Breathe

Dave mtn photoI am learning how to shut my mind off. Funny, since I’ve spent the better part of three decades struggling to keep it going in overdrive. My attempts to try to ease my constantly running internal monologue have generally failed. I am constantly reviewing ‘to do’ lists in my head, thinking about tomorrow’s project meetings, trying to remember what I may have forgotten. I spend so much time planning and preparing for my days that I often miss out on living them. Part of my goal for this trip is to learn a bit more about appreciating the moment, cutting back on my expectations and opening my thoughts to new perspective. I want to learn how to appreciate an afternoon without a schedule. I want my travels to be about the street scene, the pulse, and not about marking off the next museum in the Frommer’s guide.
A recent NYT article touches on just that, and it’s a great perspective for anyone considering an open ended trip. Frugal traveling is a lot like living well rooted and in one place. It cannot be about the next five star restaurant, or the hotel’s spa package. There is no ‘vacation budget’, no tour bus. There are bills to pay and daily chores to attend to—for the avid worrier and constant planner, there is potential to have a significant list of things to torture the brain with. Without trying too hard, I could easily continue running my restless mind in the same fashion I do now. But long term travel poses a perfect opportunity to learn to appreciate what is immediately around – to take chances I wouldn’t normally take and explore opportunities I wouldn’t normally consider. Long term travel is about discovering a new lens, a focus on the today.
I can’t remember the last time I had a focus on today. For me, it’s always been about tomorrow.
Dave and I had a noteworthy day yesterday. Amongst all the moving stress we found ourselves sitting on the two remaining chairs in the living room and talking about our day. This appears insignificant in writing. But for two people who have done little more than squabble over what to pack next, the brief hour over Mole and microwaved tortillas was momentous. We both managed to relax enough to actually listen to the conversation. Most of all, I wasn’t thinking about dishes or bills or the list of everything that needed to be done. And it made me realize how much of my life I spend pretending to listen while focusing on three other things at once. My chance injection of solitary focused conversation was invigorating. I could breathe well. It was a key moment.
I remember reading a research article about how detrimental multitasking is to a person’s brain. At the time, this seemed absurd to me. Multitasking is a cornerstone to project management- a sink or swim necessity. Such a believer was I that I included this as an attribute in interviews and I worked hard to perfect my skill. But I understand the dangers it poses now. I am a repeating record that I can’t shut off—and on the rare occasion when I manage to silence it, I consider that ‘noteworthy’.

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