(Video link here.)  During our recent working vacation, we tested out a strategy that yielded the secret to navigating a mountain of work without stress: go slowly, don’t pile on too many deadlines in a single day, break the work into manageable hunks, and most importantly, intersperse work with deep pleasure and naps.

We took a forest bath at the Central Park Pinetum (photo by Ralph Ueltzhoeffer)

We realized that our usual pattern of too-much-to-do in a day often forgoes the quality of spaciousness that imbues everything with more meaning, joy and serendipity.

We were transported to lake Placid by the wonderful Florine Stettheimer via the Jewish Museum

…Which leads us to the other secret of a balanced work life: taking stock of what we have (not what we don’t have) and being grateful for it. Our working vacation coincided with end of summer when so many people we know are away on vacation or at their country houses AND with the terrible wallop Houston received from Hurricane Harvey.

Rather than feel sorry that the summer had passed without our going away, we took in the serenity and comfort of our snug home among the trees.

Sally Schneider

We find ourselves curiously refreshed, despite a bout of Jury Duty and a ton of paperwork, errands, meetings, and home fixes we needed to get done.

Like the skateboarding dog, and Christoph Niemann’s trapeze flyers (with wrench), we are eager to begin again.

Christoph Niemann

And of course, two poems on the subject appeared: Burning the Old Year by the great Naomi Shihab Nye:

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.   
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,   
lists of vegetables, partial poems.   
Orange swirling flame of days,   
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,   
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   
only the things I didn’t do   
crackle after the blazing dies.


And Beginning Again by Franz Wright, from August 4, 2003 New Yorker:

“If I could stop talking, completely
cease talking for a year, I might begin
to get well,” he muttered.
Off alone again performing
brain surgery on himself
in a small badly lit
room with no mirror. A room
whose floor ceiling and walls
are all mirrors, what a mess
oh my God –
And still

it stands,
the question
not how begin
again, but rather
So we sit there
the mountain
and me, Li Po
said, until only the mountain



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5 replies on “We Discover A Low-Stress Work Strategy and Begin Again

  1. Hurricane Harvey left so many without so much. What Harvey did not take away: The love of neighbors, (those we know and those we have never met), the can do spirit of our nation and state as we pull together, faith in our fellow man and in God and hope for the thousands of displaced Texans whose homes have been destroyed and lives turned up side down in rushing flood waters.
    We all pray Irma does not end up in your neighborhood, and hope what has happened here inspires all who have seen the courage, strength, love, and service of so many be an inspiration to all. Please remember a large portion of Texas and Louisiana is flooded, homeless, without transportation, and now the victims of the new anti-DACA edict. We are all Americans; let us support each other.

  2. Glad you are back!
    Glad you had a restive break.
    You were missed.
    Your email is one of the first I read every day.
    I tell everyone I know to join!

  3. Thank you SO much Mary. Improvised Life is so homemade, that I’m afraid its readers need to bear with all that entails: the occasional hiatus. I am deeply grateful for that.

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