Article by Claire Nash
I love exploring the world. Travel for me is usually the chance to see new places, try things I’ve never done before, eat strange cuisines, and have fun with strangers. The older I get, the more adventurous I become. At least that’s how it’s always been.
Recently, I found myself longing for a break. All I wanted was to get away to rejuvenate. Maybe it was my body telling me that I was on the verge of a burnout. But I think it was more than that.
One of the reasons I’ve run myself ragged is because I don’t want to give in to my age. I feel like slowing down will be an admission that my body can no longer handle the pace at which I want to live. I think a part of me knew it was time to challenge that idea.
I don’t have a bucket list, because I have always found a way to do the things that appealed to me. In some ways, I identify as a person who gets things done. And so, if I miss out on something, I’m not just disappointed. Rather, I feel like a failure.
For ages, people have been telling me about this mindfulness guff, and for as long, I have brushed it aside as an excuse to give up on your dreams. I know, my self-talk is enough for a whole continent.
But with everything in me saying that I needed a holiday, I realised that the principles of mindfulness were exactly what I needed. Instead of being someone who “does” things, I could learn to be someone who just… is.
As is typical of me, I committed to the idea hook, line, and sinker, and booked a solo holiday in luxury accommodation in Palm Springs House Rentals. I braced myself for two weeks of climbing up the walls while pretending to relax.
And instead, I learnt a lot about myself and came home more rejuvenated than ever before. Here are some of the most poignant lessons I learnt about slowing down.
I’m not the centre of the world
We all know, intellectually, that the world doesn’t revolve around us. But because own lives obviously do, we fall into the trap of thinking what’s important to us is objectively important.
Well, try telling that to a desert. The desert is the perfect place to meditate on the vastness of the universe. Most people who go to Palm Springs go there for the springs, the architecture, the luxury. Those are all great reasons, but I learnt more in their absence. In the desert, I felt like I’ve always imagined astronauts feel on their first trip out of the atmosphere.
Obsessing over the tiny details of my own life seemed suddenly ridiculous. The big stuff, like my relationships, still obviously mattered. But all of the little things that cause me so much stress simply fell away. In the grand scheme of things, why does it matter what a colleague may or may not have said about me behind my back? Who cares whether I weigh 2 pounds more or less?
Do I really need to do everything I ever think of?
In such vastness, the idea of conquering the world looks as stupid as it is. It is impossible to be significant in an infinite universe. And therefore, I might as well focus on being significant to myself and the ones I care for.
It’s harder to be than to do
To compound that idea, I found out that I wasn’t somehow special for doing so many things. Ticking everything off everyone else’s bucket lists was not some great feat. On the contrary. For me, doing those things is far easier than choosing not to do them.
I expected to be climbing up the walls during a holiday of relaxation. At first, that’s how it was. I went to spas to experience the hot springs and found myself bored after 20 minutes. That’s when I realised that being is my biggest challenge. I decided to focus on learning to simply be.
The results were mixed. What struck me immediately was how frightening the idea was. It was as if by choosing to be, I would be allowing death in. I would be left with all the existential questions I’d never resolved, my usual defense of distracting myself unavailable.
It may sound strange, but I worked hard at learning to be, and I succeeded to an extent. The fact that I got past those initial moments of terror is something I’m proud of. In the end, Palm Springs was the perfect place to do this, as I could focus on the beauty of nature and the feelings of being pampered. I wasn’t totally alone with my thoughts.
It took me over five decades to finally let myself slow down, and it turns out this holiday was just what I needed all along. I’m never going to tire of seeing new places and doing new things, but that doesn’t mean it should be the be-all and end-all of my existence.
Slowing down in Palm Springs was the perfect opportunity to remember what is really important to me. Proving I’m still young is not one of those things. It’s time for me to finally let go of that obsession.
Time passes whether I like it or not. It’s about time I stopped running away from it.