Staycation

Thursday 24 September 2015 — Becalmed on Falmouth Harbor — “Innergize” Day (really)

There’s a new word in the English language — “staycation.” Coined during the economic setbacks of the early 21st century, a staycation is much less expensive than a vacation. On a staycation, you just stay home and participate in whatever activities you may like but are normally prevented from enjoying because of your frenzied lifestyle. If you travel at all on your staycation, it’s a day trip to local places of interest (think Profile Rock). While on a staycation, you sleep in your own bed. You have no worries about who will be taking care of your pets. That would be you.

My parents knew all about staycations. In August, when the factory closed down, my father couldn’t go to work. The family would take a staycation. Routine went out the window. We could get up early, sleep in, or take afternoon naps. We could eat whenever and whatever we could afford — maybe send out for steamed hot dogs (sprinkled with onions and celery salt) from the corner stand or maybe fish and chips (wrapped in newspapers) from that fish place down the street, or perhaps a delicious linguica pizza from the Knotty Pine Café on the next block. 

On our family staycations, we did whatever we wanted to do. We went wherever we wanted to go. If we decided to do something as a family, we did it whenever we wanted to do it. We did, however, spend three hours every day at the beach. Our staycations were very refreshing (except for the sunburns. I’m Irish). I was raised on staycations. 

The problem was that, when I returned to school in September, the teacher would often ask what we did on our summer vacations. I couldn’t get my mind around this strange concept of vacation.

I didn’t fly on a plane until I was nearly 20 years old. I didn’t get to Disney World until I was in my 40s. It was too late to report back to my fifth-grade classmates.

Only once did we go on a family vacation. We jumped in the beat-up beach wagon (the one with the rusted out floorboards) and headed for New Hampshire. We all stayed in a one-room “cottage” for a couple of nights and then drove home. The cottage was stucco painted turquoise. 

I still remember this family vacation as being a great adventure. I was happy to report to my classmates that I had traveled abroad on my summer vacation. (I used to exaggerate a bit back then — I’m Irish).

There needs to be a balance between work and leisure. Leisure is essential to well-rounded human development. It’s “re‐creation.” It’s physically and psychologically restorative. Leisure, though, isn’t an end in itself. Work, leisure, happiness, creativity, Spirituality, and personal fulfilment are linked.

Did you know that, for centuries, leisure has been a part of monastic life? “Don’t just do something,” the Buddha said. “Stand there.” Monastic leisure is an alternative to the way people vacation these days. 

Monks take vacations. In this case, “vacation” doesn’t have the same meaning, however, as when we use the word. Monastic vacation is a designated period of time during which the individual monk is relieved of most of his community duties, dispensed from manual labor, and freed of certain obligations. A monk needn’t hop a plane and fly to Tahiti for vacation, unless, of course, there’s a monastery in Tahiti. (which, come to think of it, there is — the Monastery of St. Clare). In that case, a monk can stay there for free. 

Monks observe other forms of leisure as well. There is quies — an attitude of rest; a sense of peacefulness; a letting go of responsibilities, concerns, and worries. There is also otium —­ unstructured time, freedom from “business-as-usual.” Lastly, monasteries observe the sabbatum — the Biblical Sabbath, the day of rest (but not only on Sundays). Is not every day the Lord’s Day? I try, at least, to keep a daily Sabbath.

Even Jesus needed to “get away from it all.” Every once in a while, He headed over to the home of His friend Lazarus and kicked off His sandals, or up into the mountains, or down to the seashore, or even out into the desert wilderness. 

When people today decide to take vacations, they’ll need lots of money. And there’ll be all sorts of arrangements to be made in advance. The time away may prove to be more overscheduled than the busiest workday. Then there’s the whole problem of technology — the laptops and cellphones we carry with us on vacation. You end up having a “working vacation.” That, dear readers, is an oxymoron. And when you return home, you’re more exhausted than when you left. It takes at least a week to recuperate — and longer for your credit card to cool down. 

Monks have the right idea. I, too, take staycations. Now that September is ending, though, how can I write a column on all the things I didn’t do on my summer vacation?

Oh, wait. I just did. 

Anchor columnist Father Goldrick is pastor of St. Patrick’s Parish in Falmouth.

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