I’m just back from 12 days away from my Pittsburgh home base. It was the first vacation, or time away for over a year, and it was a daunting expedition. My husband and I were on the other side of having had our two vaccines and our two-week waiting period to become immune to the virus, That would not be the case for most of the folks we would encounter on our journey. Packing our car with plenty of masks and hand sanitizer, we questioned whether this was a good time of year to travel south to Florida and back. We included maps with various potential routes lest the uncertain March weather make some paths too dangerous to pursue. 

Unlike millions of North Americans who annually forfeit their vacations, before the year-long shut down, we had been pretty faithful most years to our selfcare goal of taking time off. Like the research confirms, just looking ahead and planning a vacation would enliven our spirts and begin to offer some respite from our busy schedules. Returning home was usually   overwhelming in the game of catchup that time away demands, but after unpacking, laundry and grocery shopping, the respite would have provided a new perspective on our regular lives. 

This year, letting go of the comfort of my zoom studio and the convenience of my full-service kitchen did not seem to spell freedom. The anxiety that was provoked by just looking towards the intermission surprised me. Excuse the dramatic comparison, but I remembered when I worked in prisons, prisoners often reported feeling hesitant and uncertain as their day of release approached.  “How has the world changed since I was last in it? How will the new me I’ve become, fit in?”

Now that the 12-day vacation is over I’m grateful that we did it though I have more questions than answers about what the country will look like post-pandemic, let alone my role in it. When I look back on the highlights of our experiences, I realize they revolved around people sharing   what they most love. Gifts I’m bringing back include the wood carver at the Cherokee Nation Museum who changed the way his audience, including me, looked at wood and the art of shaping it into objects, hearing my brother-in-law Chuck provide details of his 30-year collection of Japanese prints as it was being presented to the public for the first time at the Rigley Asian Art Museum, and having dear friends share the view from the bayside veranda of their winter home, and their love of kayaking the stream near the shoreline in pedal-controlled versions of a  sport I’d never heard of. 

One of my favorite spiritual writers, Franciscan priest Richard Rohr puts it this way. “Most humans need a love object to keep themselves both sane and happy. That love object becomes our North Star and our reason to keep putting one foot in front of the other in a happy and healthy way.” I’m realizing that, by sharing what elicits the flow for them, these people gifted that life giving love to me.