“I need to get away from it all!” For some of my mom’s generation, “Calgon, take me away!” We are all familiar with the urge to find geographic “solutions” to our problems; there’s something quite appealing about leaving all your troubles behind while you forge ahead to some fresh, new, incredible eye-popping location. It’s tempting to think that whatever terrible thing is happening to you at this moment could only be happening here; and, if you could leave the place you live, work, or congregate, then all of the associated problems would stay behind with the place. More often than not, however, we find our troubles have hitched a ride like some nightmarish invading species of fish with sharp teeth, human arms, and three eyes. While you’re busy trying to kick this aberration off the side of your lifeboat you don’t even realize that it isn’t the only thing that tagged along; there are invasive plants and the forgotten Snarfdoodle you secretly tucked away in your bag to give to Aunty Pam.
The problem with geographic solutions is that they usually end up being more like geographic suspensions. Suspensions of belief swim with the tide of our modern day propensity towards perpetual cognitive dissonance, enabling us to believe that while we roll in the waves and wander through the sand and sun two opposite things can be true at the same time. That while your boss is finagling a way to fire you – he also wants the best for you; that the evil girl down the hall that’s been cutting in on your boyfriend while you’re gone – is still your buddy; and, even though you owe three months back rent and ten thousand dollars in credit card debt – you’re doing alright financially. “Getting away” doesn’t gut the problems from your life, it’s more like a catch and release program. You catch a break for a minute, and then you get released back to the problems you tried to forget you have.
Don’t get me wrong, we all need a vacation, people, in general, need more vacations. I think it’s when we take too few pit-stops that we end up running into so many problems. We are often so busy keeping up with the Joneses that we forget what’s most important in our own lives – taking care of our hearts, our souls, our health & wellbeing. Easy to say right? I used to hear people say things like that and think, “They have to be rich! Who has the opportunity to get away like that?” Silly me, I still had some invasive species weighing me down, only this time they were covering my eyes. Psalm 119:18 starts, “Open my eyes that I may see…”, not, “Hey, give me something good.” The sentence isn’t about what isn’t there, it’s about seeing what is, and it took me a while to recognize what I was missing. It’s not about taking a twenty thousand dollar vacation to an all-inclusive resort on a tropical island; It’s not about spending a couple of thousand dollars on a hotel by the shore, it’s not really about a geographic place at all. Geographic solutions only work if the tectonic plates under the oceans of your soul and attitude shift. When you take that attitude of gratitude with you and, instead of pretending the problems don’t exist when you get away, you look for ways to be thankful for the situation. That’s when you get the rest you need.
I confess that lately, I have been tempted to wish I could get away, but my problems would follow me. I’ve wanted to find a place where I didn’t feel so disabled, someplace that would lift my spirits, any place but here. Thankfully, I’d already seen the sign. That soul-eating bacteria almost took hold until I realized that this situation was a blessing in disguise. Learning to slow down and take breaks so that I didn’t push myself to the limit was a good lesson for me. Learning that If I did overextend myself, it would set back all the progress, I’d made in physical therapy was good for me too. So, instead of being angry or depressed about the situation, I’ve started to be thankful that God doesn’t think I’m too old to learn new tricks and I don’t even have to travel.