• The joys of unplugging

    I’ve been away…literally and electronically.

    Since I’ve already broken my writing streak, I’m now going to take an intentional break from my cancer and couples double-series for a week (or as it turns out, a few weeks) to extol the benefits of unplugging. I’ll wrap up with part 4 of both cancer and couples over the next two weeks, so stay tuned!

    My family and I escaped for spring break this year. We have never actually taken a spring break trip before so it was somewhat of a novel experience for us. But this is a significant year for us for a few reasons, so we decided it was time to celebrate and go BIG. We headed south for our first international trip with the kids, and spent a week sunning, exploring, swimming and surfing in Costa Rica. It was, in one word, fabulous (those are my sandy, happy toes in the featured picture ~ don’t they just say it all?).

    There were many parts of this week away that I could gush about, but here I just want to focus on one. Unplugging.

    As a family we do our best to vacation – we’re in a time of life when our kids are still young enough that they have no choice but to travel with us (ha!), but also that they still seem to genuinely enjoy travelling with us (hooray!). So we’re doing our best to take advantage of this magical time and get away with them as often as we can. The truth of the matter, though, is that we often stay connected and continue working remotely when we travel. We are hypocrites, to be honest, because we tell our kids that travel time is electronic-free time – no TV, movies, video games, etc. (okay, except on the airplane). And yet both of us end up online, on email, on calls, and generally available to our professional world even while we are “vacationing.” Not this time, though – for the first time in as many years as I can remember, we both stayed away from work for virtually the entire vacation. Bliss! Here are 3 of the gifts I personally experienced while unplugged:

    1. Presence. Even though I work hard to be fully present with my kids and my husband as often as possible, after this trip I am more acutely aware of how much time I spend staring at my phone screen. Even when I’m not staring at the screen itself, my brain is often still half-focused on whatever I was just working on, or whatever I need to start working on. It is exhausting! Going through a whole week without the temptation or sense of obligation to stay connected meant simply that I spent more time making eye contact, engaging in conversation, playing and snuggling with real live people in my life instead of my phone. On our plane ride home, I sat next to a woman who had retired about a year ago and was just returning from a 5 week trip with her (also newly retired) husband. Do you know what she said to me? “Why does everyone think it’s so important to show up to work every day? I mean really, what would happen if you didn’t? Would the world come to an end? Probably not – someone else will pick up your slack, or it will be waiting there for you when you get back.” Her career? An attorney. Not exactly the type of work that most people would think of as easy to step away from, but that was what she had learned after a career of hustling. These days even if we don’t show up to work, we’re often still working as if the world might come to an end if we stopped. And yet after our week of NOT working, the world was still spinning. Fancy that…maybe I’m not as essential as I thought?
    2. Relaxation. This was not a relaxing trip, to be honest – we were 2 families with 4 children between the ages of 6 and 10 on an adventure trip. We packed in the fun, and did our best to make the most of every moment we had. Our alarms were set more days than not so that we could head out on excursions before the heat of the day sapped all our energy. We were, frankly, exhausted by the time we got home. And yet despite the exhaustion, which was very very real, I found myself feeling amazingly relaxed. I believe this was really due to #1 – being present from moment to moment instead of having constantly divided attention. It was as if my brain was actually on vacation. And so maybe the relaxation was also due to #3 ~
    3. Nature. According to this fabulous podcast, maybe my brain really did get and need this vacation: Our Better Nature. I know the great outdoors is important to me, I always feel like a better human being when I spend time outside, listening to the natural world instead the radio, looking at the blues and greens and browns that exist in nature, feeling fresh air on my skin and in my lungs. It fills me up and recharges my battery in a way that little else can.

    My mission now, should I choose to accept it, is to find a way to accomplish this more frequently. To not wait until we’ve planned our next vacation, but to find opportunities day to day, week to week and month to month to unplug, be present, relax and find my way back to nature. Care to join me in this mission? 

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