Find joy in what you can do


I was getting pretty stressed. Life events and circumstances had been conspiring to break me, to frustrate and tire me emotionally and fill me with anxiety. I couldn’t seem to catch a break. Sometimes I felt I couldn’t breathe. I seemed to be stuck in the cycle of work and responsibilities without a real vacation in longer than I’d care to think about.

While some hold strong to the tradition of an annual weeklong vacation, if not more, I know I am not alone in saying I find that difficult if not impossible to accomplish. And it can be frustrating to watch others going off and having fun. We all need a break at some point, and I desperately needed one.

So I made one.

It’s in these times that we have to remember to be creative and work with what we’ve got. Not to look at all we can’t do, but what we can.

Rather than wistfully looking at a weeklong out-of-state vacation with large chunks of cash thrown on hotels, plane tickets or theme park admission, start small. Michigan has an abundance of beautiful places that are great for simple day trips that cost almost nothing other than the gas to get there and food along the way.

Pick a day, get up a little early and just go. Treat it like a full-on vacation — one where you barely have to worry about packing. Let your hair loose.

Something catch your eye as you’re driving? Be spontaneous and stop and check it out. (Just be careful about the traffic behind you.) There are so many random viewing areas, sculptures, memorials or other small landmarks that might not be destinations, but they’re fun to “collect” in pictures or memories. Enjoy the little things — some interesting architecture or blooming gardens. If you do get any shopping or lunch in, head to some unique local shops or diners.

I was blessed with a gorgeous blue-sky day that hovered around 70 degrees with a slight breeze. I had one particular destination in mind, but the trip was characterized by a beautiful spontaneity. I wasn’t in a hurry to get to the next destination — and I wasn’t even sure about what the next destination would actually be or what I would do when I got there.

Largely out of necessity, I had gone alone. This can be a daunting prospect, and sometimes I think we tell ourselves we can’t have a vacation unless we’re with someone. That vacations belong to families or couples, and if it’s just you, you should just keep working and working your tail off to get by.

But this vacation was just me — and that was what I worked with. I took in every moment, starting with the peaceful, beautiful drive with just me, a little music and Google Maps. I dipped my feet in the water, felt the sunshine, smiled at fellow day trippers, laughed and smiled at myself for doing silly things like climbing in random, slightly dangerous places like a kid, and I felt pretty (don’t laugh — I know you just thought of the song). I had no one to pressure me or tell me I was too old for that Superman ice cream cone.

And Michigan came through for me in all its glory, the water sparkling with stunning color, the greenery vivid.

Some of you with families might be reading this with envy, wishing you could do this too. I suppose the grass is always greener. It can be special and exciting to share these things with others too. But work with what you have, do what you can. Make your days beautiful, and find time to rest and breathe.


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