From the August 2011 issue of American Agent & Broker •Subscribe!

Just Breathe

We’re more than halfway through an unprecedented year of disasters, catastrophes and general weirdness, and I can’t help but wonder what the winter months hold. But for right now it’s August, and aside from the heat, at this writing there’s a temporary lull in the insanity. Those of us who can afford the money and time are probably spending it with family and friends, relaxing on a beach or otherwise enjoying this too-short span of long summer days. In a week or two we’ll all be scrambling to get kids back into school and gearing up for fall business. Right now it’s time to just breathe.

And that’s good. So many recent reports show that Americans, harried by the constant barrage of bad economic news and their own personal demons, are either foregoing a vacation or spending most of their time on vacation checking up on things at the office. That’s no way to live.

"Life is too short" may be a cliché, but it’s also shorthand for the ultimate knowledge that human beings have to live with: We’re mortal. It’s the curse of our species, the snake in the Garden, knowing that no matter how sweet life may be, we all have to die—and nobody on his death bed is thinking that he should have worked more.

One of the reasons my thoughts this month are turned in this direction is because of the passing of Maureen Wall Bentley, executive vice president of brand strategy at Aartrijk. Although I’ve lost many friends from the industry over the years, Maureen was only 47 when she passed last month. A nice Irish girl from the Bronx, Maureen was the editor of IA magazine when I first had the pleasure of working with her. She was a terrific editor and a friendly, funny person who will be sorely missed in the industry. (Those interested in donating in her memory can contact St. Margaret of Cortona School, 6000 Riverdale Ave., Bronx, NY 10471.)

Maureen’s passing, like the dwindling days of summer, is just another reminder of the fragility and brevity of our time here. So by all means, yes, take a vacation this year—even if it’s just something as simple as a picnic in the park, a ball game with your kids or some quality time playing fetch with your dog. Turn off the cell phone and the laptop, ditch the social media, concentrate on being in the moment, and just breathe. In the end, it’s really all we have.

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