Thursday, March 10, 2011

Saving myself: A postcard from St Augustine

This winter has been brutal for many people, and I am no exception.  I cannot remember a winter that has affected me so harshly.  The cold and the dark, combined with an unrelenting and immensely stressful work situation, nearly broke me.  Where I once looked around in wonder, I now stared down at the sidewalk, huddled against the chill.  I no longer sought out new experiences, and instead took refuge in my apartment.  I slept long and hard, and awoke unrefreshed.  I drank gallons of Diet Coke in an effort to stay awake.  I constantly craved junk food and carbohydrates, often giving in, and unsurprisingly gained weight.  I fantasized every day about quitting my job and New York, and running away to a tropical island.

What happened to the wide-eyed girl that so loved exploring this city?

The day that I arrived at work in tears is the day that I finally realized that I either needed to buy a lamp designed for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder or take a much-needed vacation- I hadn't had a break since late September.  I had just hired a temporary employee whose efforts had already started to make a difference in my own workload, and I could now afford to leave for awhile, even though it was during our busiest season.  I didn't really have a choice-- I needed to mend.

The normal choices- a cruise, a resort- were not options for my non-profit budget.  With a bit of searching, I came across Discovery Yoga, a small yoga school based in St. Augustine, Florida.  It offered a Rest & Relaxation package for just $85 a night-- a single room with private bath, kitchen facilities, and one yoga class per day.   The center is within walking distance of the quaint tourist town of St Augustine, and there is a free beach shuttle.  A vegan restaurant is just around the corner from the school.

The week has been a godsend.  I've taken an eco-tour to see dolphins and birds in the estuary, spent time on the beach, walked the ancient streets of St Augustine (the first town in the United States), had an exceptional massage, practiced yoga each day with excellent teachers, and had amazing healthy, delicious food.   Every single person I've encountered here has been kind and hospitable.  I've not heard a cross word or a honking horn the entire week.   The cacophony of city traffic has been replaced by the roar of ocean waves.

I need to bring the St Augustine spirit with me back to New York.  I cannot wait for vacation to find peace, but rather need to weave it into each day.  I have some ideas, starting with ceasing to use my blackberry for an alarm clock (and thus reading work email first thing each day! crazy!).  Exploring the city's abundance of yoga studios and meditation centers is also high on my priority list.  And maybe, maybe, I can then ease into spring and sun and longer days with my spirit intact.