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'Mini-vacations' for body and soul

Published March 20. 2010 09:00AM

I don't know about you, but my husband and I usually end up asking each other the same question every morning: What do we have to do today?

Take note of that "have to do" phrase.

Usually, the answer is, "too much."

I don't know how that happens. Maybe it's because we both are active in several clubs and organizations. Maybe it's because we both enjoy so many diverse activities. Or, maybe it's just because we're lucky.

That's what I tell him when he looks at the daily calendar and says it's too crowded. We're lucky. After all, each note on the calendar represents something nice. Either it's a club we enjoy or fun activities with friends.

But try adding routine stuff doctor's appointments, car tune-ups and "have to dos" to the schedule and it gets too crowded.

Sometimes, two back-to-back activities are miles apart and we have to hustle even more.

Last week, when I was pushing to get my income tax finished on top of having one of those days that called for more hustle and more balancing-all-the-balls-in-the air, I had a burst of clarity.

I had just pulled into a parking lot and was ready to rush on one errand as fast as I could. If I walked fast, and if there wasn't a long line at the post office, I figured I could save some time for the rest of the things on my daily list.

But when I got out of the car, I heard a bird singing too jubilantly to be ignored. I looked up in the tree to see what kind of big bird was singing at such loud volume. Instead, it was one tiny bird singing a big, notice-me chorus.

That's when I did my first smart thing of the day. I forgot about my errands, forgot about the grocery store and the post office and forgot about the clock.

Instead, I did something important: Nothing!

I stopped everything and sat idly on a bench, listening to the lovely symphony that bird was performing.

While I sat there doing nothing but enjoying the moment, I could feel the changes in my body and in my mood. My heart rate slowed and a feeling of peace washed over me.

I don't know how long I sat there. It was probably about 10 minutes. But in that short amount of time I had refreshed my body and my attitude. It was like going on vacation.

I call that a "mini-vacation."

A mini-vacation doesn't have to last a few days to have a positive effect. Sometimes, it can last a few hours or only a few minutes. It simply means taking a short time to breathe in the sweetness of life.

When I was working full time and vacations were limited to too few days a year, I often found myself overwhelmed with busyness. That's when I started staging my "mini-vacations."

Mostly, those mini-vacations never lasted more than an hour or two. But in that time I could feel my breathing change and my mood elevate. I always came away so refreshed.

Once, I wrote about taking a regular mini-vacation at the end of my workday by spending 30 minutes doing nothing except enjoying nature in my backyard.

In response, I got an e-mail from a guy who said it sounded wonderful but he didn't have time to waste like that.

That old "I don't have time" lament is a common response. Most of us say it more than we think. We say we can't afford to idle away time. No time to recharge our batteries?

When the battery in our computer or in our car winds down, we re-charge it. Why would we not do the same for our self?

A friend of mine just lived through a hectic, frantic time where she finally sold her house. She had only three weeks to move a lifetime of accumulation out of there. And she seldom had any help. Sorting through a lifetime of possessions is something that often has to be done alone.

Every day was one long, frantic rush for her as she worked to sort stuff, pack and move boxes. She worried that she wouldn't get done in time.

One day, mired in stress and fatigue, she changed the top of her to-do list. Instead of working at packing another box, she spent an early hour watching the sun on the water and watching the birds.

In other words, she took a mini-vacation.

"It's amazing how good that made me feel," she said. "I felt recharged enough to go back to my packing with a more relaxed attitude."

Some of us say we can't afford to idle away time. Well, maybe we can't afford not to.

The next time you feel "too busy" and life seems like it's racing by with the speed of light, try taking a few moments to enjoy the sweetness of life. It just might calm you down and lift your spirits.

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