I’m 40 years old and while I’m not the workaholic of many people I’ve met in my life, I’d say that I do spend a lot more time working than most. Even when you run your own business — in fact, maybe primarily when you run your own small business — you work more than a typical person who works 8 to 5 or 9 to 6 or whatever. The problem with running your own business is that work time and non-work time meld into one. There’s no delineation. And while that’s great for Psych Central, it certainly may not be ideal for my own mental health (not to mention physical health).

My troubles pale in comparison to many people’s troubles today, especially in this economy. But I keep thinking back to my times in the countryside of Ireland, of France, and most recently, while visiting the Tuscan hills outside of Florence. Until I met my wife, I never traveled far or really took “vacations.” It’s almost a foreign concept to me. Taking time off. “For what?” I’d ask. Now I know.

The knowledge is that Americans live in a very competitive world and environment. It’s not just “Keeping up with Joneses,” some ideal representation of an American family and dream that doesn’t really appeal or matter to me. It’s more the entire fabric of the society we’ve built here in America that values not simply work, but materialism and a constant focus on being better than anything else and everyone else.

The more I grow older, the less this focus appeals to me. (I suspect soon I’ll also be yelling, “Get off my lawns, you kids!”, but hopefully not for a good many decades.) Sure, I value innovation, striving for something better, for ensuring I’m doing everything I can to help make my life and my family’s life better in some sense of the word. But sometimes we all need to put that aside, and really find a way to disconnect to all that is around us.

Technologies like Twitter and Facebook enable so much in our worlds. They allow us to keep connected to others around us, to stay connected even when we don’t see one another. But they are a constant pulse — a reminder of the fact that the world goes on, with or without us. If we drop off the face of the planet for a few hours, days or even weeks, the truth is that the world barely notices. Nothing is so important that it can’t exist without us.

That’s the thing I’ve learned today, trying to disconnect for a few hours, trying to find that balance that’s so important in our lives. The world keeps going even when we’re not in it.

That, unfortunately, doesn’t make it any less hectic when the kids are expecting dinner on the table and the electric company still expects their monthly bill to be paid. These are the simple responsibilities of living in a modern world. We work to pay the bills, we go to school so we have a marketable job skill, and we pray our large corporate conglomerate doesn’t need to get bailed out by the Federal government (or maybe we pray that we work for a company large enough that it does, since the government seemingly couldn’t care less about the hundreds [thousands?] of small businesses that go under every year).

Somewhere in all of that, there’s that infernal balance. That need to put things into perspective. And that desire to live a less complicated life, free of daily stress, maybe even free of a few responsibilities.

So today, I’m taking some time out to stop and smell the flowers. And you know what?

They smell pretty darned good.

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I’d like to give a shout-out to my nephew Ian who’s graduating tonight from Newark High School in Delaware. I wish I were there to see that, but I’ll see you and the rest of the family in July. Congratulations Ian!