Colorful fields of flowers filled the roadside between Florida and Texas on the long drive home in our motorhome. We saw massive brilliant pink azalea bushes, fields of bright, glowing red flowers, roadsides filled with white flowering bushes, and, once we were in Texas, fields of iridescent indigo bluebonnets. The scents were heavenly.
In Texas, families dress their kids in their Easter outfits and pose them among the bluebonnets. This week we’ve seen dozens of families along the road. It’s a lovely tradition. I fully expected to see some little bunnies hopping out of the bluebonnets.
In any case, happy Easter. He is risen. Today’s story is about a personal resurrection.
Hit a Wall
We returned home a week ago tomorrow. Our intended two-week vacation turned into a full month. It was the longest vacation I’ve taken in my career, and probably the most important one yet, providing me with some great lessons and perspective. After almost a year of continuous broadcasts twice a day, seven days a week, I had hit a wall. It was time. Severe burnout had occurred, but I was too driven and focused to see it. But thankfully, Tom in my office pointed out that I had become unusually grumpy and suggested a vacation. So we took our motorhome to Florida and stayed in a camping resort.
I discovered a few things about myself that I would never have known had Tom not suggested I take time off. Chances are you may see some things I discovered in yourself.
I discovered that I have X-ray vision. As silly as it sounds, after my vacation I can see through walls and around corners.
As humans we have been given a great ability to see things others cannot see, and this x-ray vision comes from true peace and quiet time.
Why I Don’t Take Vacations
You see, I normally don’t take vacations. I’ve built my vacation time into my work … for instance, if I take a group of artists to Russia, it’s like a vacation even though I’m working. And because I do two artist retreats a year, and an international behind-the-scenes art trip for art lovers, it’s like vacation because I’m with friends, seeing beauty and art, and often painting. But I’ve just realized that being always “on” may not be as relaxing as I thought. Making sure everyone is happy and having a good time is something I love doing, but it’s not a true vacation, it’s just work in a different setting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not whining. I love it, of course.
I discovered it took me a full two weeks to unwind fully, which involved staying off e-mail 100 percent and not watching the news or social media. One day, about a week into it, I made the mistake of checking a couple of e-mails, and one e-mail brought back enough stress that it took me three more days to lose it. Two weeks was not enough, and because I have a great team, I decided to stay two more … not to relax, but to take advantage of my new, relaxed state of mind.
Round and Round
Sometimes you’re so busy that you’re on a merry-go round, making decisions on the fly, without much thought. And once your mind is filled with so much intensity, just trying to keep from falling off, you can’t think clearly. You lose creativity, and you operate on a to-do list instead of a dream plan. That’s where I found myself. People often comment, “I don’t know how you get so much done.” That’s how. Head down, focused, and spinning like a madman.
Out of Control
But if you keep the spinning up, as the speed increases, you eventually spin out of control. That’s where I was, but I was holding on so tight, continuing to show up on thousands of projects and decisions, and pretending to be Superman, I was about to spin off. I just did not know it … until my colleague pointed it out.
There is wisdom in multiple counselors — Proverbs 24:6
After two weeks of recuperation, I was rested enough to send the next two weeks in a relaxed state of mind, working on plans for my next few years. This was two weeks of reinvention, rejuvenation, and a form of resurrection. I read four books, trying to learn some things I needed to know for my new plan. I also took an online course. And I made about 60 pages of notes and plans. And though I needed another two weeks, it was not reasonable to stay away longer. Plus, after snownado in Texas, we have broken pipes, damaged floors, and removed drywall to tend with.
The quieter you become, the more you can hear. — Baba Ram Dass
So what’s this got to do with X-ray vision?
When you eliminate the noise, your brain perks up into a new state of awareness and allows you to perceive things you can’t see when you’re in a hyped-up, overstimulated state. When you’re calm and completely relaxed, avoiding stimuli, you start to see what others cannot see.
