I really needed a COVID vacation. So I took one.
When the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” order began in Vermont, I had incredible anxiety. COVID-19 was on every segment of the news. It was in almost every social media post. It was the subject of every call or online chat with my coworkers, family, and friends. The pandemic was the last thing on my mind before I fell asleep at night and quickly re-emerged as I made my two-minute commute downstairs to my desk each morning. It was all-consuming. My brain was starting to need a COVID vacation.
I began my rollercoaster ride of emotions—one day, feeling like a superhuman for juggling my roles as both an employee and as a mom to a very active toddler, and another day feeling like a complete and utter failure in both roles. I know I don’t need to detail why I felt this way because I know so many of you are sharing this experience. Suffice to say, I was starting to burn out, so after about four weeks, I started to really contemplate taking a COVID vacation.
A COVID vacation—or what some have jokingly called a “coronacation”—felt like an incredibly silly notion.
Vacation is supposed to be relaxing, and a break from the norm. But we’re in a global pandemic. I can’t really go anywhere, and I’d still have my toddler home with me all day long. I talked myself out of it. I decided to keep chugging along, taking things one day at a time.
When we started to “turn the spigot” in Vermont, and my husband was able to return to work, it meant that the support I had taking care of our child during the day was limited. Now I was trying to work full-time while providing full-time care for our toddler—a toddler who never stops “running around” (as he likes to call it), who never stops talking, and who always wants attention.
We turned the spigot, and my anxiety spiked. How exactly was I supposed to do this?
After about two months at home, the idea of taking a COVID vacation came to the surface. I didn’t really want to take my vacation time for this, but I was burning out. My toddler was angry that I wasn’t playing with him more, and was starting to show behavioral issues. I decided to tell my boss how things were going. I mentioned wanting to take some vacation time in the near future, and sensing my stress level (and seeing my tears), she encouraged me to take some time sooner than later.
So, I decided to do it. Even if it wasn’t the vacation I wanted, nothing about this year has been what any of us wanted. I did want to make the best of things though, so I just decided… this is it, this is my time. I’m going to use this vacation how I see fit, on a whim, each day, with a toddler in tow.
Now, I am a planner and a busy body. I typically enjoy being out and about, being social, and filling my time with activities. But here I was, facing a week vacation with literally no plans, other than to play with my son. And you know something… it was indescribably freeing.
For the first time in my adult life, I was on vacation but didn’t need to be anywhere.
I didn’t need to report to anyone. I didn’t have an appointment, or a playdate, or a show, or anything. I had zero obligations, other than to care for myself and my family. What was this magical feeling?
Each day, we read as many books as my son wanted. We went on bike rides. We ran through fields, played sports, and had picnics. We talked to insects. We planted flowers. We baked delicious things. We cuddled… because we could, because I had the time, and because I actually really wanted to do those things.
I also allowed myself “me time.”
I turned off the news and listened to a fiction podcast. I shuffled my neglected music library and danced around the kitchen. I tie-dyed some old shirts. I sewed my son a dinosaur pillowcase. I made some acrylic paintings.
Aside from purchasing some paint, my COVID vacation cost me nothing. What it gave me, though, was some much-needed and invaluable perspective, which had been dwindling away in the 8 weeks prior.
I slowed down. I sat in the sunshine. I reflected on my life. And I discovered something—how powerful the simplest moments in our lives can be, and how often we overlook them when we fill our time with the stress of survival or the endless drive for more, bigger, and better.
Yes, it took a shut down of pretty much everything, for me to stop long enough to see that the things I enjoy most in life, were right in front of me and I just wasn’t seeing them. I didn’t need money to appreciate the sun as it hit the overgrown bush by my driveway, or the sound of the crazy neighborhood squirrels as they bark and chase each other around the yard, completely oblivious to the plight us humans are facing. This was the simple magic and beauty of everyday life that I forgot to pay attention to and appreciate, and when I sat still long enough, my worries gave way to the wonder of our world.
My COVID vacation is over now, and I’m back at work.
On my first day back, my son looked at me and said, “Mommy, I don’t want you to work today, I don’t like it.” My first day back was a challenge, just like the many weeks prior. But I looked at my son, and I made us both a promise—to still go for a bike ride, to run through a field, to smell the flowers, and talk to the insects. And that’s just what we did, albeit, during a lunch break.
There are those of us right now who want to work more than anything, but can’t. There are those of us right now who want a vacation more than anything but aren’t able to take one. We’re all doing what we can to survive, physically and mentally. I know that a vacation isn’t the solution to the struggle we are each facing, but having and maintaining perspective is what will help see us through this.
This may not be the way that any of us imagined we’d be spending our time, but remember that this too shall pass, as all time does.
Whatever circumstance you may be personally facing right now, I hope that you are able to slow down, to find the little things in your life that bring you joy, the things that give you perspective, and that bring you peace—even in times of uncertainty. Those are the things that, like any good vacation, will lift you up when it matters most.