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A 24-hour vacation can help lift spirits

Monday, April 30, 2007 | 2:00 p.m. CDT; updated 11:39 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Rose M. Nolen

It’s vacation time, even if you spend it at home.

That’s an arbitrary decision I made last week. The idea began to take form when my brother and I went out to brunch and he ordered a glass of orange juice. For that little bit of sunshine, he was charged $2.49. Later that day, I went to the market and decided I needed an onion. That decision cost me $1.28. That evening, with anxiety over the spiraling cost of living, I watched the news about the war in Iraq, the tragedy at Virginia Tech, and the forecast that the price of gasoline was likely to go to $3.00 a gallon by the middle of summer. By bedtime, I was too depressed to sleep and too worked up to concentrate on the book I was reading. So, I took a long walk, wrestled the ugly thoughts running through my head and decided that if I was going to maintain my sanity, I needed to take some down time.

At times like these, well-meaning acquaintances are fond of saying that since there’s nothing they can do about the state of the world, they might just as well pursue some fun adventure. While that seems to work for them, I prefer to use such times as opportunities to nurture my spirit in other ways.

In earlier times when stress hit the boiling point, the old ladies in my neighborhood were around to keep my soul enriched. They had, at least, a hundred tried and true sayings, from biblical quotations to family originals, to match every shade of my attitude. Before they passed away or moved on in their lives, it was virtually impossible for my spirit to drag the ground for long in their company before it was resuscitated, revived and energized, and my body nourished with a delicious piece of cherry pie or a plate of hot, crisp fried chicken wings.

Now I’m on my own, and since it’s a little early for my treasured day trips, I will begin my home vacation by trading heavy reading for inspirational material. I prefer short pieces, such as devotional readings or mood poetry. As I meditate on these little snatches of wisdom, they will call forth memories of times and occasions when events occurred in my own life that prove the validity of the message delivered. A brief reading session when I wake up in the morning will get my day off to a good start. And I will try to tackle a home project that requires a lot of energy and determination, like replacing the floor tile in my kitchen, painting the exterior of my storage shed or pruning my hedges. The hard work will make for a dreamless night, when sleep is sweet and restorative.

A walk down a familiar path will help sustain my faith. Along my path, I will see constant reminders of the earth’s ability to renew itself. New growth will abound in places laid bare by the cruel strokes of hail and ice. I will consider this Mother Nature’s way of letting me know that life’s never-ending cycle is not dependent on me for it’s survival. Other times, I will just sit back in my lawn chair and stare into space. In this busy life, there seems to be precious little time to keep in touch with one’s self. Silence is a wonderful companion to embrace when your thoughts are running rampant and your head feels like a baseball diamond. To get my mind focused, I remember the poems that I learned in school. Just tying to sort out the verses quiets me, and before long I am enveloped in a peaceful cocoon.

The final item on my to-do list for handling episodes of anxiety is one I developed during the meditating session of a previous vacation. I decided that it would be helpful if I placed a time limit not only on how long I would tolerate each episode, but also how long I would devote to managing the episode. On this occasion, I am giving myself permission to spend 24 hours on this vacation. At the end of that time, I will put the anxiety to rest and go back to work.

While I certainly cannot stop food price escalation, the war in Iraq, school massacres or gas prices from going up, I can control how much energy I’m willing to invest in worrying about it. Maybe I should envy those who say they never worry. But, you know, actually I don’t.

I worry because I care. Without caring, there’s nothing left to fight for. What kind of life is that?

Join the conversation with Rose Nolen by e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net or calling her at 882-5734.


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