The best cure for the body is a quiet mind. — Napoleon Bonaparte
It’s like X-ray vision. I can now see things I could not see a month ago. Things in myself, in my family, in my business, in my friendships, and in the world around me. I can see with such clarity that the future is more clear, intentions are more noticeable, and decisions are not routine, but thoughtful.
This is a result of eliminating all outside noise and input. Once it’s gone for enough time, your mind moves to a new level of awareness, almost as though you’re moving to a new dimension. I suspect it’s this kind of thing that allows one to get closer to God. Now I know why He says, “Be still.”
Be quiet, so that life may speak.— Leo Babouta
What amazes me is how much clarity and patience I have, and how I am seeing things in my work I was not seeing before. Now the trick is to keep some quiet, make the merry-go-round go slower, and find ways not to fall back into the traps that put me there in the first place.
I’ve never been one who imagined myself with a yogi, meditating on the top of a mountain in the wilderness, but for the first time I can understand, in my own small way. The power of silence, quiet, and resisting the addiction to stimulation can be life-changing.
Are you stressed or playing super mom or dad or grandparents, not realizing how much you need a break?
Are you feeling like decisions are on autopilot? Are things irritating? Are you feeling the stress?
Though I can’t guarantee x-ray vision, I can guarantee a fresh perspective. I did not think I could be away for a month. I was too self-important. In reality, everything went along fine without me.
What About You?
Can you find a way to get some quiet and some distance? If nothing else, can you escape your addiction to social media and the news? Now that I’ve returned, I can see just how controlling and manipulative these things can be. Surely that’s not what they’re meant for.
I encourage you to seek silence, seek space, seek time away. I was lucky to get a month off after 40-plus years, and a real vacation. (Note: Working in the garage during a week off and doing chores may be a change of scenery, but it’s unlikely to help you see through walls.)
I’ll admit it: I was addicted to the stimuli of the news and social media. I was addicted to being needed at work. I was addicted to the energy of work and family. And I found that slowing down was difficult. I found myself wanting to reach out for my phone to get a fix. But resisting was deeply healing.
Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life. — Khaled Hosseini
Today, on this Easter, after a year of COVID, I wish you an escape, and a chance to take a mental break. You deserve it. Quiet can lead to your own personal resurrection and reinvention.
THANK YOU for giving me a break and a month off!
PS: While in Florida I created a video to celebrate day 365. And I gave away $36,500 in prizes. You can see the video here.
I’d be honored if you follow me on Instagram (@ericrhoads) here and follow my YouTube channel here. It’s where you can see all my year of broadcasts.
If you’ve been reading, you’ll know COVID almost killed my business. Because we’re in the live event business, which dried up, we pivoted to doing virtual conferences. Our first was a huge success, and we’re doing it again, with all new people. Please check out PleinAirLive.com and sign up soon, joining the entire world.
I have a hunch that when we’re able, we’ll travel like crazy and attend things we’ve always wanted to attend. Some things I’ll be doing this year, if you care to join in….
June: The Publisher’s Invitational Paint-Out in the Adirondacks. In person. A week of painting with friends, outdoors. It’s the 10-year anniversary of the event. All levels welcome. We’re there to have fun.
Pastel Live. Our newest virtual online conference. Participate from home.
PaintRussia. A trip to paint in Russia and see historic museums and painting locations. Currently sold out; accepting a waiting list in case we can secure more seats.
Fall Color Week painters’ retreat. The first time we’ve done fall in the Adirondacks, and the first and only time at a new venue, a classic old camp that’s now a kids’ camp. This October.
The Fine Art Trip for art lovers or collectors. Seeing the museums of Vienna, Berlin, and going behind the scenes in the art world.
FACE (Figurative Art Convention & Expo) in Williamsburg, Virginia.
As you can see, there are things to do for artists, art lovers, and those who want to discover how to become artists. Some are in person, others online. I’m eager to be your host for all these events … and then maybe I’ll need another month off 🙂