Head Coach: Necessity can be hazardous to your health

My wife and I took a little get-away vacation last month. We spent a week in Southwestern New Mexico at the southern edge of the Gila National Forest. Pinos Altos, N.M., sits on the crest of the Continental Divide. In fact, you can enjoy breakfast at the Gold Rush Café. Looking out the window, you will find that Highway 15 is downhill in both directions.

We stayed in a delightfully quaint cabin in the woods. The nights were cool enough to warrant a toasty fire, and the days warm enough to perch ourselves on the porch with a stack of good books while we read between visits from a local woodpecker, a few deer and an occasional javelina. Other than that, we were basically undisturbed. Not even our cell phones could disturb us. We were in a "no service" area. No Internet either.

I have to admit my initial reaction was mixed when I discovered we were virtually out of touch with the rest of our world. It's hard to get that isolated any more.

What a treat this was. At the same time, however, I experienced a twinge of anxiety. What if someone needs to get in touch with us? Should we make some effort to establish a way to be reached? My wife and I seemed to realize this quandary at the same moment. We stood there side-by-side in the front room of the cabin checking our phones.

I could see by the look on her face that she was pondering the same mixture of thoughts. As we looked at each other, without a word our faces, as though on cue, slowly unveiled sheepish grins. Our chuckles said it all: "The world can wait until next week. We're on vacation."

I was surprised at how quickly we got over any anxiety about being out of reach. I was even more surprised to discover that when we finally headed home a week later, I turned on my cell phone at the airport and found only six messages waiting for me. All of them were inconsequential. I was unavailable for seven days and the world seemed to carry on just fine without me. Almost no one even tried to reach me.

Now, some may find it disconcerting to learn that you can be gone for a week and no one seems to need you that much. Not me. My ego tried to make something over this, but it was quickly trumped by a strong feeling of liberation. How incredibly liberating it is to know that you aren't that necessary to the world. I can disappear for a time and everything and everyone will be just fine.

This doesn't mean that you or I are not valued. Just not needed. There is a difference. Our contributions are important, but not totally necessary. It's nice to be valued, but, it becomes much too heavy to be necessary. In fact, I suspect that the degree toward which people need us is primarily fed by our egotistical need to be needed more than any requirement actually exists.

Burdens of stress in our lives are probably generated not by the demands of the world around us but, rather, by the silly notion that those demands have to be met by us. Sometimes, we need to step away and go hide. Doing so will help you refuel. More important, however, is the opportunity it provides to learn the liberating reality that none of us are that important.

I encourage each of you to find a place where no one can reach you. Resist the temptation to check-in back home. Turn off your cell phone and take a week away. If you find that you just can't do that, then take two weeks. It's an important lesson. Stay until you learn it.

If you're having trouble finding such a place I know a nice little cabin in the Gila National Forest you can go to. Tell the woodpecker I sent you.

Lane Johnson, M.Div., LPC, is a licensed counselor. He welcomes your comments. You can contact him by email at lane@StrategicConnectionGroup.com.