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We dissolve stuck and rewrite patterns. We apply radical playfulness to life (when we feel like it!), embarking on internal adventures (credo of Safety First). We have a fake band called Solved By Cake. We build invisible sanctuaries, invent words and worlds, breathe awe and wonder.

We are not impressed by monsters. Except when we are. We explore the connections between internal territories and surrounding environment to learn what marvelously supportive delicious space feels like, and how to take exquisite care of ourselves. We transform things.* We glow wild.**

* For example: Desire, fear, worry, pain-and-trauma, boundaries, that problematic word which rhymes with flaweductivity.

** Fair warning: Self-fluency has been known to lead to extremely subversive behavior, including treasuring yourself unconditionally, unapologetically taking up space, experiencing outrageously improbable levels of self-acceptance, and general rejoicing in aliveness.

 

Retroactive Emergency Vacation

It’s story time today.

Ten years ago this May.

I don’t want to write about this. And definitely not in the mood to go into all the details.

So. Ignoring the mechanisms, the how and why of my world falling apart, some relevant pieces:

In May of ten-years-ago my husband and I left our Tel Aviv apartment that I loved so much. Maybe even more than I’d realized, in retrospect. Oh, retrospect, you are always so late.

His parents had given us a flat they owned in the suburbs. Next door to them.

Except it was still being renovated, and I was working in the city.

My shifts at the bar ended late — too late for buses. And a cab out of town would eat up all my earnings.

My husband stayed at his parents in the suburb. And I stayed on various couches of girlfriends in Tel Aviv.

Time is funny.

It was supposed to be just for a month. We’d see each other weekends and in between my shifts at work.

We didn’t. Not really. Renovations took longer. My best friend went to London and I house-sat for a while, then took care of her ex-girlfriend who was going through a rough patch.

Three months.

I went to the States for a visit. Stayed with a girlfriend in Chicago. Went on a road trip. Place, perspective. Breathing room.

Four months.

Timing is timing.

I was scheduled to fly out of Chicago on September 12.

This was 2001, so September 11 meant there was no September 12. At least, not in any way that mattered.

Flights were canceled. Flights to Israel were canceled for even longer.

Another month.

Six months into seven.

Eventually I came back. The marriage, unsurprisingly, came apart. It was agreed that I would move out.

A friend of a friend was moving to Sweden. I could rent her apartment.

She changed her mind about if and when so many times that I lost count.

I stayed on more couches.

By the time I moved in, it was almost December. Seven months of couch-sleeping. Of not knowing when or where — or if at all — there would be home for me.

Why this.

This six month period is by no means the hardest or the shittiest thing that has happened to me.

It hurts to say: this doesn’t even make the top ten.

But that doesn’t mean this time wasn’t terrifying and painful, because it was.

And sometimes I talk to me-from-then. I invent vacations for her. I put her up in hotels and buy her books. I take care of her. It’s what I do.

Why now.

I have trouble taking time off. I have trouble stopping.

Until it’s an emergency, and Emergency Vacation is declared.

This is a known thing.

But to every absolute declarative “this is how things are” truth, there is always an exception. And here it is:

While I personally may be terrible at creating refuge for myself now, there is a version of me who knows how to stop.

It’s the me who invents vacations for past versions of myself.

Look at all the things I have trouble giving to me-in-the-present:

Time, space, money, attention, caring, forgiveness, comfort, reassurance, appreciation, protection.

And yet all of these I gladly give to me-who-went-through-all-that-crap.

Bless the loophole.

Yesterday, I took myself away on a holiday.

I took me-from-now and me-from-ten-years-ago, and we went on a little self-rescue mission.

We booked a gorgeous hotel room. We packed an overflowing picnic basket. Books and magazines. Slippers. An appointment for a facial.

Normally I would never do this for myself. But it’s okay, because I’m taking care of her. I’m taking care of her by showing her that now I can take care of myself.

