I’m not sure if it was the little bit of stress planning the trip (as most last-minute plans go) or my random decision to read Madeleine L’Engle’s book, Walking on Water on the first leg of our drive down the road that solidified my soul’s desire. I must say, it feels like it started way before any of that though, really. Like it’s been floating around out there, dropping me clues bit by bit the past year or so. There’s so much pressure I put on myself to try to be like somebody else and to appear like my family and I have it all together.
As our plans to hit the beach began to look like it was actually going to happen, I internally passed go and resolved to make happiness and contentment my goal this trip. I was not going to try to fire up an engine to produce some perfect vacation experience by what I was used to with my family or what I’d seen others do on blogs or Facebook etc. I was determined not to busy my butt trying to bring to life a certain illusion of what should happen or what everybody else does. My memory served quite well in reminding me that running around trying to make my husband please me as I try to chase a certain notion is not true happiness – for me or my husband. I’ve done that too often and it doesn’t quite work out like expected.
I wanted our trip to be f.u.n. and not stressful.
For a while now I’ve been reading Emily P. Freeman’s blog and she really drives home the point of smallness; our human smallness and that our souls really were not created for big. Just today on a podcast I heard the guest quote something she said. She said Emily hated the quote the sky’s the limit because that would mean you are an airplane and I am not an airplane.
Yes, we are not airplanes. We can not fly. We can only walk; maybe run if we must. I can’t do everything. I can only do little with what I have. Once I recognize my smallness then I can pour as much energy and life into it as I desire or is reasonable.
So in prepping for this beach trip I was awakening to the reality that I am not an airplane.
So I was thinking about that factor and another one I’m learning to grapple with whenever we go away on trips with a child. Do you know what I’m alluding to?
The actual r e l a x i n g factor.
I basically wasn’t planning on taking any books or journals along because I doubted I’d have time for them. Even after Gavin would be sleeping at night I figured I want to sleep then too. I struggle with this because growing up the beach was always fun and relaxing. This was me, lounging on the sand with my bright colorful towel, walk-man jamming to Point of Grace (hello 90’s), Brio magazine in hand and coconut sun-tanning oil close by next to the chips and water bottle. I lived that story for many, many years afterwards – until I met my Gavin. Now I’m a parent. And if you are a parent you know what I’m talking about.
Life on the beach or any vacation and even holidays for that matter, are not all fun and relaxing. As the parent you are responsible to make stuff happen. Make the food. Feed them. Keep peace (and I only have one child, mind you). Get in naps. Go potty. Clean up. Always feeling the tinge of responsibility.
Afterwards when I unpacked my things, I suffered this sad feeling when I picked up my journal to put it away knowing it was not even cracked open once. I made eye contact with my book stash and my heart shed a tear that not even one page turned in the sun. It’s the whole package experience that made my heart get teary.
Oh, sure, I can read at home on the couch or outside on the patio with the birds and squirrels, and trees and grass but it’s not the same. Being on the beach, in total carelessness, feeling the salty breeze, hearing others near by and fighting the bright sun as you squint to read bright white pages – is a whole entire higher level of joy no back yard could ever serve.
After the first huge bite of my Mexican burger with avocado, I knew we made the right choice. The restaurant was a grand-slam smash out of the ball park. We had rearranged our schedule again that day at the beach and decided to eat our early supper on the island and then hit some mini golf and what-not afterwards. My 24 wk pregnant body was ready to park it in a chair and fuel up after granola bars and grapes on the beach.
I asked to eat out on the patio like we did last summer with friends. There you can watch the traffic and waves and people and how can I forget, the black birds that enticed an eager toddler to make their acquaintance. Neither toddler enthusiasm or those creepy owls sitting around all over the place were not at all scaring the fearless, chip stealing, flock.
Feeling the shade from out tiki umbrella and the fresh smell of salt water, a sea breeze washed over me and I discovered, in the middle of our vacation, my little heart was filled with gratitude.
I was happy.
Completely and flat-out happy.
My family was all together, not to unusual, but we were away from Jason’s work and away from our naughty chew-happy dog. We were away from my dreaded dusting and my stubborn tomatoes that won’t die. We were sailing along and my heart wasn’t wrung from unmet expectations.
We were just being.
And I was happy.
I didn’t care that we looked beach frumpy with sand pelted to our legs and bellies, that we smelled like sweat and sun block and our hair looked far from gorgeous; mine smashed under a hat. We were not living the IG dream or doing anything remarkable. Just a party of three on the patio stuffing their faces with burritos, beans and a big fat burger. It was bliss.
Afterwards it bothered me that I couldn’t get any fabulous shots of such a fabulous memory. Thinking back now, it wasn’t the moment that was awesome, it was my realization that was awesome. I was beginning to see how content I truly was with my mediocre, plain vanilla, bordering quiet life.
(This picture is as good as it gets)
See, after uprooting and moving to Texas from a large family that was loud and full of energy and living in a house with my parents and teens, preteens and young adults who had their own cars and jobs and lives, I was quite accustomed to business and rolling with the rip-tide. Moving out and far away to people I barely knew, my life hushed suddenly and felt, well, rather boring and lifeless. It was quite a switch.
I find I’m still trying to be OK with a quiet and calm life and tell myself it’s not wrong. It is just. different. It takes some getting used.
Almost 6 years later I find I’m still trying to figure out how to it looks and feels inside me to be calm. So much of my life with 6 brothers was far from calm. I have to be careful I’m not trying to create chaos just to add a missing component from my old life.
So when I flipped open my Madeleine L’Engle book and read what I would only read on the entire duration of the trip God was speaking to me and knew this time my soul, not my brain, was ready to hear it.
“When I am constantly running there is no time for being. When there is no time for being there is no time for listening…”
God used those words to hush my spirit and prepare me as he led us down the road, away from home, towards our calm beach get-a-way. He hushed the pressure of producing a Pinterest, Facebook, Instagram and bloggers dream-post vacation. He ushered me into a new adventure of desiring simple being; simply being with family.
My best advise for happiness and contentment on a family vacation is to lean into what your family is saying and feeling. Listen to what they are not saying with words and honor them. Vacations are not just about you and your hopes but theirs as well.
And, lean into the little moments, your smallness and be grateful every tiny step of the imperfect way. Let not what you do be the most important but simply being present.
As Emily says, our souls weren’t created for fame. We aren’t expected to do big Pinteresty things, 51 awesome pictures for FB or IG or even big famous blog posts. That doesn’t bring lasting joy or contentment. Once we truly accept our lives for what they are (mine is small and quiet – yours may be crazy-wild and loud) and listen to what they are trying to tell us, then we can stop trying to shove them into a box they were never meant to fit.