The 10,000 foot view

It’s amazing how much clearer you can see things with just a little bit of distance.  I love this quote from Maya Angelou which I just happened to run across this morning during my quiet time: each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.  I don’t know about you, but I take that as a call to rest.  Let’s face it, we could each periodically use a respite from the pace of our daily lives.  That’s why this past week, we packed up the van and headed up to the North Georgia mountains for some away time.  Now, nearing the end of our family vacation away, I feel rejuvenated and ready to make the push towards what I know will be a busy next few months to end the year.

Before heading off to the mountains the past few days with my family, I was nearing that preverbal wall of a late fall funk. You know, the type that really hits after months of wrangling kids and school, managing your time closely to get things done, and just the ordinary tasks of being a productive human being in society. It takes its toll.  I’m not necessarily complaining though.  Even now, I’m writing this with loud screams coming from the cabin basement as the girls have fun making up games and playing. It’s loud, it’s hectic, it’s my daily life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

Yet, as I prepare myself mentally and emotionally to dive back into my everyday life in a few days, I can’t help but think about how I’ll sustain this moment of serenity.  It’s not an easy thing to do of course. One of the benefits of getting outside of your everyday hustle and bustle is that it grants you the perspective of seeing life for what it really is: a bigger story being told.  One of the hard parts of coming back from vacation is maintaining this perspective.  So, I’m writing this as more as a reminder to myself and perhaps anyone else that might be struggling with successfully running the marathon of life at any phase.  Here are a few aha’s that I’ve had while up here in seclusion for the past few days.

Get caught up in moments.  Two nights ago we had an impromptu karaoke contest.  Sure there’s video evidence, but the public will never see it!  The point is, as we were singing along to some of the greatest hits, I couldn’t help but notice how much fun it was to be caught up in the moment.  Ask my wife, she’ll tell you that while planning for and dreaming about the future is a huge strength of mine, being present and in the moment has been at times a struggle.  So, it surprised me that even I chose to put down the camera and instead of documenting the moment, live in the moment.  It seems like the best moments are meant to be experienced live.

Do things you don’t regularly do, regularly.  We attempted to build several fires.  Technically we did build several fires over a few different days, it’s just that none of them lasted very long.  We roasted marshmallows over one of the fires.  We went on a few (short) hikes.  Everyday I slept in until 8am.  None of these things are things I do regularly, but you know what?  It was fun to mix things up a bit.  It got me thinking, with my carefully scripted daily schedule back at home.  Where are the opportunities for spontaneity?  I’m actually pretty good at being spontaneous when I’m not so focused on accomplishing everything on my agenda.  There’s probably a lesson there about the balance between rigid focus and flexibility to change.

Rejuvenation is reciprocal.  There’s a lot going on in the world right now.  The day before heading up, we voted early and were glad to leave the politics behind us (or so we thought).  It turns out, political ads follow you everywhere.  Besides that, this is a particularly busy season for both my wife and I professionally, so taking time off was not ideal (but then again, when is it ever?).  Yet, as I finished reading a book about leadership and team management yesterday (wait- does that count as working?), I was struck by a realization.  A burnt out leader does no one any good.  As parents, spouses, leaders, whatever role we play, there’s always something needed or expected of us.  Sometime the tank gets low and we need to refuel.  Once we’ve refueled, it becomes both our responsibility and our privilege to return the favor to others.

I have more of what I need to finish the year strong, partly because I’ve taken the time the past few days to remind myself of what really matters most.  Sometimes this perspective can only be gained from taking a 10,000 foot view (literally and figuratively).  Hopefully it can be sustained by reminding myself of that latter.


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