A Vacation from the Self

A vacation is a time of respite, recharging, and reflection – a time to shift from the laptop to the whitewater rapids. For my daughter and me, last week was a time to leave the gold-brown hills of New Mexico for the dripping green ponderosa pine and white-barked aspens of Colorado’s western slope. A road trip for dad and daughter.

Most of all, it was a vacation from the self.

The self owns the working week and the self runs the weekend. Needs, obligations, and commitments. Chores, connections, and meetings. This is how we live, this is how we serve, this is how we grow. This is our life as we take care of each other, serve the needs of those who need, and practice the reaching out again and again.

The self is the thread that runs through it all even when we’re unselfish. The energy is not mine, the energy flows through me. I’m the one who must put myself to the work, to call on the powers that I don’t possess, and direct them to the good at hand. Not my good, but the good at hand.

I’m the one who must caution all that is yearning to go haywire. As I put my shoulder to the work – with energy I’m able to muster from some place not me – I’m the one who wonders if it’s me that yearns for chaos and collapse even while I work to keep things steady.

And so, a vacation from the self. I’m with my daughter, but this week, I’m not dad. We’re equal beings in this astonishing world. We’re in the green, skin glistening with the morning mist of the high mountains, amazed we’re here at all, tossing stones into a glassy lake and listening to the crisp splash thunder across these granite hills.

Nothing Exists But the Now

What time is it? It’s now. What times is it now? It’s still now. How about now?

Everything is now. Life seems linear. We’re young and then we’re older, and then we’re older yet. Or so it seems. That’s the story we live by. But in reality, the past doesn’t exist and the future doesn’t exist.

I’ve often thought our lives may be like the novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five. In the tale, Billy Pilgrim has come unstuck in time. He continually shifts from one moment in his life to another with no apparent reason. One day he’s a boy, then he finds himself in mid-life, and then he’s a child.

Vonnegut may have been on to something about how we actually live our lives – in a scattershot of time rather than a linear progression. Yesterday, I may have been five. Today I’m in mid-life. The only continuity is now. Right here, now.

When I was a teenager – which may have been yesterday – a friend challenged the notion that we die. He was unconvinced. I said, “Of course we die.”

He shook his head and asked, “Have you died?”

I replied, “Not yet.”

He said, “Then how do you know you’re going to die? You think you’re going to die because people told you you’re going to die, right?”

“Yeah,” I said.

“How do they know you’re going to die?”

“Everybody dies,” I replied.

He laughed. “That’s just what you’ve been told, but you haven’t died. So you don’t know?”

At the time I thought it was a crazy conversation. Yet it haunted me. Now it doesn’t haunt me because I’ve come to see what he meant. All I’ve known is a constant now. I believe in the now, and what’s there to believe in anything else?