I’m just back from a three week break. The first week was catching up with all those things left undone home-wise and business-wise. The second week was out and about, with several excursions to San Francisco: a trip to the Asian Art Museum to see the Samurai exhibit, a movie, some theatre – Wicked and August, Osage County. (By the way, Osage County is touring the country right now, and if you get a chance to see it you MUST go. It’s an incredible, gut-wrenching, hilarious, sorrowful, inspiring experience, and Estelle Parsons is nothing short of miraculous.)
But back to the vacation…
Once we’d gotten through all the catching up, going, doing, and seeing, we had a chance to finally STOP. And I do mean stop. As in a whole week at a house at The Sea Ranch. (If you want to know more, Lawrence Halprin wrote a magical little book about it: The Sea Ranch, Diary of An Idea.)
Yes, stopping for a week in a beautiful place, with no cell phone, blackberry, e-mail, internet, or TV.
The tally of benefits: taking in great gulps of sea air, slowing down, gazing at the horizon, cooking healthy meals, walking, sleeping, getting reacquainted with my husband.
And probably the biggest of all: shifting our too curious minds into low gear, thanks to the absence of technology.
By the end of the week I couldn’t help noticing how mundane many of our curiosities were: What’s the Zillow estimate for the house we’re staying in? How many movies did William Holden make? How many miles is it to the nearest town? What’s the temperature in Sacramento right now?
Of course, if we’d been at home in our every day lives, we’d have had these answers lickety-split, and probably wouldn’t have noticed that we were just filling our heads with useless trivia.
So what’s the point of this story?
Hmmm, I guess the simplest point is that as wonderful as technology may be, we need to allow ourselves to disconnect more often.
JUST STEP AWAY.
We don’t do that very well, but it makes a big difference. And people notice. Case in point: when I walked into my office this afternoon my first client said, “You look different. I can tell you’ve been on vacation. More relaxed. I see it in your face and body.”
Wow, I didn’t know the shift I felt inside was so clearly visible on the outside.
And as I thought more about it, I realized that it wasn’t the vacation per se that relaxed my shoulders and evened out my breathing. No, it was the act of disconnecting, something I could actually do at home if I could spurn the seductive wooing of my gadgets of choice – “Come on baby…you know you love it…just one quick check of your email!”
Well yes. Disconnect. That’s the simple point of all this.
I suppose I’m turning E.M. Forster’s classic line, “Only connect!” into “Only disconnect!” But I think Forster would forgive me, because in this day and age it’s often the act of disconnecting that leads to connecting, especially to ourselves.
Which brings me to the more complicated point of this story.
Clients often tell me they can’t do what I did. They wish they could, but they’re too busy. They imply that things will fall apart if they flee, even briefly, the 24/7! Gotta Be Reachable At All Times! construct that has been foisted upon us.
But I don’t buy that.
I think the truth is it’s pretty scary to face yourself without distractions. In fact, it takes some courage. Because we don’t fully know what we’ll discover. Maybe something we didn’t realize about ourselves. Even something we won’t like.
So if you’re one of those people who wants to take time to STOP but has tons of excuses for why you don’t, then perhaps this is your chance to shine a light on that. Look beneath the surface. See what it’s about.
And recognize that anything you uncover in the process of stopping will move you forward in some way. In fact, there is always light with the shadows.
WHY NOT START NOW?
Only connect! That was the whole of her sermon. Only connect the prose and the passion, and both will be exalted, and human love will be seen at its height. Live in fragments no longer. Only connect, and the beast and the monk, robbed of the isolation that is life to either, will die.
-E.M. Forster, Howards End