Sunday, January 3, 2010

Reflections from a vacation away from Grady: New Year's Revolutions

vacation (n): a period spent away from home or business in travel or recreation

staycation (n): a period spent at home ignoring business or after being too disorganized to arrange travel


If I were to give myself a grade on my vacationability (yep that's a word), then it would probably have to be a solid 'C'. (I'll be honest--the only reason I even get the 'C' is because it just seems wrong to issue oneself a failing grade at anything.) So here's the thing. . . . .I am pretty good about getting away with my husband for nice, kid-free evenings out on the town (thanks to my mom), and it isn't completely far-fetched for Harry and I to sneak out of town for a long weekend here or there. . . .but full on vacations? Fuggeddaboudit.

My friend, Jason S. (also a Grady doctor), gets an A+ in Vacation 101. This guy works harder than anyone I know, yet has more sky miles than a bicoastal movie star. Case in point:

"Hey Jason! Let's have dinner Friday!"

"Can't-- going to Napa this weekend."

"Ummm, okay. How is next week for you?"

"Will be in D.C."

"Gotcha. You here any other weekends this month?"

"N.Y.C. next week, Provincetown after that. So, no."

"Of course."

"Oh yeah! Did I show you my pictures from Machu Picchu?"


Thank goodness I'm not on Facebook, otherwise I'd have to have Jason's life in the fab lane rubbed in my face with pictures and "status updates", too. But seriously. . . . .he knows how to take a vacation with zeal. I will say that my friend Jason S. is not married, nor does he have children. But don't get it twisted -- if Jason were to marry a gorgeous and equally amazing partner tomorrow, and if he were to suddenly find himself the father of adorable Jewish triplets, I would be willing to bet my hard-earned money that those triplets would be vacationing on the Italian riviera before their first birthdays. (Just ask anyone who knows Jason S.)

Sidebar: Jason S. is my same friend who throws a party every week to watch the newest episode of Glee or American Idol. Wait--don't judge! Jason's TV show parties are a complete blast, down to the guacamole. That said, Jason get's an A+ in Afterwork 101 as well. (Just check his Facebook page--which by the way, I have not personally seen since I am the only American who is not on Facebook.)

Now me? You'd be far more likely to catch me in Trader Joes on an off day than Machu Picchu. I can't tell you how many times I've had to hear Jason say to me (in response to running into me in the hall during what was supposed to be my vacation):

"Giiiirrrrrl, you really need to learn how to take a real vacation!"
(insert exaggerated eye roll here)

He's right. I'm the queen of the failed "staycation." I ask for the days off, decide (after procrastinating on planning an actual trip) that I will stay in town, and then find myself mysteriously using the "time off" as administrative time at work. Then I go to the vacation book and contest the alleged days, explaining that I worked all of those days so they aren't vacation after all. Kinda lame, I know. What's lamer? Try losing a few vacation days last year that you neglected to take. Crazy right? (I'm also the same person who returned from maternity leave one and a half weeks early, so go figure.)
Me and Jason at the AIDS Walk (during one of his rare Atlanta weekend appearances)

The only person equally as craptacular (also a word) at vacationing is my better half, Harry. He, too, is a longweekender that rarely takes real, true vacations. Harry's excuse, however, is that he is the owner of a thriving business. The buck stops with him, and if he is gone for too long, the buck just might, well, stop. So what's my excuse? I'm granted four solid weeks off annually yet I always end up getting that "Dammit, take your vacation or you're gonna lose it!" email every single year. It's definitely a problem.

Let's be clear on one thing. I do know how to have fun, and I would not describe myself as a workaholic by any stretch of the word. The problem is that my job is about people and relationships, and I love people and relationships. A student wants me to meet them to advise them on their schedule? The chief residents want my help with a teaching conference? A patient needs help with something? It's hard to say no, especially because often times it doesn't really feel like work. This often spills into my personal time and also interrupts my vacation time. My friend and fellow Grady doctor Stacy H. said that I need to be a little stingier with my time--that was after admitting that she does, too. (Although she does manage to take vacations.)

All is not lost, though. I DO get some well-earned bonus points every year toward my final grade in Vacation 101. My extra credit comes in the form of our annual New Year's Eve vacation. Yes, I said vacation . . .an official, bonified, sho' nuff holiday. For the last several years, Harry and I have left the country with three other couples to bring in the New Year somewhere tropical--and grown folks only. Thanks to my mom (who I will say again is the raddest mom ever, no offense to your mom), we have continued to do so even after Isaiah and Zachary came crashing onto the scene. Yep, a real vacation. . . . .in no way one that is mistakable for a "staycation" and in no way one that can be scribbled off the books.

Good morning, sunshine!

So this post, my first of 2010, is being written in the post-vacation haze of beautiful Jamaica. The kids have been retrieved from grandma's house, and in the quiet of the night, I'm basking at how great it is to have really taken a vacation. I'm smiling just thinking about us packing up and boarding a plane just to go and do nothing. A real vacation. . . not even my other almost-as-lame alternative to the "staycation," --the "fake-ation"- -where you go to medical conference and call it vacation. Nope. This trip was devoted to sitting on a beach/next to a pool reading celebrity gossip magazines (that Suri Cruise sure is getting big!) and reading just about anything else non-medical I could get my fingers on. It was, as the British folks I encountered in Jamaica would say, "Brill-iant."

My early morning read on our balcony

I spent a good bit of my poolside relaxation reading "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. Yes, I realize the book is, like, so 2007, and that it was a NY Times bestseller like 3 years back. But in my defense, I'd started reading it back when it was the "it" book, but got sidetracked (as I often do.) Turns out it's about to be a movie with, I think, Julia Roberts, so I figured I'd get cracking on it again. I also recalled that the book was all about personal happiness and fulfillment, which I am all about. It reads like a big ol' blog entry, which I also love. Besides, the three subjects of the title happen to be three of my favorite pastimes so it's win-win.

"Giiiirrrrrl, you really need to learn how to take a real vacation!"

I won't bore you with my 2010 resolutions (or "revolutions" as one of my patients asked me in December if I'd be making.) Instead, I'll start the year by admitting that I need to do better in Vacation 101. Next, I'll ask Jason S. for a tutorial on "How to Leave the Work Behind and Get the Hell out of Town for REAL." Lastly, I'm going to get a thick, black Sharpie and draw a big line between work and play-- and make a true effort to abide by it.

revolution (n) : a sudden, complete or marked change in something

Come to think of it, I do have a "revolution." Love myself and my life enough to plan and actually take real, true vacations. . . . more than just for the New Year. . . . .starting now. :)

A long weekend in Destin. . . . . . .kind of counts, right?


  1. I would hate this part of doctoring. I would be trying to get my Bates an motel room at least for a couple of nights so that she could get a good warm bath and nights sleep.

    Good piece...

  2. OOPS! The comment above should have been on a previous piece about Geraldine Bates.. sorry..


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