The Upside of Downtime

Presence, I like to say, is in the eye of the beholder. It does, however, begin with me. It begins with my feelings about myself and the world around me, my physical carriage, my facial expressions, and my breathing rate, but from there my presence is defined by you. You notice how I behave, breathe, feel, look and what I do and say. The way my presence affects you makes you feel and think about yourself and about me in a particular way. When I am tired and I have been working a little too much or too long and my mood is poor because I seem to be noticing many more of life’s challenges instead of all of life’s pleasures, I know it is time for a vacation.

There are many reasons why I love a vacation. I love the rest, the time to reflect, to read, to think in an uninterrupted stream about any old thing that comes to mind, whether it is the fashion choices of the Dutch women riding bikes through Amsterdam or which has more calories a bottle of beer or a stroopwaffel. One of my greatest pleasures during this past vacation was just turning off. And by “off” I mean just letting myself eat when I was hungry, rest when I was tired, look at a painting for the amount of time I found it interesting, and skip over the pieces of art, sites, restaurants, and places that did not interest me. In short I did whatever I wanted. My presence became more relaxed, calmer, kinder and I became more easily delighted and full of wonder. I felt better about myself and about the world

Like you, most of the days of my life are full of requirements, big and small, from waking up on time, to getting to work on time, to taking care of kids, clients, shopping. Life is mostly a series of repeating mundane experiences. My old friend, Abe Jaffee, who died at age 97 after a lifetime of farming and an old age full of caring for his senile brother who lived downstairs and then his senile wife who lived with him to her last day, used to say, “tootsie, you’ve got to learn to love what you have to do.” I have gotten relatively good at this, but what a great pleasure, for 10 days, to “have to do” only what I wanted to do.

There is nothing quite as refreshing and rejuvenating as a good vacation. I know my presence starting this workweek will be brighter, more energetic, and more open then it was ten days ago.

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