This week I am trying frantically to finish preparations for the first big business meeting of the year and my first international trip of the year. This evening I was griping to the kids about the insane pace right now and the loss of even a day off for the next two weeks – not even a day to slow down and pack! Argh.
And then I paused for a moment, randomly clicking around the interwebs because I had reached that point where the words and the graphs on the PowerPoint slides no longer made sense to me and remembered. After the big, stress-filled business meeting I am going to Palawan! Immediately after my business review is complete I am climbing aboard a Philippine Air flight to Puerto Princesa with my colleagues and coworkers to attend our annual strategic, team building and development meeting. On Palawan!!
I really lost perspective. Palawan is the largest of the 81 provinces in the Philippines. In ancient times Chinese traders traversed land bridges from Borneo to Palawan. They were followed by many, many migrants to the Philippine Islands. The caves of Palawan have revealed china, pottery and other artifacts from those first visitors.
Palawan was also the first area within the Philippines colonized by Spain in 1622. Centuries later the Japanese invaded the province on May 18, 1942.
What excites me, though is that Palawan is considered the last ecological frontier in the Philippines. Its 1700 islands are covered with tropical rain forests and vast areas of marine wilderness. One of those unique treasures is the underground river in the Puerto Princesa National Park. Check out the Wikipedia info on the park and the river, but also check back here in a few weeks and I will post my own pictures and impressions.
The first day of our Leadership Meetings includes an excursion down the subterranean river. After that we get to listen to some speakers from Frost and Sullivan and Forrester, play some team building games and flesh out our 2015 strategy. And I almost opted out. I almost chose to just fly home to have a weekend. Forfeit my voice in the strategy sessions. Watch the snow melt in my yard rather than paddle down an underground river. I was ready to burrow back into my winter hibernation cave rather than explore a Unesco World Heritage site, one of the New Seven Natural Wonders – paid for – in full – by my employer.
It is so easy to lose site of the bigger picture when we are caught up in the urgency of the now. It is important that I am well prepared for the upcoming meeting. It’s important to my career that I present well and dynamically, that I engage my audience and that my presentation is relevant and vital.
It’s not necessary, however, to lose site of the rest of my life. I am still lucky enough to have two of my adult children who choose to live with me (and yeah, I know, rent is cheap with me, but I don’t care!) and the one who doesn’t live with me, who lives thousands of miles away in New Hampshire, works for the same company I work for. We are connected. So, so connected.
I just had to report all of my vacation days for 2014 (apparently there was a glitch in the tracking software and although the hours were deducted from my accrual, the actual dates were lost – try recreating every day you took off for the last year, not easy!) and I took a lot of time off in 2014. I was lax about taking time out for the first few years working for my company so I had a lot of days accrued. And I took 29 days off in 2014. That’s a month and a half of paid time off last year.
Some of that time was to be a barely-needed care giver when my mother had surgery (a post will follow some day about my appalling lack of ability to handle a real crisis during that time, but I am still processing it and can’t get it written yet). However, even more was time off during the Holidays and a leisurely trip to North Carolina to wonder at my sister’s brilliance and revel in my parent’s garden. Another week was to ride the train from Colorado to California and play with food and photographs and paper with my sister. I had a month off to just be me in 2014. That’s a luxury many don’t share.
And now I have the all-expenses-paid opportunity to experience warmth in winter and wonder in our world. And I nearly lost sight of what was being offered to me, and I completely lost perspective.
Lucky for me I still have time to reaffirm my willingness and even my strong desire to participate in creating strategy, building teams and being a part of this oh so wonderful world – and a chance to paddle down an underground river in just a little over a week. I need to go pack!
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?”
― Mary Oliver