“Family vacations are the best of all times: a journey into yourself.” – King Ayles, writer
“…I’m glad the summer vacation is over…”
When Charles walked into my office for his weekly consultation his expression was one of exasperation. He had a lovely, sarcastic wit which appeared regularly in his conversations with people, and in our past sessions. But, on this day, his frustration was clearly the dominant force running his mind.
Charles’s opening comment to me was, “Damn, I’m glad the summer vacation is over…I’m soooo tired of burgers, beer, BBQ’s, brothers, and brother in laws!”
He dragged the ‘so’ out to demonstrate just how peeved he was. And, he was indeed… peeved.
I said, “Charles…you look and sound upset. What’s going on?”
“My sister, Elizabeth, and her husband, Wendell, left last night for their home in Alberta…and I’m relieved…like, really relieved. I’m really close to Elizabeth, she is my only sister…but Wendell is a ‘piece of work’. Whenever they arrive for a visit I always have this feeling of mixed emotions,like…your worst enemy going over a cliff…but, in your new car! Do you know what I mean?” he said, his signature sarcasm, resurfacing.
“…I knew both police officers from my work in the courts…”
“Yes I get it. I guess you expected something else from your holiday…did you, Charles?”
“Is it too much to expect, on the only two weeks of the year I get to relax from the salt mines of my life, some peace, some quiet, and some good food?”
“What happened, Charles…with your brother in law?”
“What didn’t happen, Ken? He got drunk, embarrassed me, my sister, and even himself. He decided to go skinny dipping, in our pool, in broad daylight. And our new neighbours, who we haven’t even met yet, called the cops.”
“It sounds almost funny, except for the police part.” I said to try to inject a little lightness into the moment.
But, it didn’t work because he then added, “Ken, I knew both police officers from my work in the courts…!”
Charles was a lawyer by trade, and placed high value on his reputation, since it impacted his livelihood. It was time to get serious, so I said, “Charles, since you work in the justice system, you know how hard all participants, judges, lawyers, and defendants, strive for a balance to the situations in which you each find yourselves?”
“I certainly do, Ken!” he said, with a forlorn look on his face.
“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” – Nelson Mandela, lawyer
“… you had at least one priceless conversation with Elizabeth?”
“Did you ever think there must be a balance, or justice, to situations outside the courtroom…like vacations, for example?” I suggested, with a question mark written all over my face.
Charles looked at me, and thought for a moment, and then replied, “I suppose so…I have noticed over the years, regardless of the judge’s decision, it seems to work out OK for everyone.”
“Would you give me an example of that from your experiences?” I asked.
“I remember the kid who got two years for dealing drugs, saying to me, at least now he would get to finish his high school…and, the woman in divorce court, who commented, how she had learned to trust herself first, before everyone else, no exceptions…stuff like that still linger in my mind. But, how does it apply to my vacation and my brother in law?”
“I’m betting Charles, due to what happened, you had at least one priceless conversation with Elizabeth? Would that apply here?” I asked.
Charles smiled and replied, “More than one, Ken. Actually, several with her, and a couple useful ones with Wendell, as well.”
“That’s why vacations are actually important learning events for families.”
“Charles, the word vacation means, ‘freedom from obligations or leisure, or a release.’ But, there is no freedom or release from the laws of nature, such as the laws of gravity, energy conservation, symmetry, and so on. So, a belief in pleasure without equal pain is actually a belief in a fantasy, because it can’t occur in nature!”
“So, then, why are motivated at all…if not by pleasure? Why don’t we just vegetate?” he asked.
“Because, we learn vital information, and skills, for our survival. Survival is our real, primary motivator! That’s why vacations are actually important learning events for families. I suspect that’s why people write about them so often in literature.” I added
“I don’t see anything I learned that was useful to me, Ken.”
“Well, let’s check! It’s been said there are seven criteria for a perfect vacation…maybe you had a perfect vacation with Elizabeth and Wendell, Charles…? Do you want to find out if your vacation meets the criteria of a ‘perfect’ vacation?”
