Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Life today includes presidential campaigns, subprime mortgage problems, the war in Iraq, a possible recession, inflation with the additional pressure of being perpetually connected via technology to a world that no longer slows down, much less pauses. Wow, we really need a spring break this year.

Simply a week without watching the presidential contenders debate, renounce or denounce something or someone would be a welcome respite.

Welcome to spring break.

This is the week to stay up late and sleep in late (or at least past 6 a.m.); to forget about projects, deadlines and schedules and focus instead on enjoying where you are and who is with you. There is time to while away the hours, play card games, watch movies and apply aloe lotion to the sunburns that inevitably occur. The idea is to create a pause in our busy lives. Time to relax, recuperate and rejuvenate, with the knowledge that when we return, there will be work to do, projects to complete and exams to take.

Watching the adults by the pool and playground this week during my family’s spring break on an island off Georgia, I realized we have become a nation of people convinced of our own importance. Blackberrys and iPhones are the new pool accessory. Returning e-mail while watching one’s children in the pool is no longer just acceptable, but standard and expected. I am not immune from this problem: I found myself not only checking my e-mail by the pool, but bargaining with my 8- year-old daughter to see if she was interested in learning how to check my e-mail for me.

What has happened to spring break?

Constantly connected and always on, with the ability to reach out and touch someone whenever and wherever we want (figuratively not literally) may have resulted in a week full of action and reaction rather than contemplation and wisdom.

In our desire to get ahead and do more, have we forgotten the importance of enjoying life and slowing down, enabling our bodies and minds to rest, reflect and get ready for the next wave of activity? Can we work hard every day without taking an occasional break, learning to enjoy life and relax?

After worrying about deadlines to come and projects to complete for most of this week, I believe it is finally time to allow myself to take a break and relax – to let go of the problems and the planning, and know that all will be tackled when appropriate. This is especially important, as my days on spring break at the beach are limited.

The beach is my favorite place to recharge and relax. The sound of the waves is constant. When I walk on the beach and look out, the ocean appears to go on forever. The sound of the waves and the sight of the ocean remind me of how small I am compared to the vastness of the ocean.

While some people might not like the idea of being a very small part of a very large world, that knowledge brings me peace. It puts my life, and its trials and issues, into perspective. It reminds me that, when I am gone, the ocean will still be here, waves rolling in and dissipating, tides rising and falling.

If you’re even a little like me, you like the feeling of control. Not necessarily the feeling of controlling everyone around you, but the feeling of knowing what to expect when and from whom. The ocean reminds us of how little control we have and how life, nature and God can surprise us.

The waves come and the waves go, regardless of what you do to them. You can jump into them, jump through them, simply watch them, or even ride the waves if they are large enough, but you cannot tame the waves.

So, at least for a while, I will try to ride the waves of life, enjoying the experience and the view along the way. With the goal of trying to make the world a little brighter place for those around me, in the hopes that they too might enjoy the ride, or at least spring break. All the while knowing that when we return from our break, we will be ready to spring into action and tackle the projects, deadlines and exams.

Anyway, just a few thoughts while lying by the pool; after all, it is spring break.


Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.


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