How a Reboot Day Can Help Us Go From Fear to Thriving

As I am on my twelfth round of Silent Night, exhaustion and stress take their toll. My daughter loves the song and it is the last one I sing after her Colombian lullabies. It seals the deal and she heads to dream land. She doesn’t require twelve rounds of it, that is just me using it to keep the many worries at bay…Are women’s rights going out the door? Will the people that I love to write about be able to survive without health care? Will they be separated from their families by a wall? It all seems surreal so I sing and hope and eventually I too fall asleep.

Four o’clock in the morning chimes somewhere in my mind without any signs of ceasing and letting me sleep for two more hours. I lay there. My eyes are closed my mind racing. Then, I am given a gift. A 65 degree day in the middle of February. The same time of year I am digging a waist high snow trench to my car. Yes, I am aware that this gift is actually a result of global warming. I choose to take it for what it is in the present moment and not begin the cycle of fear and anxiety that started right after inauguration. My toddler twists and turns and mumbles something about having a home day. I take it. Yes! A home day. A family day. A day to stop and reboot.

But this brilliant idea is not so easily taken. There are double shifts to work, interns to transport to work locations, school schedules, clients, budgets, developing a new company. And so it is that I must engage in some very heavy convincing of my wife to join me, our toddler and our student guest from China on a reboot day. It took 45 min of reasoning, my biggest argument being that we take off when we are sick and when family members are sick. We go, go, go and here we have a 65 degree day in the middle of February maybe, just maybe, we can take off for being happy, healthy, and warm. That did it.

Of course a day off does not mean any work. There is the messy task of preparing a massive pancake breakfast, shrimp and tomato omelets and fruit. The magic of a reboot day is that this work is unscheduled, tended to in soft polka dotted pjs, and mohawk bed hair. It is filled with ridiculous jokes that begin when everything starts burning and my toddler wants to help every step of the way. Thankfully the opportunistic dachshund is vigilant. The aroma of peppermint chocolate tea mixes with the fragrant chai and the blueberries, raspberries, and chocolate chips that my toddler uses to make pancake people faces.

We give thanks and begin the delicious process of eating with time. Time to savor the sweetness of seared blueberries and raspberries. Time to ask questions that begin with, “Remember when…,” and end in, “…oh right and remember this other time.” Time to sip. I allow my bowl of a mug to warm my hands. It is a to-stay mug. Time for seconds and possibly even thirds if there is a lonely chocolate pancake left on the platter.

Feasts usually give to the inglorious cleanup, but even this becomes an act of reveling in time. Dishes, sauces, forks, and chop sticks are placed in the dishwasher, others washed by hand, and everything is put away. Today there is no pile up and go. We are a community without a commute.

My toddler blasts the Katy Perry station. It is our marching orders to go find our best February beach wear. Soft jeans, flip flops for easy liberation of our hibernated feet, tank tops, short sleeves, a light sweater just in case. We search the basement for “the summer things” — my daughter’s neon pink bike and our beach blanket.

The five minute drive transported us to a land where only three other people had the same idea. The barren trees sway us forward full of excitement, “You’re almost there, come on and stretch out like we do,” they chant. And so we did. We followed the shoreline then decided to climb the rock wall instead. The usual path would not do today.

The path less taken.

Layers came off revealing shoulders in need of sun kisses. We made it slowly around the retention wall exploring every corner of the park like we were on an Easter day scavenger hunt.

The water danced and sparkled for us happy to have visitors. Then our toes finally made it to the sand. The top sand layer baked in the unexpected warmth of the morning and hid the layers of chilliness underneath. It mapped our way to the water. Wanting to believe in a winter spring day we dunked our feet only to run out thirty seconds later laughing in sharp pain as our feet resisted the icy water.

My daughter using the rocks to avoid the icy water.

Sunshine filled the deserted beach and warmed our tired bodies as we stretched out on the blanket. Lounging gave way to treasure hunting as we all took turns finding our booty: golden pebbles, multicolored shells, beach wood, clams. We even tried to teach the eleven year old dachshund how to fetch. Laughter became our only conversation.

Play was everywhere. Even the sun in its mid winter brilliance bounced between, around, and behind the crisp white clouds. It withheld its warmth only to pour it in just as we began to put our jackets back on or contemplated leaving. Eventually we left and ventured into the city. Relaxed and filled with awe, we appreciated all the beautiful buildings and sights. Locals masked as tourists. An Indian lunch buffet filled our bellies with more warmth and spice. Life was easy laced with chai. We ended the day with a movie at home and ice cream from a farm. Bed time, 7:45!

Playing the tourist in downtown Baltimore.

I awoke to snow on the ground. The constant rhythm of regular life took over with gusto as if having waited too long for its next dance. But today my body and mind were up for the pairing. All the releasing and amassing of energy that a reboot day does is indispensable. Because unlike all the machines that I keep a watchful eye on for updates, battery charges, and upgrades-the most important machine- the human body- hardly ever gets as much attention. Without it nothing else works.

A reboot day layered in its confectionery and sensory delights is the most responsible thing we can do for ourselves. It allows us to be fully present and notice all the beauty that lives in our homes, children, spouses, neighborhoods that in our rush to do and survive we miss. It is a mindful pause so that we can continue to live with clarity instead of fear and reaction.

It allowed me to be able to listen and offer comfort to my wife as we manage the news of her grandfather’s aggressive terminal illness. Rejuvenated, I found the clarity to create solutions to help schools with large immigrant populations absorb the impact of the executive orders by designing a training to help teachers understand the importance of reading diverse books. Books that represent opportunities to students of color whose future is often represented as hopeless. It fueled my drive to work on starting my own publishing company, Tree Top Suite Publishing, the literature of possibilities for diverse audiences by diverse authors.

Rebooting helped me release the fear over things so out of my control like: whether my middle eastern, Muslim father will have to join a registry; will my sixty-two year old mother and my sister’s family lose their insurance; will my marriage stay legal, will we ever pay off our student loans? I don’t know.

I do know this. The power to see change can only come when I am rested and clear headed. While it does not directly change everything around me it changes everything within me and that is the compass which guides me into the realm of possibilities where the immobility of anxiety is replaced with the fervor of creativity and survival gives way to thriving.