All year, I’ve promised myself, my sister, and my closest friends that I would take a vacation. As I did after my assault and many other life challenges, I continued working after my mother’s death. She was true to her German heritage and encouraged me to work hard for everything I valued. Thus, I kept working for The Law Studio, Third Ear Conflict Resolution, my relationships, and all the things that make my life worthwhile. I pushed myself to get to the gym, play softball, run, and more, even when I thought I wanted to sit on the sofa with a bourbon and German potato salad or Smartfood popcorn. Sometimes, I succumbed to the sofa, in part because I was denying the intensity of my grief. I’m supposed to be stronger. Right? I resolve conflict for a living. I should be okay already. Shouldn’t I?
I am doing relatively well, but I also expect this to be a very difficult holiday. Not only will I be without my mother, there’s no longer a place beyond my apartment that I call home. I am truly on my own now. I am my own family. I have extended family in the form of friends (“chosen family”), my half-sister, my nephew and his family, cousins, and more, but I’m still adapting to my new life as an orphaned adult. It’s time to embrace it and see what is possible. I will be working remotely for many of the next several days, to re-set my body, mind, and spirit. If you can, I encourage you to do the same:
- Plan. A lot of work can be performed “virtually”, or using computer and internet technology, from almost anywhere in the world. Determine which of your work tasks can be performed offsite, check connection set-ups at your destination, have a contingency plan, and communicate with the people who might be affected by your physical absence. Complete what you can before you go and postpone what can wait. Try to disconnect as much as possible, especially on the holidays your loved ones celebrate.
- Act. When in doubt, overcommunicate itineraries and contact information with the people who will be affected by your virtual vacation. Double-check plans and connectivity. Ask loved ones, business partners, co-workers, supervisors, clients, etc. what they are most concerned about regarding your absence. Address them, then trust them to manage without you, or to contact you when necessary.
- Revise. Your plan is unlikely to work perfectly the first time you implement it, but it probably only requires a few small tweaks to improve your results.
Knowing this reality, we can make the most of our alone time and learn to free our emotions through:
- Journaling. I blog regularly and write monthly newsletters, but my public writings would be far more emotionally-charged, if I did not allow some time for free-form, stream-of-consciousness journaling. I can write all the f*** bombs I want there and express thoughts that would be hurtful or damaging, and no one gets hurt, especially because I tend to pull the pages from my notebook, shred, and recycle them within the week. It might not be a total win for the environment, but it tends to be a win for the people around me who might otherwise be sprayed with shrapnel from landmines they couldn’t see, and I had forgotten I buried.
- Meditating. Our brains are constantly firing thoughts. Some experts estimate we average 70,000 thoughts per day. Clearly, we aren’t paying attention to each of them, but how we choose which ones to give authority varies with our stress level. Meditation is a practice that allows us to observe and control our minds, regardless of outside stresses. As a result, we often feel calmer and more control of what stresses us. I am no meditation master, but I am noticing a difference between my stress levels, confidence, and creativity on days when I do not meditate.
- Swimming. When in the water, we must focus on breathing, arm strokes, kicks, and posture, so we don’t sink. This can be meditative and give us an opportunity to experience the power of our bodies and the interrelationship of human and the environment. On the rare occasions that I remember to slow down, like my swimming instructor directs me to, I feel the water all around me and learn to surrender to its support. It is a humbling and empowering experience, allowing me to replace the memories of gasping for air as my sister held me under the water or when she dragged me to the deep end of the wave pool, only to take my raft away from me as the waves began and went over my head. Replacing these memories with experiences of power have changed my life in many ways I never expected.
Nance L. Schick, Esq. is a New York City attorney and mediator who focuses on keeping people out of court and building their conflict resolution skills, especially in business and employment disputes. Her holistic, integrative approach to conflict resolution draws from her experience as a crime victim, human resources supervisor, minor league sports agent, and United Nations representative. She is a 2001 graduate of the State University of New York Buffalo Law School trained in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), and International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation (ICERM). She is also creator of the Third Ear Conflict Resolution process, author of DIY Conflict Resolution: Seven Choices and Five Actions of a Master, and an award-winning entrepreneur, who has been acknowledged by Super Lawyers (ADR, 2018), the New York Economic Development Corporation/B-Labs (Finalist, Best for NYC 2015 & 2016), U.S. Chamber of Commerce (2015 Blue Ribbon Small Business), Enterprising Women Magazine (Honorable Mention, 2014 Woman of the Year awards), and Urban Rebound NY/Count Me In (Finalist, 2013 Pitch Competition).