by EMILY ORTON
Erik and I just finished a book proposal for our literary agent. I use the word ‘finished’ tentatively. Her feedback will likely require major revisions. We’ve spent the past six weeks crafting and then chucking this drastically abridged summary of our story. Our workspace is littered with index cards and sharpie markers tracking the arc and reversals. But for now, it’s done. Our oldest is home for 72 hours and we’re taking a break.
Taking a break is generally good advice, like taking a deep breath and relaxing those shoulders. Doesn’t that feel better? When you’re leveling up or trying something new, taking frequent breaks is critical to maintaining stamina. Lily taught me this.
Lily learned to swim at a hotel pool when we were ‘stuck’ at a hot, humid, windless dock in St. Maarten for three weeks waiting for our boat engine to be rebuilt. With daily access to the pool, she quickly graduated from the first ankle-deep step to the chin-deep (for her) pool floor. After touching each new level—ankles to waist to chin, she jumped out reaffirming her exit strategy. Gradually, she stayed deeper for longer until she felt comfortable letting go of the sides and lifting her feet.
The first time she pushed off from Erik’s chest and made it safely to my arms, five inches away, it felt like she had just learned to walk. We wanted her to keep going. We wanted her to do it again and again, to increase her distance. We were ready for more. Lily hopped out of the pool.
If you had just base jumped off your first skyscraper in Dubai, would you run up and do it again or would you take a break? Lily watched the other kids swimming laps and choreographing underwater ballets, but that was her first time free-floating in the water. She needed a break from the scary zone to analyze. Eventually, she returned. She progressed a little and took lots of breaks until she was comfortable kicking several feet on her own.
Last summer she took a guppy swim class in a lake. There were three teachers and they couldn’t keep her from swimming off. Why would she wait in line for her turn to float, dive and flutter kick to an instructor when the whole lake was right there in front of her? She wouldn’t. I eased their safety concerns by swimming after her. Lily stayed in long after the lesson was over…until I needed a break.
If you’re doing something new or extra challenging, consider taking a break. It could be the fastest way to progress.
If you think this would encourage someone, please consider sharing.