Why I Suck at Vacation

I’m bad at relaxing.  It’s the Copenhaver curse.  It seems that no one in my family is good at just hanging out and letting a day happen to them.  We’re all type-A.  We want purpose, forward movement, and (let’s face it) control over what we do any given day.  For these reasons, summer vacations can be tricky.  When I begin the summer—much to Jeff”s chagrin—I make a plan.  This summer the plan was all about how I was going to manage to prepare for my new Page to Screen class, revise my novel, begin promoting myself as a writer, find time to read for myself, and of course, do fun vacation things like jet-skiing out in the gulf.  The truth is that that’s a lot of stuff, allowing for very few days to just allow things to happen.  You know, go with the flow.IMG_6367

My father died when he was 50 of lung cancer.  For a time, he was a heavy smoker and drinker, which he seemed to need to manage the stress in his life.  In my mind, it wasn’t cigarettes and double martinis that killed him; it was stress.  So, here’s the irony of ironies:  I worry a lot about stress levels in my life.  I don’t smoke, and I drink only moderate amounts, but I have that same built in, worry-about-everything gene.

Being a teacher and a writer aren’t what I would call low stress occupations, even though everyone likes to remind me about my long vacations when I make this observation.  Yes, yes, I know, life ain’t bad.  I get a lot of time off, but once again, I don’t spend it staring at the sky or taking six hour naps.  I spend most of my vacation working on my writing or preparing to teach a class.  At the beginning of the summer, I make a detailed plan, pinning down in my day planner what I’m going to be doing from week to week. Although this plan is flexible, I like to have it all set down, so that I know what I can accomplish by the end of August.

All this planning and order benefit my aims as a teacher and a writer.  In fact, I believe that to do both of these professions you have to be organized and you have to like working.  However, the downside of this—and I think it’s a serious downside—is that such an endeavor is not relaxing and often undermines spontaneity.  It seems to me that sometimes these are sacrifices which must be made, but at what cost?  I’m not sure yet, but I’m very worried about it.

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2 Comments

Filed under Revising and Writing Process, Teaching and Writing

2 responses to “Why I Suck at Vacation

  1. I think most of us may be bad at vacation–and it’s not necessarily just the type As. Winifred Gallagher from her wonderful book, RAPT: Attention and the Focused Life, speaks of the unfocused sloth-angst syndrome that comes along with unstructured vacation time and weekends. “The antidote to leisure-time ennui is to pay as much attention to scheduling a productive evening or weekend as you do to your workday. This can seem counterintuitive, …because you assume that it will be pleasant to decide spontaneously what to do. But that’s much more complicated than you think.” Saturday may be okay, because you’ll do some chores and errands, then go out or see friends at night. However, by Sunday noon–not coincidentally, the unhappiest hour in America–you may have run through your options and wind up slumped on a couch, suffering from the Sabbath existential crisis… ruminating… and so forth.'”

    • johncopenhaver

      Marisha, That sounds like an interesting book. At times I like planned fun and and at times I don’t . . . or I feel like I shouldn’t need to plan fun. Also, it has a lot to do with who I’ll be hanging out with . . .

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