She knows what I’m doing, me-from-then.

She knows this is my way of easing into being the person who can take care of herself in the moment and not just after the fact.

She’s happy for me.

And I am happy for her.

Very specific comment blanket fort zen for today.

This is really, really vulnerable stuff I’m writing about. It’s hard to do.

What is welcome.

Your stories.

The versions of you who are in need of a Retroactive Emergency Vacation, whether you literally might go on one or not.

Spaciousness. Warmth. A glass of wine or a cup of tea.

What I am not okay with:

Not that you would do this, of course, but just to have said it…

I do not wish to be told what to do, psychoanalyzed, judged, given advice or given that thing which is called tough love but is not loving in practice.

I do not want to be told that I shouldn’t be posting here if I’m on vacation, or that I need to learn to take time off.

Thank you.

Happy Retroactive Emergency Vacation to me. And to all of your various verisons-of-you who need one too. Hug.

59 Responses to Retroactive Emergency Vacation

  1. Melissa LaMunyon
    Twitter: melissalamunyon
    says:

    Hi Havi,

    I’m crying…oh sweet release and reflection.

    I’ve only ever been on one sweet, actual vacation. All of the other ‘official’ vacation I’ve taken have been traumatic. Family issues traumatic. Assault and almost dying traumatic. Draining and stressful and winding up at home in the negative, at the very least

    I’ve been slowly realizing that after living, well, my whole life, I need and deserve a break. And not just a week away from everything with delicious nurturing support, which yes, does need to happen, but the kind of break you build into your life structure…where you turn down the drive from warp speed to thrusters only…

    I’m thinking five years. Five years set with a restful intention and the ‘work’ settings set around minimum capacity.

    I like this idea, but it’s also very scary and would involve shifts in every part of my life–when I wake up, when I go to sleep, how I view entire chunks of my day, eg, afternoons aren’t cleaning/working/child/cooking time…they’re just play/child/cooking/prepare for rest time.

    I don’t know how this will work out, but I love that it’s a viable possibility being presented and considered. Woot.

    All the love,
    Melissa

  2. Naomi Niles
    Twitter: NaomiNiles
    says:

    I was thinking about taking an emergency vacation day myself next week and this pretty much just convinced me to do it.

    Thank you, Havi. :)

  3. Amber
    Twitter: AmberStrocel
    says:

    I am just catching up.

    I hope the Emergency Vacation was just what you needed.

    Also? Anniversaries of big events are hard. And the milestone ones are especially so, for some reason. So I am sending lots of spaciousness and tea. But I am keeping the wine for myself. ;)

  4. Anna
    Twitter: tigerlilith
    says:

    Havi,

    Someone else posted this as well, “I didn’t know I needed to read this right now.” The same goes for me.

    And I love that you do things for all your you-from-thens. I have a me-from-then that could use some loving, but… It can’t possibly change anything. I can’t really go back to me-from-then and give her any of that amazing 20/20 hindsight kind of advice that can actually help me-from-then survive all the crap any better.

    I don’t doubt that it helps you, and your you-from-then, but the question I am asking, I guess, is… How?

    Love,
    Anna~

  5. E says:

    This is good to read again for me, too.

    I love the idea of taking care of me-from-when-my-marriage-ended. Of having tea and wonderful books and the softest-warmest-robe-ever to wrap her in when she starts crying in the middle of the night and can’t stop. (She doesn’t do that anymore, but somehow when I think about her then, it’s always those moments of crying in bed in the middle of the night, or on the floor after getting home from work, or or or)

    I am going to start doing this more. This is so hard but so lovely.

