I just spent two weeks in Costa Rica. Technically, it was for work, but it was very un-work-like. I went as a chaperone for a group of 18 female undergrads who were preparing to start their semester of student teaching. The two weeks could not have been more UNlike my regular life.
- For starters, Brent and the kids weren’t there. That was really weird. I’ve never been away from them for that long. I’d wake up in the morning and no one needed me. No lunches to be made, no papers to sign, no fights to referee, no clean laundry in huge unfolded mountains to pick through, you get the picture. I felt like I was living in an alternate universe. The first couple days, I felt unhinged, like I had no purpose in life. I was oddly glad when one of the girls would ask me to do a motherly thing, like give her some Neosporin or hold her camera for her or loan her some money or worry that she wasn’t being sufficiently cautious. I was amused by how quickly I slid back into that mothering role whenever an opportunity arose. In my regular life, that role always feels like such an ill fit.
- I did all sorts of things I don’t like to do, like get dirty and sweaty and hike in far flung places and zip line and crawl into bed after flicking a big roach off the top covers and finding rat poop in between the sheets and sleep in a cabin without AC and eat in a restaurant where I saw a rat scurry across our table from above while we waited for our food. Heck–I even had to break down and drink diet Pepsi a couple times (shuddering).
- I didn’t use my ipod the whole time I was there, despite having loaded it beforehand with all sorts of podcasts that I was excited to catch up on. In fact, I never even thought about it. When I’m home, I listen to my ipod or the radio all the time. I even turn it on for my 3-minute “commute” to work. I listen to it when I run into the grocery store or the gas station or when I go running or when I wait to pick up the kids from wherever they are.
- Because I had no access to a computer or to internet access, I went days without checking email or Facebook or any of the blogs I usually frequent. A few times I paid 500 colones (approximately one dollar) for 15 minutes of internet access. That was only enough time to read emails from the kids and compose an email update to send to Brent and the kids and to take a quick peek at my work email. I was surprised by how much I didn’t miss that. I was oddly uninterested in what was going on in my virtual world.
- I didn’t pay attention at all to what I ate—other than to eat a lot of whatever it was and to enjoy it. Considering the amount of energy I ordinarily consume worrying about what I eat (or more importantly, what I don’t eat or what I wish I were eating), this was a huge departure from the norm.
- There were a couple nights that I actually fell asleep at about 10:30—a deviation from my normal bedtime or 12:00 or 1:00 at night.
- I didn’t go to (Mormon) church; I did go to two different Catholic masses–one in a little mountain town and one in San Jose.
And now I’m home. Today was my first day back at work. And it felt like, well, work. Now I’m left trying to figure out how to re-capture some of the magic that was that two weeks: more quiet time, less rushing to and fro, going to bed earlier, tuning out some of the online noise that I ordinarily tune in to, you get the picture.
But I can already see that it’s so easy to slip back into my old ways.
Have you ever spent an extended period of time really outside of your comfort zone? After it was over, were there aspects of the experience that you wanted to integrate into your regular life? Were you able to do it or did you fall back into your old habits and routines despite your best intentions?
Inquiring minds want to know . . .