Do not give up your wilder spirit; the creative spirit thrives on freedom and daring. summarized from Marianne Williamson’s book, “ A Woman’s Worth.”
I listen to our 27 month old pretend to be on the phone. “Hello? Hello? I’m fine, okay, bye,” and he hangs up with gusto. I admit, I feel like I do this to my body and mind.
“ Hello? Body and Mind? Are you there? Ok, bye.” ….without asking, Are you okay? Do you need anything? I just realized I have a huge bruise on my leg from tripping on toys. “Sorry, body, it took a few days to notice…” Oh, and “Sorry, mind, I haven’t been listening to anything you’ve been saying lately about taking care of myself. I’m not thinking clearly.” (as the cereal box goes into the fridge, and I reach into my purse to find 2 Matchbox cars, a partially eaten cracker, and unidentifiable objects)…. now, what was I saying?
I ran away from home on Monday (with permission from my family). I was achy, whiney, and burnt out. My honey has a great sense of humour, and it’s always an internal barometer that something in me is frazzled when I’m not laughing and smiling so much because I am just. so darned tired and desperate for time to myself. Granted, I have a very active toddler, but it wasn’t just that. I felt like a stale cracker with no pizzazz. And I like pizzazz. I want to feel lively, invigorated, creative, energetic, and have mojo and joie de vivre, don’t you?
Being alone away from home is different than being alone in my living room, where I’m distracted by what needs cleaning, organizing, planning, picking up, putting away… Getting outside of my day-to-day environment makes room for serendipity in a place where I can seek solitude, do some soul-searching, and cultivate a happier spirit. When I feel whole, I’m definitely a better wife, Mama, friend, and person to be around.
Why don’t we take time for ourselves more often? Because it’s hard. Hard to plan, coordinate the meals, transport, childcare, job, projects, school preparation… and so difficult to step away without loads of guilt, but it is possible. As a wise friend shared, “if you go to bed at night frustrated that you didn’t have any time for yourself today, it’s your fault, because you didn’t factor yourself into the day’s equation. The laundry and dishes can wait. Your sanity cannot.” It’s hard to hear, but it’s true. And easier said than done, but good habits come from practice.
Author Joan Anderson says, “ A full life does require cultivation and most women’s lives [ and men] require some fallow time to restore our spirit, body, and mind.” Amen, sister. And how. How else can we fix ourselves when we feel depleted of energy, worn down, and dulled to our own life by not taking time for ourselves and our passions? To experience all of those great “R” words: radiance, renew, reflect, restore, replenish, repair, reclaim, reignite, and to guide us out of stagnation?
Fortunately, my spouse is an amazing, supportive man who “gets” me. He knows that occasionally, I become like a racehorse who wants out of the gate; to go explore, be alone with my thoughts, and discover somewhere new to reinvigorate my creativity, rest, think, and just be. He’s not threatened by my need to leave for a few days. He knows I will come back a happier woman and Mama. I smile when he says with warmth, “ Go. Go be Pocahontas and do your thing. I know you need a break.” (Pocahontas is what I call myself when I want to go exploring and treasure hunting in nature). We talked it over at lunch on Friday, and I immediately booked a few nights at a lodge and left on Monday. I knew if I didn’t just GO, I might not at all.
So, off I went. Five hours down the road and traversing one border crossing, in search of quietude at the beach. How did it go?
Relaxation did not come quickly or easily. It’s hard to suddenly be alone and still, after being on spin cycle. The first day of my time away, I was fidgety. I fiddled around my hotel room, nesting. Straightening lamps and magazines, then stopping myself, realizing I was not here to do any cleaning! I made tea and sat on the balcony for all of 10 minutes, feeling anxious and unsettled. I felt a little lost, honestly, without the pitter patter of tiny feet and clinking of toys, and activity in the room. I wondered how things were going at home. Would Ramsay eat well? Be sung to, read to, and tucked in? (Yes, but not like Mama would do it. I have to let that go…he needs time with Dad, and to know things can be done differently). And there was no wireless access, so no hiding behind the computer to distract me from this space that was way too quiet. Ugh. I felt frustrated that I came here to get away from it all, and then couldn’t stand the silence. Feeling restless, I left my room. I found a place to have a drink and watch the Tour de France in the company of strangers, realizing it would take longer to get into the slower-paced groove than I thought.
A beer followed by a twenty-minute stroll on a boardwalk close by helped. The trail was long and winding, with natural doorways formed by brambles. As I walked through each threshold, I tried to think of something I wanted to leave behind: guilt for being here and stress, for starters. I sauntered along slowly and watched birds, deer, and squirrels, and enjoyed the way light filtered through the trees.
The sun was setting, and I enjoyed the pink-tinged clouds forming over the estuary, the gentle sway of the reeds and grasses of the wetlands, and listened to the wind and creak of limbs (tree branches, not mine). I found a pine cone that felt a bit like me, sort of prickly and cracked. Ha!
Returned to my room and flipped on the TV (which I rarely do at home, unless I’m watching Thomas the Train with our toddler). Nothing on; turned it off. I made a dinner from snacks I’d brought: salt and vinegar Pringles, MnM’s, Spanish olives, and a glass of Shiraz. (Yes, I know, all unhealthy things! It was an indulgence not to worry about making something healthy).
Called home. Nothing was falling apart. So I flossed my teeth for a long time, lost in thought, took off my make up slowly, and soaked in the bath. And then, I started, a little bit, to unwind. I even started humming “my” music, instead of Bubble Guppies children’s songs.
Day 2: I woke up early with thoughts spilling out of my head about things that needed to be done for the family and for the house, lists and more lists. I resolved that today I would not worry about everyone else, and try to live in the present. A gratitude list always helps with this: the fuzzy scarf I’m wearing, hot coffee, the soft morning light, my honey’s thoughtful note in my suitcase, the sound of our little fella saying cute things on the phone, hearing the sea in the distance.
It’s amazing what happens when you start to hear your own thoughts and get some rest. I realized after breakfast that the book I started a few days ago and brought with me isn’t very good at all. I was just reading it out of habit before bed. I left it at the front desk and took a new one from the freebie bookshelf in the lounge.
Adventure called. With a take-away sandwich from a tea shop, I headed to a nearby national park and drove slower than the speed limit to enjoy the flora, fauna, wide, blue sky, and wildlife. I found a shady spot under a tree to picnic and read on the beach with a majestic view. The tide rhythmically ebbed and flowed.
I wrote a couple of postcards. Took a shell-seeking walk. I picked up a section of dry bamboo and twirled it like a baton. I found a pebble, mentally put any stress and negative energy into it, and threw it ceremoniously into the sea. Then I saw two coins in the sand, one with my high school graduation date. “You’ve graduated!” said the universe. And I sat, quietly, letting handfuls of glittering grains of sand sift through my fingers, and felt peace wash over me for the first time in a long while, connected to spirit and earth.
By the end of my sojourn, fueled by communing with nature and abundant solitude, I was ready to return home, more centered and mindful, more whole, feeling more human, and with a softer, lighter spirit. I am grateful for this restorative time.
Bon Courage, my friends, and here’s to seeking enchantment, however and whenever you can, wherever you are. I leave you with a favorite poem by Robert Frost.
The Road Not Taken
TWO roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Peace to you,