When people ask what prompted me to give away 95% of what I owned and take off for a Year by the Water, I often tell them what Andrew said, “Mom, you’re created a life where you can do anything you want, and you’re not taking advantage of it.” He helped me realize the clock is ticking. Not in a morbid way. In a motivating way. But I was also ready to do the opposite of my always. I love my work, but I was pretty much going-going-going seven days a week. I was exhausted. (Sound familiar?)
Then, like many busy people I know, I came down with a respiratory illness that wouldn’t get better. I “soldiered through” for weeks (got to keep my commitments, right?) until I was so sick I could hardly get out of bed.
A friend took me to Urgent Care. After checking my lungs, the doc diagnosed walking pneumonia, prescribed bed rest and antibiotics, and then said, “I don’t understand why so many people are working themselves to death. You’re lucky we can treat this with a Z-pack. You’ll be fine in ten days. But if you don’t start taking better care of yourself, your body will do something else to get your attention.”
Hmm. What is it with this Puritan Work Ethic? Why do so many of us believe hard work is noble? Why do 55% of Americans NOT take all their paid vacation days? (Fact!) Why do so many of us feel it’s only okay to “play” when all our work is done? Since, for many of us, our work is never done, we never find time to have fun. We just get more and more run down.
I’m supposed to know better than this.
Guess what my major was in college? Recreation Administration! Career counselors kept suggesting I study law or medicine to make the most of my brain, but I grew up playing sports and believed they're at the center of a happy, healthy life. Even though some people told me this was a “joke degree for slackers,” I worked my way through college coaching swim teams, running community centers, organizing sports leagues and was a walking/talking advocate of the benefits of being active outdoors.
Yet, for a number of reasons, for the past couple of decades, I’ve spent more time sitting and spectating than being active. Let’s unpack that for a moment.
As parents, it’s easy for our days to become filled with chauffeuring kids to practices, games and activities while we sit in the car. on the bleachers or on the sidelines. Yet, when I think about my athletic career growing up, my mom came to one of my swim meets and my dad came to one of my tennis matches. That was it. And I didn’t feel bereft, abandoned or unloved. They had their life, I had mine.
As entrepreneurs, or if we have financial and family care-taking responsibilities, we can be in constant biz dev mode, constant got-to-work two jobs to pay bills mode, or constant “It’s selfish to go off and do something my own thing when my parents, kids, friends, neighbors (fill in the blank) need me.”
One of the most important epiphanies from My Year by the Water is, “It’s NOT SELFISH to do something that makes up happy; it’s SMART. It’s not indulgent or frivolous to do something each week that fills us with joy; it’s an investment in a more fulfilling life ... now and in the years to come.”
Please understand, I’m not suggesting we abandon our obligations and only do what we want. I’m suggesting we balance our responsibility to others with a responsibility to our selves to stay happy, healthy and in love with life.
My Year by the Water was SO MUCH FUN. Swimming with Zach the Dolphin. Seeing the sun rise over Diamond Head while riding the waves off Waikiki. Exploring Monet’s Garden. Reveling in a road of my own. Never knowing what was over the next knoll, around the next bend.
Now that I’m on to my next adventure – spending time with my sons, their wives and their brand new babies – I’ve promised myself to NOT let the rubber band of routine snap back and return to being a desk potato.
Like today, for example. I spent a good eight hours at the computer prepping for consulting appointments and working on my new book; but then the mountains called. A friend told me about Colorado Chautauqua I jumped online and discovered it was less than five miles away. I jumped in my car and fifteen minutes later was hiking the golden foothills, exploring the Flatirons and checking out this historic national landmark -which Theodore Roosevelt called “The Most American Thing in America.
So, here’s to fun NOT being a four-letter word. Here’s to fun being an active part of our life (intentional play on words) so we’re enjoying our lives, taking care of ourselves and making the most of our health … now, not someday.