Need a Vacation? Then Stop Taking Life So Seriously.

As you may or may not know, I took a “brain break” last week, which, if you were wondering, is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of coming home and running to the gym or, yes, writing this blog, I just didn’t. I came home, I watched Jeopardy!, I read a bit, and then promptly feel asleep. Every night.

And I  h a t e d  it. 

But the saddest part? I thought I needed the break from my writing. I thought it would help me to reduce some stress and exhale outside of the paper bag I was hyperventilating into. I thought if I sat cross-legged in my room and wrote in my journal (just for me) I would achieve some sense of calm because I wasn’t under pressure. But strangely enough, it only made me miss writing even more. It made me miss the sheer panic I always experience when I don’t have something to write about and the irony that washes over me when I do encounter something so strangely perfect during the course of my day. Writing this blog awakens me to the little nuances and coincidences in life that I wouldn’t be reflecting on if I didn’t have a platform to express them on. I’m not really sure why I thought pushing away my passion would be a good move for a week, but I can tell you, I felt even more burnt out without it.

So, how is that possible? How does exerting more energy give you a better quality of life? Well, it depends on what you are investing your time in. Are your ventures decidedly fruitless but you continue with them as if they aren’t? Do you find yourself wishing for more time to do other activities, rather than the things that are on your plate? Am I starting to sound like a poorly scripted infomercial?

Well, if you answered yes to any of those questions, then your first reaction is invariably, “I need a vacation.” Time away from the office, the kids, your family, even your significant other. All I need is a girls’ night, you exclaim as you let your hair out of that matronly bun. I could really do with a night with the guys, you think to yourself as you pass by the bar in the daytime. But you don’t need any of those things. What you need to do is stop taking life so seriously.

We only feel that we need a vacation or time away when we feel like we are having trouble coping with all of the stressors in our life. But if you just admit to yourself that not everything is going to have your full, undivided attention, that not everything is going to go perfect, and that you are (believe me, I’m an expert) going to make a mistake and make a fool out of yourself, then every day of your life will feel like a vacation. The sooner you acknowledge this simple fact, the sooner you can stop scouring blogs for the answers to why you feel so empty and tired all of the time (but keep coming back to my blog. I’ll stroke your ego anytime.) The sooner you can take a bite of all that and swallow it down, the sooner you can start laughing at yourself (but don’t choke), which everyone, absolutely everyone, needs to start doing. Even if your laughter turns into uncontrollable sobbing. That’s cool. This is a judgement-free zone.

So, play when you want to. Work when you have to. But do not believe that the two are mutually exclusive. Poke a little fun at yourself, and see how fast you can shelve that 2-week getaway to the Bahamas. You deserve a vacation, but before you spend the money, try taking one from yourself.

Everyone is a Camel

I think that everyone needs to be reminded that everyone is a camel.

Are you still there? Or did you leave to find a blogger who is unaffected by brain-eating amoebas and extended metaphors? If you are still here, then take my hand. Figurative language isn’t so scary when you have someone to talk and walk you through it. 

So. Where were we?

Oh, yes. People are camels. But camels aren’t people, mind you.

Like I said, I’ll explain. Imagine your best friend, your parents, your boss, your co-workers, your favorite Starbucks barista, all as camels. Just hold that picture in your mind for a minute. Now, close your eyes. Uhm, well, close your eyes and get someone else to read this blog post to you. Imagine that all of your camel relatives have straws on their back (I know it’s supposed to be the other kind of “straw,” but I like drinking straws better. When you write your own extended metaphor, you can use whatever you like).

I think you know where this is going by now, but for those who are coming down for a long day and this is floating somewhere above their head, I’ll continue. Now believe that those straws are not ordinary drinking straws but filled with lead. Each straw weighs at least a pound. And each camel friend has about 100 of these straws. On their back. If I’m doing the math correctly (I’ll get out my calculator, just so I don’t drag this blog’s “good” name for hard-hitting journalism through the mud) that’s 100 pounds.

And let’s not forget that you are also a camel. With the same amount of weight on your back. And the same amount of straws.

So, let’s recap. Everyone’s a camel. And everyone’s got heavy straws on their back. And those straws will inevitably represent different things to different camels. What may seem rather inconsequential to you, like a drinking straw in fact, is earth-shattering to another camel. No two straws are the same because no two camels are the same.

