As I type this, it’s so early that the sky is painted darker than liquid swirling at the bottom of an inkwell.
The birds aren’t awake.
Neither are my children.
Nor is my husband.
But I am.
I’m stealing a few moments in the pre-dawn stillness to type out a few things before I hit the road and then hit the coffee and then hit the friendly skies for a long-needed weekend away. On my own, I might add. Important detail, that.
My things are packed in a brand-new discount deal carry-on rolling bag because my old rolling bag is over 20 years old and has at least one bum wheel and I finally gave myself permission to replace it.
Last night after the kids went to bed, I (mostly) finished up one writing assignment and then I went and did something quite rash – I activated the auto-responder for my three email accounts.
“I’m away from my inbox,” the notice reads. “I’ll respond as soon as possible upon my return. God bless you!”
Activate? Yes. Save? Yes.
Some may be surprised to receive such a message from me; I’m still sort of surprised that I did it. I haven’t employed the “vacation mode” feature on an email inbox since I left the working-away-from-home world before our youngest was born in 2013. It’s been with a somewhat twisted sense of pride that anyone who needs to may get ahold of me via any manner of multiple platforms most all of the time, much to my immediate family’s dismay.
I have a difficult time turning off and tuning out. Call it “monkey mind,” call it FOMO (fear of missing out) – whatever you call it, unplugging doesn’t come naturally for some reason, and I’ve paid a price for it.
So, last night, after activating my vacation auto-responder, I turned the laptop off, took an uninterrupted shower, and went to bed at a relatively decent time anticipating my severely early wake-up call.
Sacrificing sleep this morning to be at the airport by 6 a.m. was totally worth it, though, because I’m headed across the country to spend time learning, laughing, and lounging with friends both old and new.
Did I mention I’m traveling by myself?
Before y’all decide you want to shoot me and my plane-hopping self straight dead, I’ve missed out on plenty other opportunities like this over the years. Were I in a season where I was hugely pregnant, or had a newborn, a contagious illness, an inconsolable child, an unemployed husband, an ailing parent, or the like, I would likely not be making this trip. But I’m not hugely pregnant. I do not have a newborn. I’m not contagious. My kids seem to be okay. My husband is gainfully employed. My parents, God bless ’em, are likely galavanting across the countryside somewhere on a trip of their own.
And so I’m leaving. And because I’m in the season I’m in, I don’t really feel that guilty about going. Thanks be to God.
Recently, my Spiritual Director asked me what recharges my batteries. I didn’t have a quick response at the time. After several moments considering, I finally answered, “I need time with people who not only like me, but love me, and enjoy conversations about deep things and silly things and real things and want to hang out and eat good food and have a glass of something and solve problems and encourage and commiserate and collaborate and validate and cry and pray and laugh until our sides ache.”
And you know what amazed me? He said that I should go and do just that very thing at least a few times a month or, preferably, once a week. And even more stupefying – he really meant that I should.
Sure, Father – no problem, I snarkily responded inside my head. Once a week. Or a few times a month. Are you gonna watch my kids? And do the laundry? And take people to choir / volleyball / whatever practice? I wanted to ask. I think the astronauts in the space station orbiting Earth could see my eyes interiorly rolling at the prospect of regularly scheduled, fun (gasp!) time away from my responsibilities.
My laundry list of how and why Father’s scheme couldn’t possibly work in a million years began scrolling through my brain:
My husband. Five demanding young children. School stuff. Extracurricular activities. Volunteerism. Ministry considerations and tasks. Blah, blah, blah ad nauseum.
And yet, nowhere on that long list of why I should or shouldn’t do what he recommended was my name or my actual needs or my wants.
I say, “typical,” because I have long been afflicted with what my friend Rebecca calls ‘self martyrdom.’ I, like many women I know, think that by putting everyone and everything else before myself, I will be holier, healthier, and happier.
Well, perhaps this model of constant sacrifice and dying to self works magnificently for some women, but in my particular case, the exact opposite is true. Neglecting my physical, emotional, spiritual, and psychological needs has NOT made me holier or healthier or happier. It has caused much heartache and many problems, the bulk of which I won’t go into now.
And so, with slight trepidation (because change weirds me out), enthusiastic encouragement from my spiritual director, and support from my husband, I’m slowly learning to consistently put myself on my extraordinarily long list of things and people to take care of. Simple, right? Simple conceptually, sure, but, for me, not necessarily easy.
Because … that list, don’t you see? The list. And the guilt.
When I first heard that the Blessed is She writing and creative team would be gathering for its first-ever retreat this Fall, my heart leapt at the opportunity to be with my co-workers in this amazing apostolate and then sunk at the specific obstacles that most assuredly would prevent me from joining in. Money. Time. Responsibilities. Money. Stuff.
And yet, not long after expressing my desire to attend the retreat to my hardworking husband, more details emerged that made getting there seem possible. And then my husband found a killer deal on airfare. And, blessed man, he bought my ticket. And, just like that, I was going.
Check out #bisteamretreat on social media this weekend to follow along!
And so, as fiercely as I love my husband and my children, I am most definitely running away for a few days. I can’t promise I won’t look back while I’m away, because that’s not in my nature. But I can promise that I am for sure leaving behind the guilt that often prevents me from fully enjoying myself. Hallelujah!
Oh – and I am going to work on finding a way to make a casual local gathering happen on a regular basis, because, holy heck, Batman – who can afford to fly across the country every time they need a break?? Certainly not I!
One last thing – even though I’m technically returning to the chaotic throes of family life on Sunday evening, my auto-responder says I’m away from my inbox until Tuesday, and I’m holding to that, since Monday I’ll be very busy yet again waking and feeding and clothing and chauffeuring and ushering off the school-aged kids, and later I have a very important appointment to bake brownies and snuggle on the couch for a good, long while with my preschooler, because that time with my baby boy sorta recharges my batteries in its own way, too.
Have a good weekend, y’all.