“He that can take rest is greater than he that can take cities.” – Benjamin Franklin
One of my favorite memories from childhood is the time we spent at Hampton Beach each summer. My father’s cousin let us use their house for one week each August. A house on Ocean Boulevard – directly across the street from the beach.
Our days would revolve around the tides. Low tides meant running for what seemed like miles to get to the water. As the tide rolled in, we’d retreat and retreat, eventually abandoning the beach to watch the waves crash against the wall from the safety of the sidewalk.
Rough seas or cloudy days meant a trip to the arcades. My mother had saved up nickels and dimes, and would give us a roll each. We’d save our tickets from the Skee-Ball games until the end of the week, cashing them in for some trinket that would be lost in just a few days.
Perhaps my fondest memories are the images of my parents’ smiling faces. They worked hard raising 10 kids. My dad had multiple jobs, and my mom ran the hectic household. But that week was different. They would take time to sit and relax, usually reading a book, delegating oversight of us younger kids to my older siblings.
It’s no surprise that most of my vacations today involve spending time near the water. There’s something special about the sea, or a large lake. I prefer the morning and evening twilights. Curling up with a book, hearing the waves wash against the shore. My mind clears, and my body revives.
For most of us, our lives involve demanding work – either as part of our occupation or our family responsibilities. There’s always another email to answer, a project to work on or a task to be completed. We worry that if we take time off, something critical will fall through the cracks. That there will be more work and harder problems to solve when we return.
We have to remind ourselves that none of us are indispensable. We’re important to certain people, and they miss us when we’re not there. However, the world existed before we were alive, and it will continue long after we’ve shuffled off this mortal coil. Taking a week away won’t alter the course of history.
There will be more challenges for us to face in the future, and we’ll need to be strong to be successful. To continue without rest will lead to burnout. Exhausted, we stumble, fall and make mistakes. Failure is more than probable, it’s unavoidable.
Taking time off allows us to recover. If we can’t get away, we can still change our surroundings. Getting some extra sleep. Taking walks. Sitting under a shady tree. Spending a few hours in the local library. Shutting off our electronics – even our phones – for a few hours each day.
Each moment away from our responsibilities will lighten our spirits. Gradually, our smiles return, and we look forward to the day.
We feel refreshed, stronger and ready to face whatever lies ahead.