Tuesday 5 July 2016

I Don’t Take Vacations Away from My Friends

I’ve never been one to cut myself off from my “normal” life when I am on vacation. I know people who turn off their mobile phones and put their emails and social media on hold when they are away. It’s not a matter of right or wrong, but that’s never worked for me.

Connection is important to me and I’d feel I was denying myself something enriching and valuable if I were to turn my back on it all. As I like to say, I don’t take vacations away from my friends—I take them with me!

I’ve always loved photography, and with my smartphone and a decent internet connection (a prime consideration when I am looking for new holiday destinations and accommodation) I can share my experiences more or less in real time, instead of having to wait until I return home to process and post my photos.

It’s also important to me that I keep in touch with friends, especially those reciprocal relationships which benefit both parties and which have established regular, often daily or near daily, rhythms. Email, instant messaging, and social media allow the flow of energy to continue, enriched by the different perspective that comes from new places, people, experiences away from home.

It is especially important to me to maintain contact with Fran. She does not have the liberty of taking a vacation away from her bipolar disorder, her chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia; nor is she able to put them on hold while I take a holiday. Being Fran’s best friend, primary support, and caregiver is not onerous, nor is it ever a chore. But it is a role and a responsibility I take seriously. When either of us travel it disturbs our normal rhythm of connection and support, but we both work hard to maintain frequent contact in whatever ways present themselves. That is as true on a short break as it is for a week away—or as it was during 2013 when Fran spent three months travelling in Europe with her parents.

Right now, I am in the middle of a week’s vacation in the English Lake District with my wife Pam. We ate breakfast this morning at the cottage we are renting, and then drove out for the day to Keswick. From past experience I knew I’d have an adequate data signal on my phone, and found a lovely coffee bar in the centre of Keswick to take my midday Skype call with Fran (seven in the morning for her, on the east coast of the United States).

We spoke last night and I knew Fran was struggling with fatigue and pain, depression and some suicidal thinking in there for good measure. We talked at midday for fifteen minutes (about average for our first call of the day) and I left her to sleep/rest before a morning appointment with her Care Coordinator. As I do for Fran’s regular appointments, I’d emailed her a short “status report”—a bullet point listing of her mental, physical, and emotional standing as I saw it—early this morning before heading out.

It is now 6:40 p.m. and I’m hoping to connect with her again this evening to see how her appointment went. She messaged me to say it had been good, but it helps me gauge how she is doing if we are able to talk. It is also valuable for Fran herself. The regular nature of our calls is itself stabilising, no matter what we get to talk about or do together.

On top of all that, we enjoy each other’s company! I’m looking forward to sharing with her the great time Pam and I had in Keswick today. I have posted photos to my social media already but, as they say, it’s good to talk. That’s how friendship works for us.

No matter what is going on for me and Fran health-wise or otherwise, we are friends first and last. I neither want nor need to put that on hold when I take a vacation, and the same goes for my other key relationships. At home or abroad, it’s good to share!



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