I found a new way to say no. Go on vacation! My family decided pretty last minute to squeeze in a vacation this winter. It was a stressful process to just pick a week and clear out everyone’s schedules. We have four kids, each with school and other demands, and my schedule is, well, honestly, it’s not about the schedule as much about my inability to let people down, at least in my head, so rescheduling meetings or saying I can’t assist with something – even rescheduling carpool – can be stressful for me. But, we did it! And, oh, was it worth it.
I learned a few valuable lessons from my week in paradise.
1. KNOW YOURSELF. We had a hard time deciding on a place to go for our family vacation. Typically, we vacation in the summer and we are “water” people. It was hard to find a location with good weather in February. We considered going for the skiing vacation instead. We have never been to the great ski areas and it would be very fitting in February – even if this year we have had so little snow. But for the relaxing vacation that both my husband and I yearned for, we knew we had to get to a beach and sun. So we schlepped the family all the way to Hawaii for 8 days. Right decision. We would have had a blast skiing I am sure, but as soon as we hit the sun’s rays I could feel myself returning to center. The first day in flip-flops and suntan lotion sent all my stress into the ocean. My daughter, the school-work-a-holic,relaxed for the first time in 6 months and didn’t do a stitch of homework. My family responds to surf and rays – so that’s where we need to go.
2. ISLAND SPEED. On a trip to the Caribbean when I was young, my parents and their friends coined the phrase “island speed.” It referred to the annoyingly slow pace of the islands, service is slow, traffic is slow, even speaking is slow when measured by us North-Easterners. It became a phrase of affection the more you relaxed. For the first few days the pace is an adjustment. It feels like everyone is moving in slo-mo. Traffic on the one-lane 55 mph highway is moving at 45. Then an awareness begins to creep in – what’s the rush? An extra 10 minutes of sun on the beach? You’re already burning to a crisp. Everything shuts down at 10pm. Why not? Why can’t we get a good night’s sleep? What are we killing ourselves for? Enjoying life takes time too.
3. HAVE FUN. One of the main highlights of the trip was being able to swim with dolphins. There was a DolphinQuest at the hotel we stayed at and we were able to observe the dolphins quite a bit and ask a lot of questions. The dolphins in the pool play all day. Sure they play with the trainers, but even at night, long after the trainers have gone home, they are doing tricks and jumps, just for their own fun. And the dolphins have lived 4x as long as dolphins in the wild. We don’t really need dolphins to tell us that living life having fun and not stressing over predators causes us to live better, longer lives. But it was a good reminder to take enough time to have fun every day.
Like most of us, learning lessons while in the moment of a class, lecture, or life experience is pretty easy. The tricky part is taking those lessons with you into the rest of your life. So here’s my strategy. I bought a bracelet – just a little “Aloha” that now sits on my wrist reminding me to welcome life and embrace each moment fully. And I put a very large towel of the tropical view of palm trees and sunset right in front of my desk at work. This way my mind can travel to my stress-free zone whenever necessary to keep me centered.
You don’t have to go half-way around the globe to find inspiration. Just this morning on my way in to work, I saw a father carrying his 4-year old son into preschool in the rain. The dad was running to get out of the rain and the son? He had his tongue out lapping up the rain as it fell. Now that’s island speed.