Why I’m terrible at going on holiday

Fiona writes: This is Snowdonia.

Next week we’ll be on the shore of that estuary, walking through the landscape, spending quality time with our kindles, eating hearty veggie breakfasts and watching the occasional C.S.I.

If I’d had my way, we would have stayed at home instead and spent our time steaming and scraping hideous anaglypta wallpaper from the hallway. Kaspa talked sense in to me.

I confess. I am terrible at holidays.

I spend a great deal of time and effort ‘getting everything done’ so I can relax, and then as soon as I sit down with a cup of tea I catch site of the iris bulbs which needs planting or a mug that needs washing up. I have annoyingly exciting ideas about new projects as soon as the current ones are finished. If I’m not careful, even the novels I’m reading get onto the ‘things to get finished’ list.

From today for two whole weeks, I will not be seeing psychotherapy clients, not writing my novel, not talking to coaching clients, not running an e-course, not studying. The thought simultaneously fills me with joy and causes a shudder of anxious horror to run down my spine.

So what’s the deal? Why is it so difficult to enjoy down time?

I guess it’s the usual thing that’s causing all the problems – my samskaras. These aren’t (as they might sound) a fancy pair of sandals or a strange inner ear infection. They are deep habit-formations – stories I have about ‘who I am’ – which probably originate from way way back in the murky distant past of my childhood.

These samskaras say things like ‘I am only worthy when I am producing something’ or ‘I can’t trust anyone else to do it so I’ll have to do it all myself’ or ‘we never have enough money to keep us out of danger’ or ‘it’s not safe to take my eye off the ball’.

These kinds of stories-about-ourself exist way underground, and influence us much of the time without us even realising. Mine make it hard for me to enjoy a holiday in Snowdonia. Other people’s samskaras might make it difficult for them to form close relationships and not get jealous, or to stay in the same job for very long, or to feel happy-as-they-are.

These samskaras are pernicious devils. We cling onto them as if our lives depended on them (which in one way they do – without them all I would no longer be ‘Fiona’). But we can loosen them. This is an easier job if we can take refuge in something bigger than our little self, as a place to rest and to feel secure. This might be nature, or the love of our friends and family, or something ineffable. It doesn’t matter too much what – it matters that we relax into this safe space and feel loved. (Those interested in a Buddhist take on this might want to read what David Brazier says about everything not being impermanent, here).

And so I shall go forth into my holiday, knowing that it might be difficult, knowing how deeply human and foolish I am, and also knowing that it is possible to get better at having holidays. I’ll lie back into all those things I take refuge in, and I’ll feel safe enough to start loosening those stories.

Wish me luck : )


People usually sign up for our ecourses at the last minute. As we’re going to be on holiday next week, it’d be lovely if those last-minute-signer-uppers could sign up now instead. You’ve got three to choose from – Eastern Therapeutic Writing, Writing Ourselves Alive and a Creative Intensive. They’ll give you a good old look at your own samskaras, and help you create space for yourself and for creativity. Give yourself something lovely.


Mawddach estuary by Kevin Richardson, with thanks.

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