Charles smirked and said, “Sure, why not? It’s my nickel, eh?”
“It is your nickel that’s paying for this…but I’ll make you a deal…if you’re not satisfied you received your money’s worth, there won’t be a fee for today’s consultation. How does that sound…I want to uncover that law of symmetry and show you the fair exchange…OK?” I said, guessing at one of his highest values, because of his profession.
“Deal!” he replied smiling, liking the challenge inherent in it.
“Sure! Give it your best shot, …”
“Vacations are invariably a wonderful pain…like how some women describe childbirth. That means there is a justice in vacations, there is a balance of pleasure and pain in vacations…it’s a natural process…so, therefore…inevitable. The only people who try to deny it are the entertainment industry…like Disney and the city of Orlando, Florida.”
“OK…so far.” he replied.
“I’m going to make some guesses at what the benefits might have been to you with the events you described. I’ve seen the law of symmetry operate in the lives of myself, and thousands of clients I have worked with over the years. So, let’s see if the law applies to your vacation, OK?”
“Sure! Give it your best shot, Ken!” he said with a self confident tone, hinting a touch of arrogance.
“First, I’ll offer the most obvious ones. I bet you used these events to set clear boundaries with Wendell about future visits to your home and pool; I bet you actually got closer to Elizabeth as you all worked though the incident together; and, I bet you reaffirmed your own values about proper conduct in your home. How am I doing so far?”
“Not bad, Ken!” he replied, somewhat surprised yet reluctant to concede this early in the game.
“Some other benefits suggest themselves, as well. I suspect your spirit was strengthened by handling such a difficult and delicate situation successfully; I wonder if you are actually proud of your people skills in dealing with it as well; and, you are probably also pleased you handled the stress of a very difficult family event with tact. So, what do you think, Charles?”
“When you go on vacation with people, you learn a lot about them.” – Sarah Mlynowski, writer
“… I gained my self respect back…that sticks out to me…as huge”
His surprise seemed to grow on his face, and then, it softened into a half smile. He said, “It’s a little scary how accurate your six guesses are to me. There is only one that’s missing, and to me, one of the most important.”
“Tell me about it, Charles.”
“I mentioned Wendell being a ‘piece work.’ He has been a thorn in my side since the day he married Elizabeth. He has been so disrespectful, not just to me, but also to my parents, and even to Elizabeth, when she’s out of earshot. This has been going on for some time, and I have hesitated to deal with it because I didn’t want to hurt my sister, or create a scene. But the pool incident gave me a new opportunity…and, I took it, this time. And, I think I gained my self respect back…that sticks out to me, as huge!”
“Good for you, Charles! Can you see you raised your self worth, self esteem and self confidence with how you dealt with the situation? And I bet you have no regrets either! Would that be fair to say?”
“No regrets, whatsoever, Ken!”
“That’s one of the signs of a symmetrical, balanced event in one’s life…no regrets, no mistakes…just more wise, and more skilled, for the future! Can you see that now in this event, Charles?”
“Yes I can, Ken! It was a painful experience for me and everyone else…but looking at it closely, it needed to happen for my future, and my family’s…so it was worth the risk for me!”
“No mistakes, eh Charles?”
“No mistakes, Ken! I get it now! Here’s my credit card!” he said reaching for his wallet and smiling.
“Charles, can you see the two sides, the balance, you can expect in every vacation,past and future ones?”
“I sure can. I am wiser and stronger because of my run in with Wendell. And, vacations will take on a new meaning from now on…a more accurate one!”
“A vacation is like love – anticipated with pleasure, experienced with discomfort, and remembered with nostalgia.” – Evan Esar, humorist
Until Next time…
Now you know the truth about family vacations…how they helped your family grow, and learn important things, for each member’s future. So, here’s your opportunity to revisit old memories and uncover what you learned that has enabled you to be here reading this post, today. As you uncover the symmetry in your memories, notice how your appreciation for your family grows in new, and surprising ways.
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Namaste, (I salute the grandly organized design of the universe, manifested in you!)
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