Taking a Break is a Good Thing (or, How I Spent My Hiatus)

When I took my eight week hiatus from actively blogging, I had quite a few things to sort out so I could have a more balanced life. I was well on my way to a year that I would sum up as being ho-hum. The first three months were dominated by work, eight tennis leagues, and my blog. I had shirked a few too many personal responsibilities and become a bit disconnected from friends. It was time for a “corrective action plan!”

One of the most inspired things I did — and it fit neatly inside my hiatus — was to register for the six week O-course called Thrive. The course was created by Arianna Huffington and based on her book, Thrive.  Huffington encourages her readers to re-define success as being more than wealth and power. She coined the term “Third Metric,” which is apropos in our increasingly data-driven world.  Who wouldn’t be intrigued by the value Huffington gave to the four pillars of the “Third Metric”:  Well-being, Wisdom, Wonder, and Giving.

Whaaaat?? I signed up!

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Working on the Thrive course.

When Thrive arrived, I dove into the book with the anticipation of seeing in print the philosophy by which I want to live. I’d only gotten as far as the Introduction when I saw this paragraph on pages 15 and 16:

Eulogies are, in fact, very Third Metric. But while it’s not hard to live a life that includes the Third Metric, it’s very easy not to. It’s easy to let ourselves get consumed by our work. It’s easy to allow professional obligations to overwhelm us, and to forget the things and the people that truly sustain us. It’s easy to let technology wrap us in a perpetually harried, stressed-out existence. It’s easy, in effect, to miss the real point of our lives even as we’re living them. Until we’re no longer alive. A eulogy is often the first formal marking down of what our lives were about — the foundational document of our legacy. It is how people remember us and how we live on in the minds and hearts of others….

This message hit home and reminded me of two foolish decisions I made that allowed my job to trump two medical procedures I needed the year I was treated for breast cancer. One was a second surgery to clear the margins around the lumpectomy — or, what I call the “re-do;” and the other was a liver scan to check for tumors. On each occasion, I was scheduled to give a 30 minute training presentation for my job. I was all about my work ethic and keeping commitments. I asked the organizers if they’d move my presentations to 8 a.m. so I could make it to my medical procedures in the early afternoon. Sure – no problem, they said.

There are a couple of things I’ve never forgotten about playing the martyr. First, I actually expected recognition for it — and never got it — and carried that resentment for years. (With this post, I’m over it.) Second, it was an utterly unnecessary thing to do.  I showed up at the medical procedures unbalanced and exhausted from my job commitments earlier in the day. The real deal is that my reputation for follow-through and strong work ethic would not have suffered one whit for taking care of myself during my health crisis.

Lessons Learned:  1) There is always someone else who can cover the job commitments; and 2) I shouldn’t expect anyone else to care more about my well-being than I do.

The last eight weeks were also an exercise in math:  I added some things in and subtracted others to balance time spent with friends and family, and on activities and community service. I’m glad I pushed that “Refresh” button!

Fog over lake at Kripalu

Fog over lake at Kripalu

There is no better place to actually “refresh” than a yoga retreat. Right around the time I decided to take a hiatus from Wobblenot, my friend, Rindi, suggested we meet at Kripalu in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. It so happened that my Thrive course encouraged meditation, movement, better sleep, and unplugging from technology. The yoga retreat was the perfect place to work on these things and establish new and better habits. I took at least two yoga classes a day, hikes, a nutrition workshop, and meditation sessions.

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It is easy to unplug at a yoga retreat.  Kripalu does not have TVs, and wi-fi is only available in specific rooms. You don’t see the mobile zombies  — you know, the people walking around with eyes cast downward and glued on their mobiles. At Kripalu, you can use your mobile phone, but you’d have to either duck into a little booth in the hallway of the main building, or go outdoors to talk – quietly. It’s your choice to be either fully or partially unplugged.

I thought of my job, to which I have been expected to stay connected 24/7, and all the devices I’ve been given to make that possible. For a period of time, I was even required to check work emails first thing in the morning when I woke up and last thing at night before I went to bed. Really???? (That madness has since ended.)

The atmosphere at Kripalu was the antidote for stress. Three days at the retreat did my spirit good. Woo hoooo!!!

So, there you are…those were the main doings during my Hiatus, in addition to re-vamping the blog design. (Hope you like it!) I’ve gotten personal obligations under control. And, best of all…I feel grounded, balanced, and oh, so much better!

