After over a year of what I might term “relentless stress,” we took a family vacation. As a mom, I wouldn’t say I look forward to a family vacation most of the time because they usually entail doing all the stuff you have to do at home but without the conveniences of home–taking care of kids’ needs and meals and laundry and entertaining the kids, etc., but while living out of a suitcase. We haven’t really done much in the way of family vacations ever (other than visiting relatives. Does that count? Kinda not.) About seven years ago we took our kids to California, but while we were at Disneyland, some of the kids cried a little saying they wished they were at Grandma’s house with the baby kittens instead. So, yeah. Why bother with Space Mountain, right? (Even though I adore the Magic Kingdom.)
But this year our oldest graduates, and then he will leave for two years to be a missionary, and then he’ll start college, at which point the next one will leave for two years, and, so on and so forth, and some of them will (we hope!) get married, and then…well, our family dynamic and configuration might never be the same again. We needed to do something to create a family memory. We needed a vacation.
So we threw caution to the wind, figured out a frequent-flyer-miles scheme, took up a friend’s offer for a beach house, and went to Hawaii. HAWAII, people. Hawaii. I never in a million years thought we could take five children to Hawaii. But with God’s grace, we were able to make it happen: a visit to paradise on earth.
Normally, I’d be a stress case about this: what to do, where to go, when to go there, how to entertain five kids on an island…but after minimal looks at Volcanoes National Park, a general map of the area in my head, and certainly zero time to plan (due to aforementioned “relentless stress), we just got on the plane.
GLORIOUS. That’s the only word I can think of right now to describe the trip.
And for the first time in over a year, I didn’t have any stress. I just absolutely decompressed. Now that we have three teens and two tweens, no one needed much in the way of mom attention. All I did was cook meals, which is…whatever. No problem. We walked to the beach, watched the dolphins jumping in the bay, listened to the waves day and night, drove to the volcano and saw the glow of the caldera, drove up another volcano to 13,000 feet and watched the sun set through the blanket of clouds, sat on another beach, went to church, went to a historical site, ate macadamia nuts, and did nothing.
I’m telling you, it was incredible. And while I was there, I realized that a lot of the things I’d been overstressing about were, frankly, unnecessary. I had been doing everything I possibly could. For everyone. For everything. But that isn’t always the right thing. Sometimes I just need to do what’s necessary, and not everything that’s possible. Does that make sense?
Coming home, I was immediately bombarded with the usual stuff, but instead of letting it take over again, I just pulled back. I had a friend remind me that I need to evaluate “where am I irreplaceable” and then do *those* things. Not EVERYTHING. And it’s okay. Other people can take those responsibilities for now, or the duties can wait.
Since I’ve been back, I’ve done things at my house that were waiting for a long time. Filing that hadn’t been done since 2014. Mopping my floor for the first time since Christmas. Writing letters to my family members far away. Cooking normal meals for my family and standing in the kitchen to listen to my kids. Helping my husband with a major project he’s involved in where he needs my support. I even took one nap.
What I haven’t done? Write a single word in a manuscript. Promote my novels other than a tweet or two. Spend any time on social media or even answer emails (sorry, email friends!). Start up a single fundraiser for a good cause (unlike several I spearheaded earlier this year.) Stuff like that. Stuff that felt like if I didn’t do it I’d be a terrible person. Yes, I still have people to visit, friends to try to lift and support, but I’ve had to do most of that remotely instead of traveling to them for now.
A couple of months ago, my husband said the most romantic thing he’s maybe ever said to me: “Jen, your mental health is important to me.” Ha, ha, ha. But it was so touching. And true!
So, for a bit, I’m concentrating on the now, on the moment, on the family, on the sanity.
I’ll let myself go insanely obsessed over writing again, most likely. But it’s good to have seasons for things in our lives. Sometimes it takes a trip to an island to get our minds redirected to what’s really important, and I’m incredibly grateful for the blessing going on that trip gave me. I hope everyone who is as snowed under and stressed out as I am/was can find their island to get their bearings. Because all we have are moments. All we have is now. It won’t, actually, ever be the same again.