What I Learned on My Summer Vacation

a piece of summer, photo by liz kalloch

This summer I reacquainted myself with a few things that had been missing from my repertoire of life over the past 9-10 months.

Much of my summer was about slowing it down, reining it in and walking instead of running (and even floating instead of standing). The last week or so I have had several conversations, read many a post, and thought a lot about the speed at which we are all living. Updates on life encapsulated in a 140 character (or less) tweet, sending a brief text filled with abbreviated words and much punctuation, a Facebook update with a photo to illustrate the moment, or a 2 minute voice mail left for someone that I would much rather have actually spoken with.

I spent a week in the wilds of New Hampshire with family and re-experienced something I did a lot in summer as a kid: floating on my back in a lake, looking at the clouds. When you are on your back floating on the water, the clouds are magical again, the sounds from the shore are muffled with ears under water, and the water is buoyant and comforting.

There is all the time in the world to gaze at the sky, to float as if weightless, and to get re-acquainted with that phenomenon I hadn’t felt in too long: nothing is more important than the right now.

As September approaches, and schools are starting again, we are gearing up for the coming fall and then the impending holiday season, I want to hold on to the floating and dreaming time I experienced in a lake in New Hampshire, I want to hold onto a piece of summer. So to that end, a few things to add to the repertoire:

  • Fit in at least 3 (but preferably more) real conversations per week: whether it be by phone, or on Skype or in person. 3 conversations that are full and real and not limited to a tweet or a text or a post. Real live connection in real live time.
  • Eating watermelon while standing knee high in water and watching the sun go down is just as important as the time spent in front of a computer. (Or substitute a seasonal/regional activity for the watermelon eating.)
  • In the rush to get where we’re going–be that a $ goal, a personal best, getting product to market, or finishing that business goal–time to reflect, not rush, doesn’t need to be left by the way side.
  • Put the To-Do list away and ponder and play with ideas, even if those ideas have no immediate end point, no immediate pay off. No pressure, just play.
  • Get together once a week with a friend or colleague for some fruitful, delicious interaction time. No projects. No work. No collaborations. Suggested activities: get some driveway chalk and play a game of hop-scotch, get a jump rope out and remember some childhood jumping song, shoot baskets (even if  like me, you throw like a girl), braid each others hair, or go for a walk and talk about your wildest dreams, or reminisce about your favourite summers.
  • Accept as many impromptu invitations as you possibly can, and arrive with your phone turned off, happy to be in the company of a wonderful person or a great group of people.
  • Go see a movie at the theatre instead of streaming Netflix on your laptop or tv at home. Buy popcorn or whatever movie snack you love, and sit down and be transported away.
  • Arrange a once a month gathering of friends from many of the different areas of your life. Introduce them to each other and share a meal and laughter and delight in the loveliness of friends getting to know other friends.

So here we come to the doorstep of September, the bridge into fall, the time of year when everything picks up and starts moving. Even. Faster.

I am making a pledge to myself, to keep the lessons of summer close, and hold them even closer as the days speed up and the calendar fills up and and I want to remain filled with ease (as well as energy), and I want to skip (instead of run), and I want to experience (instead of rush). Please join me, and if you’d like bring your own list of things that you learned on your summer vacation.


5 thoughts on “What I Learned on My Summer Vacation

  1. I think it was starting yoga about 15 years ago that made me more aware of the importance and value of quiet times in life. Just lately I’ve made a promise to myself to try to stay completely off the computer and away from work one day a week. Sort of a sabbath: time for reflection and renewal, space in life for resting and listening to the quiet voice inside. It’s very grounding.

    It’s too easy to lose track of your values if you don’t have the ability to reflect and listen.

    Also, I really value direct communication with friends and associates. The internet and social media are wondrous and amazing, but on the other hand, it’s good for us to sit down occasionally and actually converse. Or send a handwritten note. That’s why I make cards–have been for decades but just started selling them about a year ago–that direct, tactile contact is disappearing from our lives. What if you didn’t have a memory of your best friend’s–or your mom’s–handwriting? Wouldn’t that be a loss?

    I LOVE this post! Your list is brilliant, and it’s something we ALL need. Thanks.

  2. Agreeing with Katy here wholeheartedly – I particularly love the image of eating watermelon in knee-high water that appears on your amazing list.

    Only during the late part of the summer, did I learn to let go of that ‘time is of essence attitude’ where I had to run around like a chicken. I learned to (or rather adjusted) myself enough to simply let go of super high expectations of myself. Learned that it only gave me anxiety which in turn brought me ‘all thought which felt like no action’ – and left me tired all the while. I stopped. I learned, ‘that this too shall pass’ – and waited for inspiration to kick in once again.

    And yes, now that September approaches, inspiration kicks in once again – I am relieved. I can review my summer as one of the very best I ever had in fact, since I took much time with cherished friends, gained new ones and indeed in reflection, accomplished much I had set myself out to do this summer.

  3. Great post. Only bad thing, I needed to read it before summer and eat the watermelon while standing in the ocean!! I don’t think the bathtub will evoke the same feeling :)

    However, I do have time to do the other things listed and enjoy the fall! Thanks for the post.

  4. I made a similar commitment to myself at the end of last spring ~ to be fully present as much as possible ~ and it made a profound difference. Just making the effort to notice light dappling through the trees is enough to bring me back to the present.

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