Last Friday’s vocabulary word of the day was “hooky.”
Before the judging gets out of hand here – we believe wholeheartedly in quality education and perfect attendance. We had it… until we blew it… on LICE DAY. So after 2 weeks (plus a whole bunch of years) of crazy schedules, several late nights, and non-stop stuff on the calendar for all four of us, all four of us needed a getaway.
I am the super structure mom so I have to fight my inner scheduler on this whole idea of taking a break. The most important thing in our family is our family but it’s easy to get bogged down in the “I think I have to’s.”
Obligatory birthday parties, “can’t miss” events, things we “have to do?” Is this stuff really what holds us back from retreating? Is this seriously the stuff are we afraid to say no to? Since when did everyone else get the green light to control our schedules… and in doing so, the way we spend our lives?
Our little family has to intently stop the madness from time to time. It rarely comes in the form of a weekend away, because baseball and school projects and all the things. Sometimes it’s one afternoon that we pop popcorn, snuggle in front of a new movie, and hang a kid-made sign on the front door that says “family day today, we’ll play outside tomorrow.” Today, we planted seeds and threw a lopsided football in the pool for a half hour. Busted routine, happy kids. Happy parents.
Taking a break matters not just for our grown-up selves, but also because we want our children to know that their work (what they do) never matters more than their wellness (who they are). People always come before process. And taking time away to restore our souls is often the most valuable way to invest our time. It makes us better suited to pour ourselves into meaningful work and relationships and make a contribution that matters in our little corners of the world.
We left late Thursday night to hideaway at the lake. Jack said yesterday, why am I so tired? I think it’s subconscious and Pavlovian at this point – this place triggers “RELAX” in us. The kids are different people up there. They don’t drool over technology and they entertain themselves and each other. Bathing is only necessary because of how disgusting they get playing in the dirt and lake water. We wear galoshes with pajamas and shoot (at) buzzards with BB guns and fish with nightcrawlers and do yoga on the balcony and play charades and cook and eat yummy meals because it’s not even worth it to drive off paradise to a restaurant. We watch the alligators patrol the cove while the herons and egrets stalk little fish in the shallows. There’s always something to do and nobody gets bored. Usually. And if they do, we throw on our tool belts and go “fix something.”
I write and rest and work a little. We thrive on the wifi because we are not savages. Movie nights are a blast. We love this beautiful cabin and all the memories we are making in it.
It’s a lot of work to get there, and a lot of work to leave. But we are ALWAYS better when we’re there, and always better when we get home.
Taking a break improves our wellness all around. Stress is a killer. Literally. Because I am semi-crunchy I have been determined over the past 2 years to bring my blood pressure down by focusing on slowing my roll and cutting stress, rather than defaulting to medication. It was a long process but it worked. (side note – sometimes we need the medicine and there is no shame in that.)
I am just not that important. When I dropped the idea that the world would stop spinning without me for an hour or two at a time, my stress dropped, so did my blood pressure, and it was so refreshing to realize that by stepping out of the way, other people had the opportunity to rise to occasion, fill roles and complete tasks, and use their gifts in way better ways than I could. I don’t have to have my thumb in every pie.
My people matter to me most. But do my children see that I am most interested in them, or do they believe my phone comes first? Of course they are not the center of my universe nor do I want their egos inflated so. But if they are constantly having to compete with technology for my attention and affection, I’m sending the wrong message. Since their parents live and work all in the same place, our children have learned to respect our businesses and our time on the phone with clients. To honor that, and simply because they’re children, they deserve our uninterrupted time and attention too.
… and better equipped to take on the tasks we’re needed for. I spoke with my sister today, who felt discouraged after coming back from a quick weekend visit with her friend. She felt it would have been easier not to go in the first place, because of the work/worry load waiting for her when she got back. It may feel that way… but everyone needs a step away to rest, refuel, get in touch with yourself, or great people, or nature. Everyone deserves a break.
Letting go of structure gives permission for everyone to just be as they need to be. Grace needs constant direction, literally, to keep her on task and focused. At the lake, she can be just as twirly as she loves to be, drawing fairies on everything and staying up way past bedtime. Jackson can throw mud because who cares? It washes off. Jack can shoot at things and stick worms on hooks, and I can be quiet for hours and just watch my people do what they love.
We left the world’s most giant pile of laundry on our bedroom floor, dishes in the sink, and a smelly thing in the fridge that I. Cannot. Find. If a stranger walked into our home they would probably have wondered what disaster we were fleeing from.
Isn’t that the point though, to leave it all behind when you can? It will all be there when we get back. Where you can, take a break… for a day away, for an hour on the yoga mat or pounding the pavement, or even a half hour to eat lunch outside collecting Vitamin D. If even 20 minutes seems a stretch, all we really need to get reconnected to our spirit is one present and focused breath. Find creative ways to change your path, interrupt your patterns, shake up the routine, and breathe fresh life into your spirit. You’ll be better all the way around for it.
We’re back now. I still can’t find the smelly thing in the fridge. I’m still stepping over Laundry Mountain. And really, none of that bothers me nearly as much as it did before.
Sneak outside, lock yourself in a closet, or hide in your car. Pull up your fav podcast or show on YouTube, and treat yourself to 5 minutes away from your crazy life. Comment below: what did you do, and how do you feel after you did it?
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Jessica is a writer, musician, entrepreneur, wife, and mom. Jessica's mission is to write "real" - shining light into the dark places of the tough stuff we all experience. She and her husband Jack live in Houston, Texas and have weathered the storms of grief, infant loss, adoption, and a marriage that almost fell apart. Jessica and Jack have 4 children, LJ in heaven, Grace, Jackson, and brand new baby Elisha.