I’ve neglected you, my dear readers.
It’s been over two weeks since my last post and I feel terrible about that.
The bad news? I will continue to neglect you until the new year.
The good news? I’ve received a very important lesson on how to own your time that I feel is important to share with you fine people.
Rewind to my last blog post, if you will. In it, I relay a very brutal road biking experience, my first one ever, on the backcountry roads of western Pennsylvania. It was great, despite the fact that I hobbled around from a sore set of limbs for nearly two days after. But that was one of the last times I went outside to play for awhile, for then came my father’s birthday, followed by Thanksgiving, followed by an unrelenting week of catching up on stories, planning for 2015, and, unfortunately, recovering from yet another bout with a head cold.
What that meant for me was, mainly, a lot of time spent indoors. Not out enjoying the beautiful snow we had on Thanksgiving. Not out soaking in the unseasonably warm weather in the days leading up to the holiday. Not out running through the kinda dreary, wet, and cold week that followed Thanksgiving. Not, even, a daily yoga session to keep my sanity in tack.
No, I was far too gone for that. I was “in over my head” in work, in deadlines, in personal errands that needed taken care of, in catching up with old friends one last time before I left town. I was “too busy,” too sick, too stressed, too tired (I am a grandma when it comes to sleep). But at the end of the day, those were all just excuses, and poor ones at that. What I needed most in those hectic days was just a little time outside for even a half hour to reboot, recharge, and disconnect a little from the grind. And in reality, there is no excuse good enough for not doing that.
I finally came to that realization last Friday when my boss Blake and I decided to take the day from work and cruise around in the Jeep to a local fly-fishing spot outside of Charlottesville, Va. I know I’ve just spent the past 300-some words complaining about how I only got outside once in the span of two weeks, but I know many people who get less than that in a month. Blake may very well be one of those people – between family obligations and running multiple businesses, it’d be an understatement to say he has a lot of irons in the fire.
So when he agreed to teach me how to cast a line that day (I’d not so much as picked up a fly rod until then), I was more than happy to ditch the stress of upcoming deadlines for a day on the water, despite my apprehensions about how much fun you can realistically have fly-fishing.
Fly-fishing has, to me, always represented the epitome of patience. There’s a real art to it, to staying still, a trait I always knew I lacked but one that Blake continually reprimanded me for as we stood on the banks of the Moorman’s River, casting our lines (or, more appropriately for me, unsticking my line from trees) into the murky gray waters.
“Just leave it there,” Blake said. “You have to wait. This isn’t like kayaking.”
“I’m borrrreeeddd,” I jokingly whined, but in reality, boredom was the furthest thing from my mind. Fly-fishing was new territory for me, something I had yet to try in the past seven months of living on the road. I’d certainly been around people fly-fishing, had shot a number of videos and photos of other people fishing, but I’d never taken the leap and tried it myself.
After that road biking trip in Pennsylvania, I thought my adventurous days were over until the new year. I was already looking ahead, months ahead, into the 2015 calendar, planning stories, setting personal goals for bucket list items I wanted to check off. While fly-fishing wasn’t necessarily on that list, I was grateful we had set aside some time to step away from the office, if only for a few hours and despite the fact that I caught no fish at all (check out just how bad I am at fishing in this episode of BRO-TV).
The weekend following the fly-fishing excursion were by far some of the most productive days for me yet. I felt refreshed, and I don’t think it was due to the fact that my phlegmy cough and stuffed up nose were finally starting to subside. I went for a run that Saturday morning, cranked out work all through the afternoon and into the evening, and even took a long 10+-mile hike from Spy Rock to the Priest with a dear friend of mine.
But the two days following that Saturday and Sunday were just like the week prior – I didn’t go for a quick lunch run, I didn’t go to any yoga classes, and I allowed the things I’d so easily compartmentalized over the weekend dominate my every waking minute. This was due, in part, to the fact that I was about to go on vacation for two weeks to Mexico. Though my job is fun and awesome in so many ways, I had yet to take a break from the magazine in the year-and-a-half since I’d started working there. In my personal opinion, there is never a good time to take a vacation. But all things considered, the time right before Christmas seemed like the best of worst times to disappear for a couple weeks.
As excited as I was about leaving the country, I was desperately trying to get ahead with work, prepare for my trip, and ensure that everything was taken care of so that my number one priority in Mexico could be surfing and margarita drinking. As I was driving to my folks’ home from Charlottesville on Tuesday afternoon, I was so distracted with my thoughts and my to-do list that I simply bypassed the exit I needed to take and quite literally doubled my time in the car by two hours.
You can imagine the frustration I felt when I realized this, of course. Two hours?! To my parents’ home, a route I’d taken countless times before? After the initial berating I gave myself and the string of tasteful swear words, travel writer Pico Iyer came to me. More specifically, what came to mind was a segment from a recent TED Talk he gave titled, The art of stillness. In it, he discusses our need for quiet, for stillness, how our age of technology and connectivity has distanced us from ourselves and, despite having access to time-saving gadgets and apps, has eaten up more of our time and decreased our productivity.
“… as soon as I get to a place of real quiet, I realize that it’s only by going there that I’ll have anything fresh or creative or joyful to share…otherwise I’m just foisting on them my exhaustion, my distractedness, which is no blessing at all.”
When I remembered these words and his point about finding quiet, I quit questioning my decision to go to Mexico. I quit feeling guilty about leaving during a time that felt, quite frankly, inconvenient. Yes, there were many projects coming down the pipe at work, many of which I would be at the helm for. But there comes a point when you simply need to own your time on this earth, step away from your work, your family, your friends, your life, and just be still.
Though Pico’s point in his TED Talk is that we don’t necessarily need a vacation to vacate, that’s precisely what I’m doing. My goal here in Mexico is to find that stillness, rejuvenate the passion I have for my work and my life, and bring that energy 110% to 2015.
So for now, it’s hasta luego my friends. I’m sitting here in a little holed away surf town on the west coast of Mexico with the thunder of waves crashing along the beach in the distance, feeling very much at ease about life and more importantly, inspired to get outside and explore.
Whether it’s a weekend day hike, an afternoon ride, or a few minutes of meditation in the morning, you, too, should find that stillness and own your time. There’s no excuse not to.