by Joanie Butman
I don’t know where to begin discussing the questionable choices I’ve seen (and made) over my two-week sabbatical - including this banana boat ride. I call it a sabbatical because it provided plenty of opportunity to conduct research on the topic of choosing wisely – or not. I promised my son I wouldn’t reveal any Punta Cana secrets about him or his friends, but that promise doesn’t extend to me. Among the litany of my own dubious decisions over vacation, the first had to be the choice to escort senior high school boys to a country where the drinking age is 18. Miraculously, other than a chipped tooth from an overzealous rendition of the worm (not by me), we all survived relatively unscathed. I even earned a few street creds from the kids for my dance moves – probably not a photo I’d choose to share with the parents of the boys under my supervision who assumed I was a ‘responsible’ adult.
The signature drink in the Dominican is something called a Mama Juana, a mixture of rum, wine and honey.The smell alone was enough for me. I figured out the derivation of the name though. It was probably coined by some poor chaperone wandering around in the middle of the night trying to corral a group of seniors while moaning “Mama Wanna Go Homa.” The experience inspired an idea for a new reality show, “Spring Breakdown,” which follows the chaperones rather than the plethora of spring break movies highlighting the antics of coeds.
The second week of spring break was spent visiting my other ‘seniors’ – my parents and in-laws who were much better behaved and thankfully went to bed much earlier than those in the Dominican Republic. However, this trip was not without drama either, which gave birth to another concept for a reality show, “The Granny Diaries.” In truth, this drama was no laughing matter. It revolved around my father-in-law’s plot to catch the health aid that has been stealing everything from money to wine, to paper towels, shampoo and laundry detergent. Their home had become her bank and Costco rolled into one. Actually, I think he enjoyed the excitement and subterfuge.
My father-in-law’s scheme involved meticulously marked bills and planting a ‘Granny Cam’ to catch her in the act, which we did. The woman had no record, not even a traffic ticket, so I have no idea what made her choose to add thievery to her resume. Perhaps this was an isolated incident, or maybe she’s just so proficient she never got caught. Hard to say, but that decision is going to haunt her as she tries to find employment in the future.
Returning home, I felt anything but rested. But the drama wasn’t over yet. I then learned of an incident with my son at spring training camp. My first thought was: We survived Punta Cana and you get in trouble in Disneyworld?!?! I was uncharacteristically full of angst over what I would normally view as a harmless prank. He definitely didn't exercise good judgment, but the situation didn't warrant the level of trepidation I experienced. Diagnosing the reason for my unease was simple because it is an all-too familiar symptom of vacationitis.
Like so many times before, over the course of my trip I had lost the inner peace I work hard to maintain. This is not a new phenomenon. It is a predictable consequence of not being still – something I find difficult to accomplish on vacation. At home I am disciplined in starting each day in quiet time with God, and lots of it. That strict discipline in my spiritual life tends to dissipate amidst the distractions that surround me when I’m away. “I’m on vacation” becomes an excuse for lots of things, and it may be; but it shouldn’t extend to my spiritual life. God doesn’t take vacations from me nor should I from Him. It doesn’t take long to get off-kilter because once I take that first step away from God, I gain momentum pretty quickly until I eventually find myself a good distance from where I need to be – tethered to the grounding influence in my life which fills me with a peace that transcends any circumstance. Hence, the atypical anxiety and stomachache over a knucklehead decision by my son.
It takes a while to recoup from vacationitis because I return to God’s presence slowly and humbly, embarrassed and remorseful that I chose to put Him on the back burner so to speak. Ironically, one of my devotionals this week read, “Be still in My presence, even though countless tasks clamor for your attention. Nothing is as important as spending time with Me. While you wait in My Presence, I do My best work within you transforming you by the renewing of your mind. If you skimp on this time with Me, you may plunge headlong into the wrong activities, missing the richness of what I have planned for you.” Coincidence? I think not.
Bottom line is I could have chosen to set aside time each day. I managed to find time for lots of other activities, and judging from the photo above it certainly would have been the wiser choice. So what did I learn during the last couple of weeks?
Most importantly, I was reminded once again about the importance of making the choice to be still an integral part of my daily routine regardless of where I am. My physical, psychological and spiritual wellbeing depends on it.
I’ll close with a timely poem my yoga instructor shared this week.
In the still hours of the morning,
When I sit with you, I know you love me.
And tenderness towards all swells and bursts
Within my heart like a tulip bud in spring.
But then the day takes you away
And I walk alone again in busy world.
I hide my wound with smiling face and wonder
If and when we’ll meet again.
I know you haven’t left me.
I know it’s I who has left you.
Yet the world pounds my mind and body
With heavy hand and drives you from my heart.
Hold me close.
Keep your tender eyes upon me.
Remember me, your child, when the world tears us apart.