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Balancing Travel – Part 6: The Long Trip Home

My well-planned and balanced trip to Spain exceeded expectations! Transfers between cities and modes of transportation were seamless. All was perfect…until it was time to come home.

Maybe it was that last rainy, windy, dismal day and night in Madrid…it was about 40 degrees outside and I was under-dressed. It was late May, after all, and I had packed for heat in Spain; not chilly rain. Add to that my cheap attack that led me to stay in a lousy hotel. The morning of my flight, I was finally ready to go.

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But first, some good stuff.  The first leg of my flight from Madrid to Philadelphia was uneventful, which is always a good thing. I made a friend from Brussels while waiting for my next flight. You’d think Mollie and I had known each other for more than a minute. We exchanged numbers and email, and said we’d meet again. I also had a delicious, though premium-priced, meal at the airport and was able to charge my devices at the bar.

Now, for the hot mess.

The airline cancelled my flight from Philadelphia to Baltimore-Washington International Airport because of the weather. I managed to book another flight that would leave about three hours later than the original. Mind you, home was tantalizingly close — less than three hours’ drive away — making the delay all the more brutal. I considered taking the train, and then realized my checked bag would arrive at BWI without me. I let that idea go. I ate another meal and found ways to kill time, including losing my cell phone, retracing my steps all over the terminal, and finally retrieving the phone from the person who found it right as my flight was boarding.

I arrived in Baltimore around 9:50 p.m; my bag did not. I realized I’d left my house key and driver’s license in it. So, I called my sister, Cheryl, who had a copy of my house key. Luckily, she was still up and said she’d bring it and meet me curbside outside the baggage claim area.

Meanwhile, a Bulgarian guy was also at the lost baggage counter looking lost himself. (I knew his nationality because I had glanced at his passport when we were in Philly.) The lost baggage lady couldn’t communicate with him to find out where to deliver his bags; I couldn’t either. Then, it dawned on me that I could call my Bulgarian friend, Krisi. By then, it was around 10:45 p.m. I hesitated to call her at that hour, but the lost guy looked pitiful. I called her, anyway.

Krisi became the interpreter between the lost baggage lady and the lost Bulgarian. I was happy to help, and happy my friend could help. Hopefully, things got sorted out because my sister arrived curbside and I needed my phone back. Cheryl gave me the key.

I had to wait almost two hours for my prepaid shuttle van because the service was also affected by flight delays. The van dropped me off at home – finally – around 1:30 a.m. As the shuttle van pulled away, I realized I had a problem. I put the key in my door lock:  it didn’t turn. The key looked like my house key, but it wasn’t. Crap. My sister was no longer answering her phone. (Thanks a lot, Cheryl.)

Lesson learned:  Don’t pack your house key and driver’s license in the bag you check at the airport. 

I put my vacation after-glow on pause….

I didn’t want to wake the neighbors at that hour with my sad, embarrassing tale. I was exhausted and only had a little bit of charge left on my cell phone. I called a cab and waited for it while curled up on top of my car trunk, using my backpack as a pillow. It was actually a warm night in Maryland, unlike my last night in Madrid. For all my efforts to economize my travel, I ended up paying for another night in a hotel and the cab fare to get there. Home:  tantalizingly close, for real, and I couldn’t even get in the door.

Cheryl wasn’t able to bring me the right key until around 2 p.m. the next day; and the airline delivered my luggage about 12 hours later in the middle of the night.

HELLO, HOME!!

The tail end of my travel was messy, but it didn’t detract from my great experience in Spain. Once I was back in my house and my luggage delivered, my equilibrium and vacation after-glow were restored!

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Valencia oranges

Balancing Travel – Spain: The End


Balancing Travel – Part 1

I love to plan my vacations. It creates great anticipation for the time I’ll happily take off from work and home.

In 2013, I relied on serendipity —meaning, a “pleasant surprise” or “fortunate happenstance” — instead of a plan. By September, I still had no plan. Out of desperation, I booked a trip to an island I’d been to years ago. While I enjoyed being with my friends and I relaxed, the island itself was as unmemorable the second time as it was the first.

