Why is it that a vacation is never enough? I can’t think of a time in recent history, or even in the last twenty years, when I could honestly say at the end of my trip, “I’m ready to go back to my responsibilities!”
If I take a vacation with my family and we go camping, life is much simpler, and generally, I don’t think about projects back home or work or research or anything. I think about hiking, the scenery, what we’re eating next, and getting everyone tucked in for bed. It’s pretty simple.
If I take a road trip to see a friend, I think about all kinds of things while the road unwinds and my mind does the same. I enjoy laughs and getting caught up with the friend.
If I am on a getaway for a night or two with my husband, I don’t think about the kids much. I don’t worry about them. I enjoy the buffet breakfast, I enjoy not having to cook for anyone, and I just sit and read a book when I want to. I stare out the window. My man and I talk about all kinds of subjects we don’t usually talk about.
So I think I’m taking advantage of these opportunities I do have, for the most part. An exception might be fall break, which we are partaking of right now. Only, since I’m home, the kids are home–it seems to be difficult to just do whatever I want to do, because most of my regular responsibilities are still right here looking at me.
But it doesn’t seem to matter what I am doing that is a break from the usual routine, it never seems to be long enough. I always want more.
So do I have an insatiable appetite for rest and relaxation?
Or have I just not gotten a long enough vacation yet?
I used to pray “Dear God, please help me to be patient with my children today even though I’m really tired and feeling depressed” or
“Dear God, help me to get to the end of this to-do list I’ve got to get through”
or “Dear God, help me not to be afraid of this event coming up” or
“Dear God, please help me to reach out to the people around me who need your help.”
I don’t pray that way any more–or, at least, when I find myself doing it again, I stop and do a quick eval to determine if that is really the most effective way of praying about a problem. Sometimes it is, because don’t get me wrong, obviously what I need, and a lot of the time, is help with a capital H.
However, the problem with asking God to help me was the burden was still on my shoulders even when I was done praying.
If God was helping me, I still had to do the work, it still felt impossible sometimes, I was still in charge of the plan, I was still stewing about the subject.
I finally realized I needed to go far, far beyond asking God to help me.
I don’t need help. I don’t even need Help, really. I need Transformation. (Or would that be TRANSFORMATION!!?–as Manny the mantis chants in one of my favorite movies, A Bug’s Life.)
So now I ask, “God, please drive this fear out” or “God, give me your strength.”
Or most powerful of all, “God, give me your heart for my children.” Or for the person I’m thinking of, or the people who are frustrating me.
I have found in the short time since I started praying this way that much to my surprise, prayers like this get answered. I guess it takes the burden off of me and puts it on the one with the power to really get it done? I guess, maybe, I can’t pull lovey feelings out of a hat? I don’t know. I don’t have it, but that is OK, because God is the one with the heart vastly bigger than the universe and all unknown universes. And when I ask to be made like him, he answers.
Maybe I’m a grumpy old lady, but when I am enthusiastic about something I hope people can just tell.
It might be they can because I never stop talking about it. Ask my husband and my friends what I really get excited about. There have been different fascinating subjects I’ve fallen in love with over the years. The Donner Party. Getting pregnant. Homebirth. VBAC. Healthy diets. Food.
Maybe you can tell what I love by what you often see me doing. Reading, cooking, being outside, keeping up with friends. I moderate an online support group. I invite people to dinner. Working with my husband, I plan next year’s camping trip, and there is nothing better than traveling west with him and the kids.
It’s been a while since I’ve been asked what my interests are when introduced to someone new, so I am not sure how I would bring those things up in a conversation with a new friend.
But passionate is one word I would not use.
I’m honestly afraid that I could never live up to that level of pure emotion. Shoot, when I was a kid passionate was reserved for how people felt when they were getting amorous.
I’ll try to stick to doing, rather than stating.
It’s not that I have no friends. Sure, I don’t have as many as I would like to, I guess because in my mind, I’m still living in junior high, where I had friendships with most everyone in my class of a hundred. Apparently, that’s my model of what day-to-day life with friends should be.
Obviously, that is a bit out of date now that I’m pushing 50.
But I do have friends.
I have quite a few friends that I keep up with through social media, and a few less that I see every three to six months for dinner or dessert, to get caught up. I have fewer friends that come to my house and sit and chat on the porch. I have a couple of friends I get together with for longer visits, with my children and theirs.
Those are the relationships, the whole family friendships, that I really treasure. They are jewels.
I know some of the reasons time spent with these friends doesn’t happen as much as I or they would like.
We have reasons like these: Homeschooling
Chronic health problems and low energy
Five kids and counting
You know what I mean?
I used to have time to spend a full day with a friend.
When our oldests were little, my closest friend and I would spend the day together about every month. We lived an hour apart, even then, but we enjoyed our time together enough that we’d book those days on our calendars and look forward to them, almost better than chocolate. My son and I would get up, eat breakfast, dress, load our bag for the trip over and head out. We’d come back barely in time to put dinner together before Dad got home.
The time would fly by. We talked, took the kids for walks, took them outside to play, threw lunch together, dealt with needs, tried putting the kids down for naps, laughed, schemed, punned, and just generally had a good time. (Wendy, please forgive me for being unwilling to get together on Mondays in those days. :-) I hope you know you really are more important to me than catching up on my laundry.)
I know I thought my life was full and busy then, but I hadn’t seen anything yet.
Now that I have more kids, I love the friends as much as ever, but apparently, I don’t have as many minutes in a day.
Every now and then when I meet a new mother who has had a cesarean, or in early September which is the same time of year at which these events occurred, I remember. I remember the feeling of shock that fall was already on its way–when I thought I was having a summer baby. I had a due date of August 9th. But he didn’t come until the 24th. Then I didn’t get home from the hospital til the 27th. Then before I knew it Labor Day was at hand.
The yellowing and wilting landscape personified my inner state.
Everything in my world felt like it was spiraling to an end.
I was sleeping again, which was an improvement and an escape.
Eating had started getting a bit better.
So I was functioning on some very basic level, but while the body was healing, the mind definitely wasn’t.
I wasn’t able to define it until several years later, but I was dealing with post traumatic stress disorder brought on by an unexpected cesarean at the end of a 30 hour labor with my son.
I had planned the birth of my first baby very carefully and thought I had the best care providers I could find. All was well until I went past the time limits they were comfortable with. Then my nurse midwives began to tell me I was too tired to go on, and their support for my natural birth went out the window.
I ended up in the ER an hour later, with a general anesthesia, for what they called an emergency cesarean.
That is not a good start for any major life transition, and it completely rocked my world.
I won’t define post traumatic stress in this post, but there is plenty of good information about what it is and what causes it on the net. Suffice it to say, between new motherhood, the changes in hormones, a traumatic birth, the physical recovery from that birth, and wanting to generate positive feelings for my new son, and not having them–I was a big mess.
I really thought the world had come to an end.
It’s been twenty years now, and I’m happy to say that I was wrong.
It had not.
The reasons it did not come to an end were several: my husband, my parents, and some friends. They were worth more than their weight in gold. They were much more helpful than the counselor I saw for a month or two. They were more important even than the medication I was given that let me finally sleep after a week with no sleep, and of course, that’s saying a lot.
These people were the reason because they kept on loving me and telling me the truth–that I would get better and that reality as I saw it was not reality. Some of these friends took time every single week for months to call me. They asked how I was doing, listened to and helped carry my despair, but kept encouraging me.
My husband put up with all my junk and kept on taking care of me, and of our baby, encouraging me to do normal things like go for walks, make dinner, go to church, with the assumption that one day, things would snap back to the reality I was actually living in, which was that everything was OK, even if I didn’t currently think it was.
I have a life now, 20 more years of it, that I wouldn’t have lived if I had had my way and put an end to it.
Thank God for his indescribable gift. It really is a wonderful life.
Yes, that moment happened to me this summer. We were on a road trip to a wedding, and stopping briefly at a truck stop to use the restroom, I was coming out of the stall to wash my hands. I looked up into the mirror, under the flattering light of fluorescent bulbs, and it happened.
“That’s really what I look like?”
Oh man. Not a good feeling. Old, wrinkled, and somewhat bloated.
Well. There’s good in every moment, right?
So… if I’ve joined the rest of the human race in the dilemma of weight that appears in unwanted places, and does not leave just because we want it to–that’s not such a bad thing.
Could motivate me to consider a new hair style or maybe different color of clothes. Definitely aware that I need to work on taking care of myself.
Practice seeing things from someone else’s perspective.
Hmm….If I was too good-looking, it would scare people off.
Reality check: God uses it all.
You’ve seen the videos of children with floss or string tied around their loose teeth, squinting and grimacing at the camera and lisping out some variant of “Daddy, is this really gonna work?” There are other ways to remove a loose tooth, however, which you probably have not seen.
I have a method to recommend that is pretty much foolproof.
Take the children with you to the grocery store.
Preferably do this at the end of a long day when everyone is already tired and hungry.
Put the two and a half-year old in the cart. Obviously the seven-year old can’t go in the cart; he’ll have to walk.
Take the kids up and down every aisle to be sure you haven’t missed anything.
Look for them to start poking each other every time you stop at the cereal, baking supplies, produce, meats, etcetera. They’ll be bored enough they’ll have to find something to do, since you are traversing every aisle.
By the time you get to the check out lane and all lanes are of course quite full, you’ll have to wait a few more minutes, so that will get them really warmed up.
When you have made it to the conveyor belt and unloaded everything, and the clerk is ringing up your order, just watch.
Your seven-year old will be dancing around in front of the cart, and trying to poke the two-year old in her adorable belly. She will have had enough of his nonsense at this point, and drawing back her small, firm, powerful fist–she will punch him right in the mouth.
His tooth will pop out and go skittering across the floor, to the great amusement of you and the clerk.
You can’t go wrong.