Vacation Perspective

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For the first time since I can recall, I’ve taken a proper away from home vacation. My children and I flew back to Connecticut where I grew up to visit with my mother. The six day excursion has been enlightening, but not in the ways one might think.

1. If you know anything about Connecticut in the fall, then you’re aware that this is some of the most beautiful countryside you could ever have the pleasure of seeing. My children and I went for walks. We went hiking. We went for drives through the countryside. The entire time my kids and I kept remarking in comparison, “You can’t get this in Houston.” When nature beckons, one will heed the call.

The lesson: While in this neophyte era we are more attached than ever to our electronics and gadgets, we are still animals. We are attached to this Earth in the most mysterious ways. We are influenced by her shifts and hiccups and rhythms. There is no better time to recognize this than when traipsing through the woods. We should do this more often to gain a better appreciation and respect of the world we live in.

Hiking In West Rock Park, New Haven

Hiking In West Rock Park, New Haven

2. I am ashamed to admit this, but about eight years have passed since I last saw my mother.  When I saw her this time I noticed three things: she has mellowed a lot, she has maintained the same habits for good or for bad and she looks old. The last one there makes me choke up… A lot.

The lesson: there is a verse in the Holy Qur’an (21:35) that says, “Every soul shall taste of death.” My mother’s mortality hit me smack in the face. But, so did my own. None of us lives forever, therefore we are obliged to live our best life now. Be determined to live to the best of your ability a life without regrets. Make choices you believe in and be willing to live with the consequences. Love and respect the people who deserve it, and even some who don’t. Make your good dreams come true if you can.

3. In case you aren’t already aware I am a breast oncology nurse. Just before I left Houston, I was confronted with the future prospect of receiving into my nursing care someone who about five years ago committed a grievous wrong against me. Without giving details, this wrong was such that I felt it damn near unforgivable. When I learned that I might have to confront this person in the position of their nurse, their caregiver, I was at emotional odds. Old anger quickly rose to the surface as well as gut twisting anxiety, but then those emotions disappeared to be replaced by some other emotion I am still at a loss to name. I still don’t know how I should feel about this, but I can articulate how do I feel now, a week later.

I don’t wish the worst for this person although I once swore I wouldn’t spare spit for them even if they were on fire. I’m not doing some happy karmic disaster dance while cursing their name. I’m not happy that this person is sick. But I’m not sad either. And, I think that’s good enough for now. I’ve come a long way.

The lesson: People talk about forgiveness like it’s a pretty new shirt you can pull on when you feel like it. Well, if forgiveness is a pretty new shirt, then its an expensive one. It may look good on the wearer and it may make them feel great but I think it requires some serious coinage to acquire. In the world of forgiveness, I’m lower middle class. I’m a work-in-progress. So, I’m giving myself a little pass here with the caveat that I will keep trying to be a better person, one who works hard to acquire the wealth of forgiveness.

Is there anything that has been weighing on you? Something that challenges your spirit? Feel like you’ve been coming up short? Give yourself a break too. Sometimes we should forgive ourselves first. But don’t forget the caveat.

East Rock Park

East Rock Park, New Haven

4. I thought that being surrounded by the bucolic beauty of Connecticut would inspire me to write the most enlightened prose. It didn’t.

The Lesson: Sometimes a vacation should be just that. Time away from it all.

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  • houseofwilliams

    Well, it certainly did inspire you to write some pretty profound things. I’d say that counts 🙂

  • Gilbert Perry Wilcox

    Thought provoking piece, I rarely get to read these 😉

  • walshj

    “In the world of forgiveness, I’m lower middle class.” Lovely turn of phrase there.

    My late father was once in a similar situation to yours. (He was a respiratory therapist.) A person who had deeply, deeply wronged him wound up only a year or so later dying from lung cancer. And when I say “deeply wronged”, I mean that he told lies and cooked books. Several blameless people, including my father, were wrongly terminated. It set my parents back financially for several years and took away several college options for my siblings and I. My father and the others were eventually vindicated but not before the damage (hundreds of thousands of dollars) was done.

    Anyway, this man was essentially friendless and had alienated even his own family. He found himself quite literally dying alone. Nobody would come to see him in his final days. It began to dawn on this guy that nobody loved him. My father somehow managed to find in himself enough pity to forgive this man and would go see him even after work. It kind of pissed off my mom but my dad seemed a whole lot less angry. And in the end, I think he felt that he was better with himself for having forgiven the guy.

    Anyway. I don’t know that I could have done what my father did. I’m not so much “lower-middle class” as I am “poverty stricken.” I don’t envy your struggle but I hope that you are able to come to peace with whatever you decide.

    • khaalidah

      Sounds like your father was a remarkable man. A truly stellar soul. It sounds cliche, but time is a master healer. Nothing does a better job than time, except us. I guess there has to be great strength, of which I fear I’m in poor supply of. The weird thing is that I once prayed fervently for a day when this person and I could face each other with full knowledge and understanding, and that I would be the victor. Sheesh. Whatever that means. So this all feels fortuitous.
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Onward and well… Onward.

      • walshj

        He really did have a stellar soul. I don’t.

        And you have had your prayers answered, it appears.