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I took an actual vacate-tion this early autumn. Two weeks with no obligation to be productive. For fifteen hundred miles in a comfy rental car, no schedule or itinerary, I loafed and lingered, knowing I needed a decisive break from fixed routine. And yet, an odd sense of guilt, of not being productive or useful, haunted me. And that reminded me that guilt is rooted in fear, specifically the fear of being found unworthy, useless.

Knowing that guilt over relaxing would not serve the Greater Good, I persisted in my goal of escaping being over-responsible. (I am aware of the irony of making goallessness a goal.) I didn’t even write in my journal for much of the trip. Instead, I saw the trees change colors for the first time in my life, pulled over dozens of time to take pictures and sometimes left my camera, and simply cried at the beauty of it all. I discovered XM radio, where several classical, comedy, and NPR stations vied for my attention. And the silence crept in a little each day, until I would realize I hadn’t turned on the radio for half an hour or more. I didn’t want to hear the news, even music distracted me at times from simply seeing, and being at home within myself.

Beyond words and knowing, the antidote for pressure might sometimes be silence, a soft and sacred space.

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