    Thank you, Havi. For writing this, and for linking to it from the post I read today. <3

  6. VIVA says:

    The idea of talking to old-me reminded me that a friend’s therapist told her her anxiety is improving because she is better at “filing away” the feelings after a stressful event: retroactive healing. It makes so much sense that the compassionate processing of a tough time makes it less tough — maybe just in your memory, but that’s all that matters. I have a decision I regret; the consequences seem tragically devastating when I recount it with my needing-sympathy monster on my shoulder, but quite happy and sensible when I recount it with spaciousness — like the spaciousness I feel in a nice hotel room with vacation time. More space, please.

  7. anne says:

    i love this idea as much as the doing nice things for my future self idea. but when i tried it i hit a little stick:
    the first super-sad me that i wanted to rescue is a me that did the bad things that caused the super-sadness. and so i kind of feel like maybe what she deserves is not a nice-stay-at-a-spa emergency vacation but rather a kidnapped-by-torturers-and-flogged-incessantly emergency vacation. and like i would be an enabling over-indulgent parent if i told her ‘oh, honey, it’s okay, everybody ruins their lives and those around them sometimes, just relax and take care of yourself and know that you can make a better choice next time if you believe in reincarnation.’

    although i guess if i can put a little space between the girl who did the bad things and the girl who felt super sad a few days later when she realized how much those choices she made were going to hurt other people and even herself, in an enormous, non-revocable, eternal way; maybe i can take care of the sad girl (and the other sad girls through the years who realized again and again just how enormous, non-revocable, and eternal the effects of those decisions were), and deal with the mean girl in a different way.

    okay, thanks for helping me figure that out.

    also, *viva* if you are still around, your comment ” I have a decision I regret; the consequences seem tragically devastating when I recount it with my needing-sympathy monster on my shoulder, but quite happy and sensible when I recount it with spaciousness” seems like it could be helpful for me to consider too. right now it feels a little vague, maybe after i read more about monsters i will understand better; but if you have anything to add about that process i would love to hear.
    specifically, i hadn’t considered that the mean girl might want sympathy, or space. certainly she would want forgiveness and understanding, but some smart parts of me now are pretty sure that would be letting her off the hook and maybe they don’t believe she’s learned her lesson. so i guess those dudes need to have a little conversation.

    k, thanks again. sorry this is so long. and PS Melissa L. ~ way to take it to the next level! I hope that is working well for you.

  8. VIVA says:

    *Anne*, thanks for the reminder to have sympathy. Honestly, I feel less scared requesting/giving sympathy than congratulations. I find both useful.

    Why have sympathy for the me-who-did-bad-things? I propose she did bad things out of a different sadness. I assume that people are good and only accidentally hurt each other because of inner hurt (as described in Elgin’s “How to Disagree without Being Disagreeable”).

    How does a vacation help? I’m usually busy proving my worth with work and chores and fitting-in. I’m like a shriveled, deflated balloon of protective habits. But in vacation-like states, I can expand to be bigger, better me. Then, I remember that I have always included the seed of better me. So me-from-then must have had her reasons to do the bad things. Reasons include fear and self-protection and anger due to unmet needs.

    Flogging someone who is scared/sad/angry seems to pull the knot tighter in trying to unravel it. (I also have a tendency to punish…it’s the reason Scientologists have told me I need Scientology :).)

    I like the meditation practice of thinking loving thoughts towards a favorite person for a few minutes and then thinking those same thoughts about yourself. I find it sneaky and a good challenge.

    I agree, we can make better choices. I think we don’t have to wait for reincarnation.

  9. Anne says:

    Thanks Viva, all wonderful ways of not hating on ourselves. I will do some sympathy and kindness meditations and give myself a break and a chance to be better from now on. Someone once told me “we do the best we can with the light we have to see by”, so paying attention to ourselves helps illuminate those dark places that can cause fear and self-defensive choices that end up hurting worse than just loving and accepting our fears.
    I’m pretty good I think of viewing others through the lens of “they had a reason for acting that way”, but haven’t practiced looking at myself that way. Maybe because I keep trying to identify the reason and evaluate its merit, rather than just accepting that it was whatever it was, as I do with others.

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