Every year for the past five years we have gone on a family vacation that is about as far from real life as we can realistically get. Which is completely the point. Because about once a year I sense that if I don’t get away from the repetitive, the stressful, and the weariness of everyday life, I just might explode. Or implode, which sounds a lot more like my personality type. These vacations have never been easy; they’ve always been very intentional and full of doubts. Can my husband get the time off work? Will we be able to afford it? Is the destination unrealistic? Will it be too hot? Will it be too cold? Will it be too much on me physically? Is this even the right season to visit? Will the car be mechanically ready and reliable? Will airline tickets still be affordable since we’ve drug our feet with all these doubts? And so on and so on. This past year we endeavored to go further than we ever have and spent two weeks camping across the Pacific Northwest. This included five of our country’s states, as well as south-western Alberta and British Columbia, Canada: five people, one truck and camper, two weeks, forty five hundred miles. We did it.
And it was F A N T A S T I C.
It’s a little depressing to come home from a trip like this and wonder, “Did it change me in the way I hoped it would?” Even though I’m not quite sure what that looks like. But something about getting away always causes a much needed change in perspective that results in a temporary re-wiring of my brain. Hundreds of ideas and thoughts flood my mind and essentially they all speak one thing: how can this temporary change of perspective result in a permanent change to my life. How is it that camping meals are so easy and campfires so therapeutic? And how is it possible that we lived with so little of our belongings for two weeks? And why was there so much less laundry and so much more pitching in, and such simplicity in the daily care and presentation of ourselves, and so much more time for each other than there usually is? I’m fairly sure I ask myself these same questions every time we “get away”. And after every trip we’ve ever taken I conclude the answer is simple. We complicate our own lives on a regular basis trying to reach the unreachable, please everyone, or produce perfection in even the tiniest of ways — usually a model of perfection which is perpetuated by the delusional perception I think I’m getting from others, further burdening myself. Of course, this standard changes radically depending on my mood and this “perfection” isn’t anything short of my insecurities holding me hostage to continually doubt that I’m measuring up. No matter our lot, we can always be a better parent, or employee, or daughter/son, or housekeeper, or more creative, or more efficient, or more liked. The daily world most of us live in can suffocate the simple joy that is well within reach, but our ridiculous barometers make it impossible to attain. And that is seen most clearly on social media. Ugh – I can’t even go there.
All these things just don’t exist on a road trip or when you’re camping. On these types of vacations, the “perfect” family picture I want to create will likely consist of the most acceptable unshowered version of me in yesterday’s clothes that I can come up with, and no one needs to know. Heck, I don’t care if they do know! I’m roughing it and loving it! There isn’t enough space or time or will to hold every ingredient needed to produce the Pinterest-perfect-healthy-family-meal which will obviously add ten years of wellness to our lives. And working really hard so someday we can retire and rest doesn’t really matter. Today we work hard to make sure we have a campsite and a fire before it’s dark. Hey maybe we’ll even have water hookups! It’s amazing to consider how much we can live without, and it’s disappointing to know how much we have that we really don’t need. It’s a lie that keeps us running in circles and wondering who we are as though someday we will finally grasp what we’ve been waiting for. Yet, our arms are so full holding everything we’ve collected along the way we don’t even have the room to carry it. We must let go of a few things in order to grab a hold of something more important. Only when I get away can I see that.
Craving something different isn’t unique to me, I believe it’s something everyone this side of Heaven battles now and again (or for some of us, regularly). But there was something specific that was blessedly missing from our trip that I feel compelled to share. Its regular presence is so ordinary in my each-and-every-single-day, I didn’t fully appreciate it was missing until we returned, and then it also immediately returned: Pressure.
I’m kinda sick of the “American dream” way of thinking and this daily life that frankly sucks the “life” out of the “daily”. I’m tired of the simple things in life suddenly becoming commodities because I’m just plain spent. You know – eating, sleeping, hobbies, fun. And I’m kinda frustrated with most people I know acting like they don’t notice that we’re wearing ourselves so thin, yet we’re anything but transparent — because I’ll bet the pressure is there for you too. Pressure to please everyone. Perform at any cost. Sacrifice that which is most important to you in order to satisfy that which really isn’t very important at all. Don’t question it, just live like everybody else climbing to reach something that isn’t there. I know because I found it. It’s been in every mile that we’ve traveled away from the chaos. I’ve seen it under the stars in a dark sky that can’t be seen from where I spend most of my time. I’ve felt it in mountains more grand than my eyes and brain can fully process. And I’ve heard it in raindrops falling on a camper while those most precious to me slept. I’ve experienced it in the moments with my family when there is nothing to distract us other than the complete realization that this is close to all that matters. Yet my world is so noisy, so full of everything else trying to steal my attention, I’ve overlooked it time and time again. But I’ve discovered that for me, it is a lot easier to find these answers when we get honest with ourselves. And it’s a lot easier to get honest with ourselves and slow down when limitations are a constant reminder of what’s most valuable to us.
So after this trip, I’m remembering to be thankful this disease has slowed me down. I simply can’t keep up, and thanks to this disease, I have no desire to. Thanks to this disease, I’ve been left with no choice but to find what I didn’t know I was looking for and share it, so maybe even for one person in my world, it doesn’t take a disease to find it.