The View Up Here

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Jobs, Vacations, and the Nature of Stress

Posted by Tom Benedict on 09/01/2013

As I think I mentioned earlier, a few weeks ago I took a vacation. It was my first one in a year and a half. My first one since my wife went into the hospital with a brain tumor. WAY overdue. My vacation was two weeks long. On day two, my younger daughter got sick. By the end of the first week there was only one well person in the house. It wasn’t until the last two day of vacation that we were all finally well again. On the face of it, it probably sounds like a disaster. In reality, it was heaven.

Aside from two parties we went to (each safely in the “all’s well” periods of the vacation), we didn’t do anything. We couldn’t. We were all sick! We slept late. We ate comfort food. We hung out together. We played cards. We caught up on rest. We actually relaxed. It was exactly what we all needed. Some of us just had to run high fevers to get it.

Any time my stress levels change significantly, it’s fun to watch my tics to see what they do. In the months leading up to vacation, I had a loud vocal tic that was getting steadily worse. After a couple of days in the eat, sleep, and be sick house, it was gone. So was my neck-wrench tic. So was the slap like a seal tic. Most days I hardly ticced at all. The one time they really came back was when I took a phone call from work. But the next day they were gone again.

All good things come to an end, though, and eventually the kids went back to school and I went back to work. I had one day to get back on my feet, then the pace picked up and things were back to normal. In the five days since I’ve been back we’ve done an instrument change, torn apart the prototype camera to fix two leaks and install replacement parts, and had one catastrophic failure at the summit that has shut us down completely for the foreseeable future. Five days. That’s all it took. The seal-slap is back. The neck-jerk is back. And the drunken pirate “HO!” tic is back as well.

But it’s different. Except for the shutdown, I’ve enjoyed being back at work just as much as I enjoyed being on vacation. The challenges seem fresh now. It feels like we’re making two steps forward for every step back on the cameras, rather than the other way ’round. I’m not just running to stand still. I actually feel like I’m running.

It’s nice.

– Tom

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