Vacation—Anticipation, Expectations and What Really Matters

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This week we are enjoying amazing family time for 3 here in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. Our timeshare week each year after Christmas has always been used as that, “time share,” where we bring down families and friends to enjoy our spacious suite at a nice resort. Not that those weeks haven’t been special and provided great memories, but this is the first year that we came by ourselves and it’s definitely provided ability to focus better and kept me from being in “hostess” mode during my own vacation.

Dr. Wei, her husband Dave and her daughter Claire outside in Mexico

We are so very fortunate to be able to plan and have “vacations,” that is, be able to travel away from home for several days to enjoy either a location of warmth and gorgeous beach or one of natural beauty requiring exploration like Rocky Mountain National Park. Each year, I torture myself with the ritual of searching for hours online to find a great new location for us and plan our lodging, meals, and activities by reading endless reviews and indulge in a visual buffet of images. These hours spent planning the “perfect” vacation truly provides me the following:

1. Anticipation. 

Somehow, just knowing that a “vacation” or “trip” is in our future makes me have some kind of reassurance that the challenges of our daily living and regrets of not having enough “family” time will be vindicated, at least during the trip. This anticipation is capable of carrying me through those long hours in any workday in the operating room or clinic, days and nights of being on-call as a surgeon, and basically any stretch of time when I feel emotionally and physically fatigued but will my way through my work demands.  Anticipation also provides source of conversation with friends and loved ones.

2. Expectations. 

This is a tough one, as Dave will likely tell you that I have high expectations about everything and everyone so vacationing with me can be risky. Perhaps that is why over the years I do happily splurge for certain amenities and activities while traveling to avoid large crowds, long waits, and spent great deal of time trying to minimize negative experiences while on “vacation.” Having realistic expectations is critical, which for me this week meant that each of us had our own time on devices, to simply sit and do whatever we wanted, including nothing at all. We also had times when 3 of us focused on card games, movies, and amazing fun in the pool basking in awesome sunlight!  What I have learned not to expect is perfect weather, flawless travel, and any out of the ordinary “performance” by any of us. The ability to just “be” and not have expectations is critical to an enjoyable vacation.

3. What really matters. 

a. Hearing Claire’s giggles…in the pool, running on the patio, being tickled, and just about anytime, all the time.

bConnecting with Dave. Listen, really listen to what he has to say, about anything.

cEnjoy awareness that I am free. Free from laundry, dishes, and any other “to-dos,” thinking about what’s for dinner, what to pack Claire for lunch, and whatever else I would be doing if we were home and I was at work.

dReflect and have perspective. Looking out into the infinite Pacific Ocean, from our balcony or the awesome infinity pool high up on the cliff, or underneath the stars in the dark night, I am humbled and reminded my unimportance in it all.  My life and work has only the meaning that I choose to give it, and is defined by the efforts that I give based on what I value. Without time to sit back, reflect, and think about how I want to move forward and what my priorities are in my daily life, time would simply sift through me like sand in my hands.

e. BE PRESENT. Simply snuggling with Claire on the couch or in bed is a luxury that need not be such a big deal and only enjoyed while here on “vacation”. Yet this is what it took for me to exercise that luxury which I don’t recognize nor take advantage at home. Holding her hand, walking slowly, as we take in the wonders of the view, feel the warm breeze in our faces, and silently recognize the gratitude in our hearts, this is what vacation is all about.  Oh, let’s not forget great food as that defines any vacation for me!

We can’t all go on exotic vacations all the time, but while here and writing this blog, I see clearly that I must find the “vacation” in my daily living and I can easily achieve A through E right there our home. 2015 promises to be many vacations for me.

Burnout Well-Being

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