And we’re all pretty thirsty because when you think of camels, you think of the desert and dehydration, which is why drinking straws are also a great part of this metaphor. And for some reason, you’re also imagining a bunch of camels walking to some distant destination (and now you’re thinking: how does she know?!)

But we’re not traveling to some distant destination because we are arriving at my point. There are two ways to help your fellow camels. 1) By taking care of some of their straws. Even if you can only take one of their straws, I promise you, it will feel like you are taking 20.  2) By not adding any more straws. This can be hard, but try to recognize when your camel friends have too much on their plate, or rather, their back. If you both have an equal amount of straws, then at least talking about them may help you to stop noticing how painful their weight is. It’s what we’re here to do in life: remind each other that we are more than just our straws. ( I can see the movie title now: The Fault in Our Straws). Just remember: no one has zero straws, and no one person has them all.

The fact is I think we all need a little help stepping into each other’s shoes sometimes. I mean, before I get into another metaphor, we all need to recognize each other’s struggles. And if my camel metaphor helps you to (ironically) see the humanity in people, then I can retire. What I think it has done is provided you with a hankering to watch Lawrence of Arabia. And that’s cool, too. Just don’t forget what I said about the being nice to people thing. Okay?

This is Your Brain on Brain-Eating Amoebas

Okay, I’ll admit it.

I’m a hypochondriac. WebMD knows me by name, and I’ve vaguely entertained the notion that I have cancer because they told me so. However, if I hadn’t looked up my symptoms on the site when I had an inflamed gallbladder, I might not have thought my condition serious enough to go to the ER. (Okay, maybe I would have because I was in a fetal position on the floor of my dorm room, crying, muttering that I didn’t want to die in said dorm room).

Let’s just say the power of the Internet is far too great for people like me.

So, when I experienced painful headaches for a a lonesome string of days, I became a little frustrated and a little too preoccupied with the Internet. I knew my sinuses were to blame, but I could not figure out why my nose sprays or allergy medicines were not working.

Inevitably, I panicked.

I had just cleaned out my nose spray with warm water, and I had taken every precaution to wait until the nozzle dried to make sure that tap-water microbial cysts did not find a home in my nose. But had I made a mistake? Was 24 hours of air drying not enough to eradicate microscopic pests? What would the headlines say? “Blogger Dies, Leaves a Life of Unfinished Writing and Awful Selfies Behind”

Cue brake screeching. With my headaches increasing in severity, the obvious reason for them did not occur to me. A lowly sinus infection had to take a backseat to brain-eating amoebas.

Commence my incessant research into the latter. Unfortunately, brains are a sometimes snack for these amoebas. In fact, when they travel into your nose through pond or lake water, they simply have to eat your brain because there is nothing else to satiate their appetite. But there’s no cure. Your symptoms will show up in 2-14 days, but after that, you’ll most certainly die. And you won’t be almost dead, like in The Princess Bride, you’ll be all dead. WebMD nonchalantly mentions that a couple of teenagers die every year because they go swimming in a pond without their nose plugs. (Oh sure, because people wear nose plugs. Right after they put on their bathing caps!)

With this recent research nestled in my obviously decaying brain, I started to plan my funeral arrangements, deciding on the music that would crescendo into a mournful rendition of “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. I worried what my family would do with this blog, if they would let it fade to black. And not once did I stop to think that I might actually be brain-eating amoeba free. Not once.

The point is, we all get caught up in the moment. We all have a flair for the dramatics. We all see the forest for the trees. We all get stuck on the worst case scenario.

But I would never want to know if I was dying or not. Even if I was. (And I don’t know yet because I haven’t been to the doctor. I’ve just been self-diagnosing my sinus infection, as usual. So, let’s hope there isn’t a severe twist of irony in the next couple of days…)

But do you ever notice that we never ask psychics, mediums, or wayward strangers with crystal balls when we are going to die? We ask who we will marry, how much money we will have, if we will turn out alright. Because the knowledge of our death date doesn’t help us right now. You may have a weird realization in knowing when you will die, like in Big Fish, which might ironically give you the strength to go on. But more often than not, it’s just going to depress you. Like I said, there is no cure for the brain-eating amoeba. So, why worry about it?

In fact, live your day everyday like you have a brain-eating amoeba. Hug everyone a little tighter, smile at anyone you pass, and try to leave a legacy behind you. Because our physical selves deteriorate (or are eaten). But our kindness, advice, and passion will live on in others. And if you’re lucky, your awesome recipe for chocolate chip cookies might get passed down, too.