the benefits of taking a break
a few weeks ago my husband, seth told me a secret. we took the afternoon off and drove to goat rock beach. the thing i hate about northern california beaches is that they play a cruel trick on people who actually enjoy the beach. you can see the beach, you can smell the salt water, you can feel the sand between your toes but you can’t go in the water. head to a northern california beach and you’re sure to encounter signs warning you that the beach is unsafe for swimming, due to unpredictable currents and sleeper waves (waves that sneak up on you and drag you to your inevitable drowning death in the sea). Even if you were brave or stupid enough to go in the water you’d likely die of hypothermia or at least feel as like you were.
so there seth and i were, sitting on the sand with our bathing suits that we couldn’t use tucked in the trunk of the car and holding a kite we’d purchased on our honeymoon but had yet to use. The reason we didn’t use the kite on our honeymoon is because when we finally hiked down the treacherous cliff to the beach and opened the bag it was missing a rod. We exchanged it for a new one, but by then it was almost nighttime. The new kite had been sitting in our garage for a month. We unpacked it on goat rock beach and… surprise–the new kite was missing the crossbar as well. it was just a cheap piece of quadrilateral shaped nylon which we could only drag across the sand. being a crafty lady, i found a stick and used it in place of the missing piece. It worked and a few minutes later our kite soared through the overcast white sky.
we sat on the sand, the rush of the waves in front of us and our kite above us. i asked seth to tell me a secret, some thing, some thought, some idea he’d never told anyone or at least me before. he told me that when he was young he thought he was put on the earth for a special purpose, something awe inspiring and great.
i told him, that when i was young i had the same thought. maybe we all think that we’re bound for greatness when we’re young. Or maybe seth and I just had huge childhood egos. In junior high, I thought someday i’d write a novel about my life, which would be promptly turned into a movie. Yet, there seth and i both were, two pretty regular middle-aged childless newlyweds flying a kite on sunless beach in front of an ocean we couldn’t swim in.
the day before goat rock beach, I met my friend jenny for lunch. Jenny, like me, is a very busy woman. She’s divides her time between los angeles where she’s a set designer and the dry creek valley where she makes wine, hunts, fishes, homesteads her brains out and runs the dry creek gun club where “members share skills for living simply and independently while being stewards of Dry Creek Valley and preserving its wild, cultivated, and natural riches.” Jenny lives her life bravely and with intention. We talked about feeling overwhelmed by work, the need to connect with people and all the things we wanted to do and see and experience.
Jenny and I also talked about death, which is pretty much my number one least favorite topic. We talked about how at times we’ve both thought about how if we died we wouldn’t have do anything anymore. all the pressure would disintegrate. I only have That thought when I’m at my absolute stress limit. it’s rare and i always feel horrible and guilty when it pops in my head, even though it’s only there for a split second. Let me clearly state that I do not want to die, ever (even though it’s inevitable). I love all of the things I do for work and in my personal life. I love life dearly and wish I had endless days of smelling the salty sea air, long deep talks with loved ones, running a creative business I’m passionate about and every other wonderful thing, person and place on this planet. As a person who doesn’t believe I an afterlife, death is nothingness. For me, there is nothing worse than nothingness. Lots of times, i wish I believed that when we die we retain some sort of consciousness of ourselves, lives and loved ones. But I don’t. so, this is it. just this one precious life. I feel the need to make it count. Sometimes that need means that every second of my day is full and sometimes that leads to a panic attack that leads to thoughts of trying to escape.
That need drives me, sometimes a little too hard. since i got back from the second half of my honeymoon in montreal I’d been running myself ragged trying to get it all done. I was kind of over the sleepless nights and endless hours. I needed to find some balance between work and personal time. this doesn’t come naturally to me. luckily, I have an amazing business partner, delilah who told me to “take a damn day off” and a father that always encouraged me to strive to be present in the moment. I also have a husband that has mastered the fine art of letting go and relaxing and tries to get me to do things I’m not good at like, take a break to read a book or take a nap. When I do those things it’s rare and they always come with an apology and explanation.
“I had an migraine so I had to lay down,” I’ll say.
“good for you!” seth says. Did I mention I love this man?
Working for yourself requires a consistent constant drive to do things without anyone checking to see what you’ve accomplished. For me, this had been bittersweet. I’m an anxious person with OCD. I obsess about getting things done. My brain can’t let go until a task is complete. I’m starting to realize that my list of things to do will never be empty and I have to find a way to slip into bed at night knowing that there are still things to be done and that eventually they will get done. lately I’ve been working pretty hard to find that life/work balance. I know that none of us can be truly productive without downtime, hence the trip to goat rock beach. I also know I’m not the only entrepreneur that feels this way. i’m inspired by other creatives who allow themselves to take a break or reassess where they are in relation to where they want to be. I love these inspiring stories of seeking harmony daily. Hopefully you will too. maybe you’ll even take a day or at least an afternoon off and go somewhere where you don’t get cell phone reception and you can sit in a place where people are scarce and there’s nothing to do. maybe you’ll even be present in the moment while you watch a rainbow kite climb through the air and feel truly grateful.
what are some of your favorite ways to spend your downtime? what benefits do you get from downtime?
here are a few of my favorite articles on working smart, free time, busyness and the inspirational side of business: