I have never been good at letting go. Tense conversations, goodbyes, friendship changes, job transitions, moves….all keep me awake at night far longer than it seems they should.
So it wasn’t entirely surprising when my plane touched down in Seattle 2 weeks ago, and I couldn’t immediately let go of real life to enter vacation mode.
I’ve been in this quaint, picturesque Bavarian-themed village in the Cascade Mountains since the beginning of July, and I’m only just starting to decompress. Prior to leaving for this trip, there were a lot of stresses at home and I pictured this serene, oasis trip in which I just played and played with my children without worrying about my typical daily to-do lists. I had this vision of myself, unplugged and ultra-present.
Yet I have found myself reaching for my ipad as robotically as a chain smoker reaching for a cig. I can’t light up or inhale fast enough.
I keep searching for my serene self, but I’ve been struggling to find her.
We’re staying with my parents, so “Grandma Judy” is playing away with the kids, and my amazing dad has been doing our laundry, and I haven’t had to worry about groceries, cooking or cleaning. I’ve been feeling rather spoiled and undeserving, though a good friend made me change my language from “spoiled” to “well loved” in a text describing my trip.
The first morning we were here, the girls and I went down to my parent’s basement, which they had filled with all kinds of fun learning activities (my mom is a preschool teacher, so you’re not going to find just typical, uneducational barbies here!) I was excited to see a few of my childhood toys, such as a marble tower from Discovery Toys (ironically, my husband grew up with the same one!), along with a giant, stuffed doll that my aunt made me when I was 5, “Julie” (She’s all dirty and half-bald, but my sweet 7-year-old still exclaimed, “She’s beautiful!”)
After exploring the basement play options, the girls chose to have a tea party with a purple plastic set. They filled the cups with water and snuck grapes and carrots downstairs. I put on my mom’s wedding hat from the 70s, and we all drank tea in fancy hats. But after the initial grape was chomped and water swallowed, I felt all fidgety. I couldn’t let myself relax and play. I craved my phone and managed to sneak it with me to peak at text messages. I craved my e-mail messages. And I even craved tasks to complete. I found myself thinking of things to do in the kitchen or exciting appointments that need to be made, such as dental cleanings and allergy tests.
On my wedding anniversary, one week into the trip I hit my peak of nervous energy. I started to feel sad about being apart from my husband on our special day (we decided to head out 2 weeks before him) and felt sorry for myself half the day. Until my kids, sensing what I needed far better than I could articulate, came to me and said, “mommy, for your anniversary we want to give you a back massage.” How could I refuse?
So my 3-year-old held the lotion while my 7-yearold rubbed my back and shouted “QUIET! Mommy is trying to RELAX!” at her little sister. At one point, little sis decided to start rubbing my feet, and I felt this smooth object glide across my left foot, only to discover she had taken the cap off my lip balm and was rubbing it all over the bottom of my feet. Interesting technique. Not sure if I’ll be using it on my lips again, though.
All my anxious energy from earlier in the day melted away as I really felt how much I’m loved. Kids are good at teaching us that. And they’re way better at relaxing than adults.
In one of my electronic binges, I grabbed my kindle (justifying that it’s a book, not a distraction), and began reading “Manage Your Day-to-Day” (because, even on vacation, I must continue managing all the peaceful moments, right?) It was interesting, though, because it wasn’t what I expected to read. It talked about how our brains and bodies really need those “wasted” times of our day, such as waiting in line at the store or sitting at a red light, to think. Most of us professional multi–taskers whip out our phones during these mindless waiting times in order to answer e-mails, schedule appointments, or catch up on our blog reading. Yet we’re not leaving ourselves any space to process our massive intake of information when we are constantly connected to another world instead of being present in the world around us.
So that’s what I’m reaching toward during the second part of my trip: time to think and process.
My husband flies in tonight and will be here for 2 weeks, so I’m hoping that he’s a faster decompressor than I am. If not, he’ll be unplugging just about the time we fly home!
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