Trading Push for Pull: What I Learned About Vacation

A funny thing happened on the way to the alarm clock.

After three non-stop years of making my way through several major life events, including the death of a parent and moving abroad, I have decision fatigue. This is turning out to be a good thing.

A Line In The Sand

At the beginning of November, after a year of struggling to calm my overwhelmed HSP sensibilities and find a more stable foothold amid all the changes in the realms of home, finances, work, and family, I snapped. It was like my psyche drew a line in the sand and said, “Take one more step and I won’t be responsible for the results.”

I’d been pushing myself and my life improvement agendas hard in order to make my life better as soon as possible, but it was backfiring.

The line drawn by my psyche took the form of an insistence that I go on vacation, immediately and lengthily.

Creating Vacation

I live in southwestern Germany, within easy reach of loads of wonderful places to get away to, but an extended away-from-home vacation was not feasible considering the transitional state of my work and finances. So, to appease my psyche, and because I recognized a mental health red flag when I saw it, I decided to go on vacation in a different way. Late one night, I sat at my desk and drew up an “Official Vacation Declaration” consisting of three lists: things I commit to doing during my vacation, things I excuse myself from during my vacation, and things I’m allowed to do during my vacation. I tuned in to what my sensitive body and over-taxed mind needed and considered how the practicalities of my life could bend toward a vacation. I thought deeply about what to put on each list. Then, on October 29, 2013, I read through what I’d created and dated and signed the document. I was officially on vacation through January 7th. Here’s a selection of the things I included on the three lists:

Things I commit to doing during my vacation:

  • meditate every morning;
  • accept and complete work for clients;
  • write enough journal pages to fill a spiral notebook;
  • go on weekly dates with my husband;
  • attend to holiday gift-giving pro-actively;
  • exercise enough to improve my health;
  • and (this one has made all the difference) stop doing work or work-like activities by 1:30 p.m. every weekday, no matter what.

Things I excuse myself from during my vacation:

  • business strategizing other than the minimum needed to meet my vacation commitments;
  • social obligations that don’t seem fun or restful;
  • solving big, long-term issues;
  • clutter-clearing, except to maintain the current state of things;
  • figuring stuff out;
  • telling anyone about this vacation, unless I really want to.

Things I’m allowed to do during my vacation:

  • space out,
  • not have a clue,
  • do things that are completely pointless,
  • watch YouTube videos of German soap opera storylines,
  • spend huge blocks of time on hobbies,
  • cry for any or no reason,
  • make a lot of mistakes,
  • stare into space,
  • sleep a lot,
  • wander aimlessly,
  • allow myself to be exactly as I am.

Finding Joy Again

As I write this, I’ve been on vacation for a month and I’m surprised and delighted by the results so far.

I spent the first couple of weeks in a dozy daze. I’d stop working at 1:30, then not do anything else of much importance at all. I read ridiculously indulgent things, online and off. I started writing fiction again, after a hiatus of about six years, which felt and feels like pure joy. I allowed my body’s clock to rule, staying up until two in the morning sometimes and sleeping in the next day, yet somehow, magically, still meeting my work commitments by 1:30, which seemed odd, but because my vacation document excused me from figuring stuff out, I didn’t try to understand why it was working. I simply went with it. And my joy kept increasing. About a week ago, I found words for why I feel so much better: I stopped pushing and allowed myself to be pulled. I’ve switched from doing things because I feel pressured to leaning toward a lack of pressure.

I don’t do today what I could put off until tomorrow, because if I feel like putting it off, it’s not pulling me. Instead, I turn toward what magnetizes me, as though I’m a bloom seeking sunlight. I know I’m going in the direction of a pull rather than a push because my body tells me. My breath slows, my chest and shoulders relax, my mouth curves into a smile, I sit up straight, my senses sharpen, and my internal chatter ceases. So far, the results of being on this vacation include immense relief, extravagant amounts of joy, deepening peace of mind, greater connection with intuition, and weird, welcome, unexpected adjustments of my career path.

At this rate, I may renew my vacation declaration on January 7th. Maybe I’ll decide to stay on vacation for the rest of my life. Why not? I’m already so much happier. This morning, I spontaneously skipped from one room of our apartment to the other. Just happy, I guess, I said to myself and continued on my merry way. I invite you to honour and empower yourself by trading push for pull, somehow.

Allow yourself space to notice and connect with the good stuff of your life, right now, today, even if you have to redefine some parameters.

You deserve it.

About gkerina

As a freelance writer, editor, and teacher, Grace Kerina’s mission is to eliminate writer’s block from the planet. She pays close attention to what makes people stop writing, creating, or living true and comes up with ways to help, some of which are on the wacky side but still weirdly work. Her e-courses, services, and publications help writers tap inspiration so they can share their wisdom and make a difference. Connect with Grace at her website.


  1. Robyn on September 26, 2018 at 10:54 am

    Very nice piece, and i love the title! I’m also working hard on seeking out the things that pull me forward, rather than just pushing myself because I « need to. » and yeah I guess that includes dropping the pressure to « figure things out »

    • Grace Kerina on September 26, 2018 at 11:10 am

      I’m with you, Robyn, on figuring out that push-pull. My favorite repeating phrase to tell myself these days is “Slow down to the speed of listening.” Helps me figure things out my way. I send you steadiness and depth as you play with dropping the pressure. 🙂

  2. Lesley on March 13, 2020 at 11:40 pm

    I have just read this, at 3.30 in the morning, on my 60th Birthday! I am going to ‘gift’ this to myself, thank you for giving me permission!

    • Maria Hill on March 14, 2020 at 10:30 am

      You are welcome and Happy Birthday!


    • Grace Kerina on March 14, 2020 at 12:15 pm

      Happy birthday, Lesley! And congratulations to you for giving yourself (ahem) permission.

      I wrote this article in 2013. Almost seven years later, I’m living on the US West Coast and growing my business as an indie publisher of my novels. My first novel (published by a traditional publisher) was the novel I started during that vacation. Now I have more, and this has turned into my favorite career (I write under the pen name Alice Archer). I’m so excited to see where it takes me.

      I turn 60 next year.

      Here’s my stance: It’s never, ever to late to be who we most want to be. Ever.

      I hope you find everything you’re looking for. I’m rooting for you.

      Grace / Alice