HOLIDAY [ Hol-li-day]  any day of exemption from work

EXEMPT [ig–zempt] to free from an obligation or liability to which others are subject; release:

– Dictionary.com

I live just at the edge of my town, my road running off a lane that starts with a school and church and peters out to fields with horses and rabbits. Every now and again my Mum will be in the car with me on that lane and will tell me (again) the story of when she went on ‘holiday’ along that lane. The Baptist church she belonged to, which was all of two miles away, hired flat-bed wagons and the congregation packed them with blankets and picnic food then clambered up themselves. Off they set to drive past the terraced housing, up past ‘the Green’, over the hill and down along the lane, singing as they went.  As they drove past the end of my lane an old lady’s hat blew off, and the procession stopped for it to be retrieved. Then they carried on to the fields where they spread themselves out on the ground and proceeded to have fun and create memories that so far have lasted seventy years. 

For that little girl, living in a council house and with disabled parents, that short trip was a ‘holiday’. Why? Because it was novel and a release from what we might now call young caring responsibilities. I used to think that was a quaint old-fashioned story but now, in these odd times, I am thinking, actually we have something to learn from that. 

One of the traps of lockdown is that we find ourselves not only in the same physical space but with the same mindsets and habits playing out every day. We have lost novelty and variety, the sense of anticipation and exploration that holidays bring. Instead we have repeating habits and mindsets. Dull dutiful regimes (Work, feed and school kids, work a bit more, clean, watch Netflix, phone parents, put kids to bed. Repeat)

The temptation is to save up holiday allowances until they can be used to flee the house and find sun and exotic beaches or unfamiliar cityscapes. But to wait until we can do those things again is to deny ourselves the whole point of a holiday which is the sensation of release. And that is actually possible right where we are because it’s a function of mindset, not location. 

I found it interesting that the definition quoted above starts with that idea of ‘exemption’ and ‘freeing’ which in turn are redolent of the word ‘permission’. As we lock ourselves in our houses or venture out to do front line jobs, hidden behind compulsory protective garments, we start to feel imprisoned, limited and controlled. And actually, for many of us that’s the fact even when life was normal because we run a loop in our head that refuses to give way to inner desires because of a feeling of duty, obligation to others or proprietary.  We work and work and work or put everyone else before ourselves because that’s what we think is our obligation.

(Sometimes of course it is. If you are employed to work a certain number of hours a week then that is what you must do. If you don’t want social services at your door you must feed and clothe and educate your kids. I’m talking about the obligations that we place on ourselves over and above the essential.)

Holidays don’t need to be about travel, they can simply be about giving ourselves permission to lay down both work and the extra burdens we place on ourselves. The Jewish faith gets this right with a concept of Shabbat which is seen not as an obligation but as a weekly festival to celebrate. Every single week work gets laid down, and not just the paid- to-work-for a-boss kind of work, but the everyday repetitive tasks that trap us into a routine way of being. They get set aside and rest and fun and family come in instead. 

So as we face months more yet of restrictions on travel, why not start to think about how to holiday at home, whether for an hour, a day or a fortnight?  Here are some questions to ask yourself that might give you ideas of what kind of exemption or release would work for you:

  • What can I do that is different and novel? Something I would never normally watch/read/eat/do?
  • What counts as ‘work’ for me that I can simply let go of for a time?
  • What can I turn off? 
  • What can I order in that’s an unusual treat, or is simply a novel brand of food or drink?
  • What do I like to do that I never indulge myself in that I could do a lot of for a short time? 
  • What do I like that I could let myself have? (The expensive wine. The bath bombs/newly released hardback book etc)
  • How can I temporarily re-arrange the furniture to give us a different outlook for a while?
  • Who can I talk to or read that is out of my echo chamber that will give me a different voice and perspective?
  • What feels selfish and unproductive that gives me joy that I can still do from home?
  • Where do I need to give myself permission in life to do things that are good for me?