofa rather than cracking the whip.  We got to the sledding hill eventually, and everyone was in a better mood when we got there.

I also enjoyed a switch in some traditional family roles.  We decided to try cross-country skiing - which I hadn't done for over 20 years.  After we rented the skis, one of my sons announced that he had been skiing at school recently and showed me how to clip my boots into the bindings.  It was a very satisfying change in our usual parent-child / mentor-student relationship.

Lesson learned: There are other ways of being that are hidden by the self-imposed flurry of daily life.

Back to work tomorrow - I hope these lessons stick with me.

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