Lessons From Summer Vacation

lessons from summer vacation

Like it or not, summer is drawing to a close. Many have already returned to work or school, getting back into the groove. As the pressures of the daily routine resume, memories of summer, leisure and vacation can quickly fade.

Recently, I was on a vacation and saw this image:

These three words – float, swim, listen – caught my attention. Most likely, they were intended as suggestions for a person enjoying some time at the beach. However, as I pondered them, I realized they could be even more helpful reminders in my normal, day-to-day life.

~~~ FLOAT ~~~

How often do we float in life? Floating implies release, letting go of control and allowing something bigger than ourselves to surround and uplift us. To float requires a measure of surrender and vulnerability, which then provides lightness and serenity in return.

For many of us, our lives require a fair amount of “pushing through.” We make lists, evaluate priorities, manage schedules, provide instructions and otherwise direct the events of our day. All of these tasks are important and helpful. At the same time, it is helpful to remember that we really are not in control of how events unfold. An unexpected development may thwart our plans. A sudden illness may render us incapable of functioning. A friend, family member or coworker may require our time or service.

If you were to fall off of a boat in the middle of the ocean, you might try to swim to shore. But if you were far at sea, with no realistic chance of swimming to dry land, the best option might simply be to roll over and float. Hopefully, help would arrive or the tide would push you in the right direction. If nothing else, you would have conserved your energy, given yourself time to regroup and possibly enjoyed a beautiful view.

This is helpful to bear in mind when the day seems to be falling apart. It may be possible to adjust course and still achieve an intended objective, but it might be wiser to relinquish the plan and simply see what unfolds.

~~~ SWIM ~~~

Submerging your body in water is one of the great pleasures of a summer day. Whether it is in a pool, a lake or an ocean, taking a swim can be refreshing and invigorating. Typically, I need to be in “in the mood” to go for a swim. Mostly, I enjoy swimming after I have been lying on a beach and gotten very hot. When the sun is shining, the breeze isn’t too stiff, and the water is the perfect temperature, I will dive in.

Most of us have long lists of things we’d like to get done. In spite of good intentions, we tend to repeatedly put off tackling projects that are difficult or stressful. After all, daily demands are always tugging at us, so avoiding things we don’t really have to do is tempting. However, I have observed that most people periodically experience a surge of energy for a long-delayed task. Maybe you simply can’t stand that ugly carpet one minute longer so you jump up and start pulling it up from the corners. Possibly your car breaks down one time too many so you decide to start shopping for a new car over the upcoming weekend. Perhaps you get frustrated that you can’t zip up your favorite pants and decide it is finally time to go on a diet.

There is an old phrase, “Strike while the iron is hot.” Whatever the impetus, if you find yourself wanting to “finally get it done,” harness that energy and dive in. Take a tangible step toward a desired goal, preferably one that requires enough of an investment (time, space, energy) that you won’t be tempted to quit.

~~~ LISTEN ~~~

One word that could be used to describe modern living is “frenzied.” It seems like events unfold rapidly, visual images pass by rapidly and there is constant noise. The pressure to multitask is so strong, we rarely allow ourselves the privilege of giving anything or anyone our full, undistracted attention.

True listening requires solitary focus. Have you ever been in a crowd when someone asked, “Do you hear that?” Suddenly, the group goes silent and still as everyone tries to hear the sound. Similarly, have you ever been talking to someone who is checking his/her phone while you are speaking? They may say, “I’m listening!” but you can tell they really are not.

People who truly listen are typically well informed and well liked. Listening without an agenda can bring surprises, wisdom, laughter and perspective. When we feel that sense of overwhelm encroaching, it might be time to slow down, turn off a few noises and listen.

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Did you get a chance to step away from the action this summer? What words do you think you might carry with you into the fall?