While staying at a charming bed and breakfast this weekend, the owner and I got to talking about the work-work-work mentality so prevalent in the U.S. Originally from the U.K., she went from working tolerable hours, with five weeks vacation, to typical 70-hour work weeks when she transferred to the U.S. – and just two weeks vacation.
She said in Europe, people work hard, but they understand the value of time off and recharging one’s batteries. Working in the software industry, she was surprised by the differences she encountered here – and while away from it now for nearly 15 years, upon recently chatting with a friend from the U.K. who works with American companies, she saw that nothing had really changed.
Yet her life did…and now she owns a beautiful bed and breakfast that is extraordinarily busy in the summer and fall. So much so that some of the things she and her husband love best to do, hiking and enjoying the gorgeous outdoors of New Hampshire, often fall to the wayside during the busier tourist season.
And even if they had more time away from the business, the area itself is extremely full with those coming up to the area to take in its beauty and outdoor activities, so it’s not necessarily conducive for those who live here all year round. She remarked on how comical it is that they don’t necessarily get to do what they enjoy most during some of the busier times of year – but yet have come to love when the tourist season abates to have that lovely stretch of time to truly enjoy the seasonal splendors and the less-crowded trails throughout the area.
That led me to think about all the things we love best and how little many of us get to immerse ourselves in them. For instance, writing is one of the things I most enjoy, particularly writing of a more personal nature and a good deal of the time, professional and personal responsibilities leave me a bit drained and not in the head space to just sit and write on my own time.
For many of us, we love something and we give so much of ourselves to other things that we often don’t make the time to focus on what feeds our souls. For me, I need the time to sit and think, to dedicate myself to a task or to simply write, and it’s not something I can squeeze in easily between other activities. So it becomes a luxury when I do, which is very much what this weekend I am in the midst of feels like. I am immersed in an environment in which there’s nothing to focus on but relaxation, thinking, reading and even some writing.
Over the holiday break, a time when I’m usually still engaged in a lot of activity, all good and quite enjoyable, I made a conscious effort just to be this year. To block off a few days in which I was home and focused on seeing a few things through. And I tackled a couple of things that I had wanted to get done, some that had been on the back burner for more than a decade. It wasn’t that they were monumental; it was just making the time and space to allow them to happen. The pleasure I got out of accomplishing these simple things made such a difference to me.
We all have busy lives and for me, I’ve been juggling a lot more than perhaps I easily can at times. But I made that decision and the benefits have been worth it, although I have missed more leisure time. I know that my life is about to get pretty busy again in early March. So I’m coveting this special time, but vowing to make time as regularly as possible to truly enjoy what I love most.
Isn’t that what makes our lives worth living?