It is almost time. My apartment looks worse than usual (tiny thing that it is) because of all of the camping gear staged around. Tarps. Sleeping bag. Sleeping mat. Food bags. Hiking boots. Portable generators. Chargers. And so it goes. Looking at all of the ‘stuff’, I thought that possibly ‘primitive camping trip’ might perhaps be a misnomer here. Surely when others go, they do not lug everything but the kitchen sink? Of course, they also didn’t have tablets, laptops, cell phones, work that might suddenly need one while even in a remote location with possibly spotty cell signal. I so hope they do not call. For once, just for once, I’d like to go away and not think one whit about work. I’ve never yet had a successfully uninterrupted vacation.
Speaking of work, I have come to the conclusion that I must establish better boundaries there. Salaried workers can get caught in that weird trap of actually making less per hour than when they were hourly, due to the number of hours we put in. This has become my life, particularly in the last three weeks since this new client ramp-up, the training of a new hire, and training the staff in Philly on parts of my job they are taking over. And I have been dragged into corporate meeting hell. I literally have more time blocked on my daily calendar for meetings, than I have free to actually do my work. How can people possibly meet so darn much? And yet, they do. And when I return to the office in late March, the new client will be on site all week, along with our vendor partner. I admit that one reason I want to stay connected while I am out of the office is so that E-mail will not become some living thing with its own life. If I check mail regularly, at least I can sort and file it to keep it from making my Inbox a nightmare upon my return. I miss the days of simple work, when you clocked in, worked, went home, and didn’t think about work again until you arrived the next morning. You always took a lunch, even if it was bagged, you weren’t allowed overtime, so you went home on time every night. I could cook supper, and watch a bit of TV or read, and did not feel exhausted when I walked in the door. Of course, I was much younger then too, hah! But really, I wasn’t tethered to my job nearly 24/7 back then – no one was. Cell phones and corporate cell E-mail didn’t exist. You went on vacation and you came back and there was no pile of work that only you could do. Others were cross trained. Now our jobs are so specialized and client-specific, that it is difficult to cross-train someone in everything that one does. But at least I’ve succeeded in training the new girl to cover the bulk of what needs doing while I am out, and I have two other back ups covering the things that she cannot do. Feels funny, knowing four people will be covering the work of one person. But just to not have to step into the office for over a week is pure bliss.
My entire being, down to the cellular level, needs this vacation. I have reached a professional and personal wall lately. I need the open space, fresh air, green things and running water to restore and reorient me. I’ve packed some of my favored books, so that I can sit beneath a tree, or by one of the creeks, and just read with no other responsibility whatsoever. I might take a nap one day too, come to think of it. I want to be surrounded by the smell of woods, of wood dirt, of fresh and living things. No fluorescent lighting. No ringing of phones, no whir of air conditioners and hundreds of computers, no sound of clacking keyboards and loud talking on speakerphone. One of my children asked, quite hesitantly “Mom, are you coming back?” How well she knows me, that one. Oh little one, if I had the means not to return, you know that I would not. Reality prevails though, and yes, I told her, I will be returning — this time. There will again come a day when I return to the woods and don’t come back except for visits. What do I imagine when I think of my first day out? Coolness. The temps will be in perfect range really – 30/40’s at night, 50/60’s during the day. Will there be a wind of any strength rushing between the limbs and shaking what few lingering leaves may still cling stubbornly to the branches? Will the scent of cedar prevail or will it be pine? Will the creeks be small and quiet, meandering types? Or will there be the sound of living, murmuring water to fill my ears? How cloudless will the night skies be, and what will I see against that black velvety back drop? Just how good will that coffee in the percolator taste, since it requires far more patience and anticipation than flipping the switch to the electric one on my way to the shower. How cold will the creek water be for bathing, and will I have to haul and heat it? What leaves will I collect for my tree book? Will I see any harmless wildlife, be privy perhaps to them taking a drink or browsing? It is the cusp between the end of Winter and the beginning of Spring – a wild and indecisive time. How fitting a time for me.
And stepping out of my extremely vivid and capable imagination, will I be afraid? If so, how will I face and deal with it? Fear pervades our society these days. Horrible things in the news all of the time. Tragic stories of bad people, good people in the wrong place at the same time. I do not want fear to compel me into not living, not exploring, always choosing ‘safety’. I want to be mindful, yes. But not fearful. Practical but not paralyzed. And so I have farmed out my itinerary to family. I’ve gathered a neighbor’s phone number who might be closer and more expedient were I to be injured, than the rural EMT service. I’ve established a pattern of contact and provided coordinates to my family of my whereabouts. One of my great friends is escaping her hubby to come down and spend a day with me. I think that I will be fine. If I should not, for some reason, return, then at least I will have been doing something meaningful to my spirit instead of say, needlessly dying in a traffic accident en route to work or keeling over from stress at my corporate drone desk. I plan for non-returns too, every time that I travel. My will and letters to my girls are placed out prominently for my eldest to find. Insurance is kept paid up so that little things can be attended to. It always sobers me to prepare those things before a trip. It makes me mindful that I do not do so every day when I leave for work, where I am more likely to be in danger than in the middle of the woods. The seriousness though, does not escape me. My husband died while I was traveling. At least I said a serious airport good-bye. So I hugged my eldest daughter yesterday before I left work, since I won’t see her again until I return. The other two I will see at the wedding on Saturday. I will hug them too, and kiss the babies. We simply just do not ever know, for the most part, of our expiration date.
Tomorrow will be the last day at work, and then the whirlwind begins of dropping off the dog, doing last minute preps for both the wedding and the trip, then transporting the wedding cake to the location, and the wedding itself. Most likely I will not get to write again until I am actually on the trip. It is a thirteen hour trip, so I probably will stay somewhere along the way, as I don’t want to arrive in a new place in the dark, especially a remote and uninhabited place. I may be a little wild at heart, but I’m not actually stupid (well, most of the time I’m not). I’ve checked out a campground or two en route, and may stop just over the TN border for the night. That would make for an easy and non-stressful drive for a day.
Dear readers, stay tuned. If Verizon lives up to its great coverage even in remote areas, I’ll be updating from the woods next time. Until then…please try to find time to go out, so that you may go in.
Be well. Face fear. Reach outside of your comfort zone.