So, at the beginning of 2014, I started researching. I thought about combining Sicily with Tunisia, but Tunisia still seemed unstable. I looked for festivals and yoga studios in Europe. My research led me to a yoga retreat in Albir, Spain called La Crisalida. (The name means “chrysalis,” as in the transformation of a  moth or butterfly.) This yoga retreat looked like it would deliver the kind of experience I wanted, and in a lovely setting:  yoga and meditation, exercise, and clean and healthy food.

I built my two week vacation around the yoga retreat. Instead of going directly there, though, I took a friend’s suggestion to spend a couple of days in Madrid. Then, I plotted my other destinations within a slice of Spain from Madrid to the Mediterranean. I balanced city life with beach time; solo time with social settings; and freestyle days with planned events.

I planned my vacation to hit all the right notes.

First Stop:  Madrid (Balancing Travel – Part II)

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Time Flies

Here we are again — 365 days later — marking another New Year’s Day. If someone asks you how’d it go in 2014, would you say:

  1. “Dang…where did time go?”
  2. “I’m glad that’s over…NEXT!!!”
  3. “Hey! It was a pretty good year!”

I would have rated some years as #1 –  “Dang…where did time go?”  It doesn’t help that I am a master procrastinator. In the #1 years, the unfinished projects, lack of progress in my life (social, financial, spiritual, or career), and lack of special events  led me to sum up those years as rather unremarkable.

“For disappearing acts, it’s hard to beat what happens to the eight hours supposedly left after eight of sleep and eight of work.”~Doug Larson

I would have rated 2008 as #2  – “I’m glad that’s over…NEXT!!!”  That was the year of breast cancer and it took center stage from January when I had my mammogram through the end of November when I completed radiation. I checked off the box for 2008 and was glad when it ended, along with my treatments. I learned a lot and changed a lot. But…it was a very long year.

“How long a minute is, depends on which side of the bathroom door you’re on.”~Zall’s Second Law

I would give #3 as my answer for 2014 — this was a pretty good year for me. You can’t predict how things will  turn out, but it helps to start with a plan. I had two main goals:  to plan and take a solo vacation in Europe; and start this blog. I looped the vacation plan in with my “win-win mission” to train my staff up so I could take off for two weeks without looking back and checking in. Mission accomplished!

I started Wobblenot much later in the year than I had planned. My first roadblock was in naming the blog. I wanted the name to be memorable, whimsical, and on point. A long-distance road trip this past spring gave me time to brainstorm about “balance” and why it should be important to us all. “Wobblenot” suggests balance and the tag line – Life is a balancing act – confirms it. I was happy with my choice and sat with it for awhile.

Time flies — meanwhile, “shoulda-woulda-coulda” conversations would get me nowhere. Procrastinator that I am, my second roadblock was in getting started. My path began to clear when an experienced blogger, Al, generously offered to help me create the website. The path fully cleared after I de-stressed from completing a ridiculous work assignment under a very tight deadline:  I discovered I could spend focused time writing, while enjoying the process. “Procrastination” got kicked to the curb!

I hope your year ahead has enough high points and successes that you can say 365 days from now: “Hey! It was a pretty good year!” Find your balance, and wobble not. Happy New Year!!

“Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can’t buy more hours. Scientists can’t invent new minutes. And you can’t save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you’ve wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow.”~Denis Waitely

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Sharing Art Feeds My Soul

Volunteering is a great way to balance giving and receiving in your life. After a long day at one’s regular job, altruism, for its own sake, can be daunting. Try giving your time and energy to something that feeds your soul.  For me, that is art—not making it, but sharing it with others and helping them to see it more deeply.

My path began with the nearly year-long docent training program at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA).  The training consisted of weekly meetings in which we learned about the works in the permanent collection, as well as the traveling exhibitions. Curators from the various museum departments provided us historical, cultural, and anecdotal information. We were expected to prepare a qualifying tour in order to be official docents. Once initial training is completed, docents are expected to attend monthly meetings in which they are apprised of new exhibits, re-acquainted with familiar pieces, and learn new techniques for sharing the art with the public.

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The BMA recently completed its renovation of the American Wing. Docents were privileged to get a preview of the redesigned spaces that honor the museum’s historic heritage. We were awed by the contrast between the evidence of behind-the-scenes construction and mess and the freshly painted, bright walls holding an eclectic array of paintings. Old friends clothed in new frames, furniture, and other decorative art objects, and sculptures were all arranged as if specially chosen dinner guests at a banquet. They spoke to each other and embraced me in the conversation.

Author, Cheryl

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