I spent the summer in unscheduled bliss, my only requirement being getting to the next airport two hours before my next flight. Before I took off to my first destination of a two month long European adventure, I called a dear friend and told him of my detailed-to-the-minute plans for my trip. He cut me off and gave me some very valuable advice:

“Allow yourself to be surprised,” he said.  “Let a child’s laugh or a bounding puppy remind you of how lovable you are.”

From that moment on, days blended together, mozzerella was abundant, and the small, finer things were finally given the attention they deserved.  My jet lag didn’t cure itself until about 10 days into my trip as I stayed up late, and slept even later – I’m pretty sure my blackberry calendar was dealing with severe abandonment issues. I stayed with a friend whose garden served as my writing sanctuary, and mornings were spent taking artsy photos of my breakfast, walking to my London yoga studio, and writing among the flowers. Time spent alone was delicious, as was time spent reunited with old friends.

My "artsy" breakfast photoshoot

In my return to the academic life, I find myself getting stuck in my head a little more frequently, using my walk home to perfect the final details of my retirement plan. I can get so wrapped up in mentally mapping out the road to professional success that I miss the kid laughing with the dog, or the nice old man who waves hello in the morning (there are several, but I notice I always feel more guilty when I miss the “hellos” of the senior community due to my iPod headphones.)  Or, sometimes, I’m just plainly starring as the “Girl on TV” in the LFO video that plays in my head, which distracts me from the chirping birds.

During my morning reading/writing ritual a few days ago, I stumbled across a passage that reminded me of the value of letting go when all I want to do is hold on.  Nothing seems more challenging than surrendering control when I’m being faced with job hunting and a new level of commitment in my long-term relationship with Sallie Mae.  But, maybe I don’t actually have that much control in the first place:

“…this morning when I awoke, the sun was shining brightly, the sky was a deep and cloudless blue, and the autumn trees radiated gold, bronze, and copper. Without thinking about it, my first reaction to was to exclaim “Wow!”  I was struck by the fact that I had nothing to do with creating such a beautiful morning.  That meant I probably had no effect on the rainy or snowy mornings, either.  In fact, weather was one of the many things completely out of my control.  This perception relieved me of the responsibility for the weather, sunny or cloudy, and reminded me of the many things in life over which I have no control.  I can only let go and let them be.  I felt grateful for this reminder, and I began to count my other blessings as well.  My job was simply to enjoy the morning and be grateful for the experience of beauty.  The day was off to a great start.”

Wherever I am, whatever I do each day, I hope that everyday miracles serve as a reminder of what’s really important … even with retirement plans and job applications and bills in the mail – in the end, we only have today.