via Wikimedia Commons
I’ve been on vacation, with some minor exceptions, since the birth of my daughter. Today is the end of vacation; tomorrow begins anew the stream of endless emails, project iterations, and massive efforts to keep centered in the middle of chaos.
The end of vacation is like going back somewhere we used to live a long time ago. We may pick up exactly where we left off, or we might try to revert to our old selves, or we might start over like we’re completely different people. Although people prefer the first, the last two are far better – they mean we’ve grown.
In the delightful fiction Mary, Called Magdalene by Margaret George, the disciples of Jesus each returned home before the work of the ministry formally began – except for Mary Magdalene, who felt she was not yet strong enough to return home and then leave again to follow Jesus. Accordingly, she went with Him to His mortal home instead and witnessed the refusal of Jesus by the Nazarenes. The ending of vacation, if we go deep enough, is something like a mundane version of that – it inevitably brings up the distressing question of whether we’re strong enough.
The wonderful Seth Godin was once quoted as saying, “Instead of wondering when your next vacation is, maybe you should set up a life you don’t need to escape from.” Yet that’s not entirely the truth, is it? Because it’s not the life itself that we need vacations from – it’s the people we are when we’re working that we flee from. That’s what we’re asking ourselves if we’re strong enough for – can we re-enter the huge dedications of time in our particular workplaces without becoming consumed and subservient to them? Can we remain free even in commerce?
Later on in the book, Mary Magdalene actually did go home, where she was met with the rejection of her family and their refusal to allow her to have a relationship with her daughter. Although it tore Mary apart emotionally, she carried through – because she did not go home alone. She’d brought Jesus with her, and that made all the difference. She had another mission, another self, and that self was larger than even the tragedy of losing her family because of their dark suspicions about her sojourn with men waiting for Jesus in the desert.
The struggle with work greatly resembles the issues underlying emotional eating. If we spend enough time in meditation and mindfulness, we become aware of when we’re eating out of emotional hunger rather than physical hunger. Knowing that we do so does not immediately overcome the issue, but it enables us to meet and confront those parts of ourselves that feel needy and unfulfilled. So it is with work – you can eat for physical hunger or emotional hunger, and you can work for simple necessities or you can work for emotional validation. Meditation and mindfulness at least set up the question and the struggle to be resolved, so there it is we must start.
Just as Mary Magdalene, though, we needn’t face the struggle alone. We can also eat or work for holiness, we can also eat or work in holy companionship if we choose. Regardless of your chosen avatar of divinity – we need only ask for such benevolent guidance, and it is given. Thus the Children of God are blessed.
So am I strong enough to face the end of vacation? If the vacation had a goal of rest, it wasn’t successful. But it’s been wonderful for all that. My daughter is a couple of weeks old now, my son has learned the importance of his role despite the decreased attention involved in it, and my wife is recovered enough. I have gone deep in many ways both creatively and spiritually – although I didn’t break clear, I am indeed strong enough.
Not because I have willpower or because I am well-rested – I am not. No – I am strong enough because I can see the struggle and I come with my holy companion.
May I remain mindful and in faith. May you also be mindful and have faith. May all beings, in this way, have strength to resist the chattering of ego. Blessings, friends.