I’ve been on vacation in Maine for the past week; visiting with my parents and giving them some grandchildren time. Throughout our stay, my girls and I have alternated between hanging home, doing things like playing games, making crafts, riding scooters and going on adventures. Two days ago, I took the girls to the coast for the day. After a morning boat ride, some window shopping and the requisite ice cream from our favorite ice cream shop, the girls decided they wanted to play in the town square for a little while. As they ran around making up complicated stories about fairies and who knows what else, I sat on a park bench and engaged in some very taxing people watching.
After about fifteen minutes of sitting there, a strange thing happened. I suddenly started thinking about all the things I needed to attend to as soon as I got home. I mentally started making lists, tackling scheduling issues, going over to-do items. And, not surprisingly, I became anxious. My breathing was shallow and my chest felt tight. I didn’t notice people walking by, I wasn’t enjoying myself. I was stressed.
I had cut my vacation short just by living in the future instead of the present.
Suddenly, I was no longer on the coast, watching my daughters play and laugh. I was back home, trying to cram everything I had to do within the constraints of what I could imagine at that very minute. And all I could imagine was not having enough time to do all of it. I felt terrible.
Thankfully, since I had spent the better part of the week living in the moment and focusing on some self-care, I finally noticed that I had spiraled into the future – and a very stressed future at that. When I noticed I wasn’t breathing very well, I took the time to calm my breath, take some good deep inhales and ground myself back in the present.
We often undercut our present by focusing too much on the future, particularly all the wrong parts of the future. By coming back to the moment, I allowed myself to go back to true vacationing and enjoy every last drop.
As I finish this blog post, I am sitting in a hotel in Hartford, CT. The girls are asleep in the bed next to me, exhausted from some swimming and the excitement of staying in a new place. I am savoring every moment of the quiet stillness before we hit the road tomorrow and return to Maryland. What a sweet way to end my vacation.