October 15, 2012

A Place of Refuge

As promised, I got away for a true vacation with E.   I told the resorts it was the 10th anniversary of our first date, which I thought was true, but off by about 2 weeks.  Only once there, on the ground, at the restaurant and biting into the "Happy Anniversary" cookie, did E inform me that it was almost the 12th anniversary, not the 10th.  Go us!

To celebrate, for the 5th time in our relationship, Hawaii functioned as a true "getaway" where we can leave the majority of our worries and stresses in lieu of beautiful weather, views, and an island sense of time that helps to add some clarity on our everyday rush.  

In 2004, Hawaii welcomed me with open arms and let me experience cheap adventurous island living during my 1L spring break in both Oahu and the Big Island.  E came with me and we had a wonderfully romantic and awesome time.

In 2006, the island of Kauai gave me a week of space to fully relax in the much too short but hugely important week between the year of my dad's cancer, my wedding, and his death (all, obviously, very stressful), and the true beginning of my life as a big firm lawyer (also very stressful, but in a very different way).  Kauai & E get credit for filling the empty basin from which I was able to professionally execute that first demanding year as a lawyer despite how broken down and depleted I was.

In 2010, after a difficult year due to brother's health issues and subsequent recovery at our home, we headed to Oahu and started the trip with a sunrise hike up Diamond Head. Views of Waikiki and memories of our Japan trip were everywhere we looked in Honolulu. And then, we finished the trip in the blissful over-the-top indulgence that Maui seems to do best.

In 2011, due to a ridiculous work-life schedule and no joint vacations, E & I opted for an extended weekend trip to Kauai. It was only four nights, and we had to work a bit, but the ambiance, the waves, the weather and everything about it was immensely restorative.

This year, after an even busier work year, we realized that other than a quick weekend date for our wedding anniversary, we'd failed to schedule any trips in the last year where the purpose of the trip was just for us.  Work? Family? Friends? Races?  Yes, we'd done plenty of travel for all of those.  But travel together with a primary goal of relaxing?  Nada.

I'm coming to terms with the reality that I'm unable to relax as much as I wish I could at home, but I can when I spend the time, effort, and money to create a true "getaway" for myself that is physically removed from the majority of my obligations.  This says some very strong things about my inability to structure my life on the axis that I claim to respect in favor of values and goals I'd like to relegate to a lower status.  No matter what I say, the things I do on a regular basis show that I think working, being responsive for clients, and doing a good job as a lawyer are more important than having a well-balanced life.  I feel I should take long term steps to address this...

In the meantime, for this year's short term fix (E suffers from a similar problem), we went back to the sure thing and repeated the extended weekend trip to Kauai. Hawaiian hotels/airports/car rentals know their audience.  The service is fast and efficient, the Wi-Fi works perfectly, but the weather, nearby attractions, and failing that, the views from the balcony and the drinks delivered beachside are all strong disincentives to minimize the time logged in.

5 days (including flights) and 4 nights of surefire relaxation -- something about this place and minimizing work reminders just slows time down, allows me to read, relax, sleep and focus on the moment.  Maybe it's because the moments of each day in Hawaii are often so visually or auditorily stunning that I feel I have no choice but to focus on them.  The air... it's so clear.  The light...it's so beautiful at each changing hour of the day.  And the sound of the surf?  Well, that's my favorite noise.  Period.

This morning's hike on Nualolo Trail? Empty. Just Kauai, me, E, and finally, a quick good morning and goodbye to a Swiss couple as they headed into the trailhead and we stepped off.

Now that I understand exactly how effective 4 nights in Hawaii is at modifying my stress levels, I may find it entirely too easy to justify additional future trips.

This could be dangerous. Or Good.

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