In a world where we are all tethered to technology, to-do lists and status updates, this revelation is truly life-changing.
It’s 6:30am, the sun is shining and there isn’t a cloud in the magnificent clear blue sky. Birds are chirping and chickens are ambling about, clucking to one another as they poke at the wild grass. I actually take the time to notice the subtle smell of lavender in the air.
I write this from a small town named Ficulle, in the countryside of Umbria, Italy while on vacation. And for perhaps the first time in a very long stretch, I realize that I actually feel a sense of quiet and calm as I embrace being off the grid with no real schedule to guide me. I accept the non-routine of it all, going with the flow of a day that feels unfamiliar and vast, yet gloriously delicious and exciting at the same time.
In my real life, I am a classic Type A personality—a perfectionist with abundant energy and drive. While I meditate and journal daily, and have come to love yoga, most of my time is spent in a hurry; that is, running from one activity and commitment to the next. I’m probably better at being present than I was a decade ago, but sitting here on this beautiful quiet morning in Ficulle makes me realize just how much of nature’s beauty and the gift of being present I have been missing in my everyday life. The pull of the next thing I have to do, place I have to be, call I have to make, or person I have to meet causes me to rarely embrace completely any given moment in time; to not fully hear, see, smell, taste, or touch the gift of what’s right in front of me.
So, here are some of the things I’m going to take away from this experience:
Slow down to speed up. I was running on empty by the time I arrived in Italy. Between trying to make sure that every possible thing was wrapped up at work and attending to all of the personal errands that I needed to squeeze in, I was exhausted. In order to come back refreshed, I must take the time off to replenish and nourish my body, mind and spirit.
Vacating my life on a regular basis is a good thing. Stepping away from the phone, email, texts, tweets and Facebook posts is so healthy. It allows me to connect to my true self, to get clear on my priorities and tap into strength and creativity in order to be top of my game the rest of the time. While I can’t be on vacation every day, I can create a “sacred space” basically anytime I choose; one where I can be mindful and present, instead of in constant “go” mode.
Creativity thrives in times of quiet. I’ve been away since last Friday and I’ve already jotted down 4 brainstorms; ideas and sparks that I’m pretty sure wouldn’t have come to me in the midst of normal chaos.
The gift of connection comes to me when I am not rushed. Instead, in the calm, I find that I am present and open to learning new things. People are more real with me and they sense a calm energy vs. one that is in constant motion.
The world continues to spin even when I’m not around to make it do so. In my everyday life, I feel the need to respond to every email and text within seconds—I’m always ON. But being away makes me realize that I am not as indispensable as I think, and it’s actually OK for me to disappear for a bit. My time out of the office actually allows those who work for me to stretch their own leadership muscles and thrive.
I may need to change my definition of the word “productive.” I realized that strolling through a medieval town, eating gelato, staring at a mountain, a tree, a sunflower or just walking hand-in-hand with my husband IS my productivity for today. It’s the stuff I am supposed to be doing in order to recharge my batteries and experience the world.
The day we arrived in Italy, we learned that our accountant and friend, Bert, had suddenly passed away, succumbing to a pulmonary embolism. Unfortunately, he didn’t stand a chance. 59 years old and one of the sweetest, funniest and most vibrant people I know, it is almost impossible for me to imagine that he is gone. I am so sad about his premature death yet I realize that it is yet another lesson I am meant to learn: That life is painfully short; it is not a dress rehearsal. The opportunities, sights and sounds that pass before me are gifts meant for me. These gifts are there for each and every one of us.
Whether it’s a moment, a day or a week, take the time to relish life around you. Use vacation to actually “vacate” the daily to-do list and the never-ending requirements that stress us all. Trust that the world will continue to spin without you while you replenish your soul.