This weekend we packed up the van with our four girls, the dog, and headed on a trip to the mountains. I made the decision to take off about a week ago. We were staring down the barrel of a busy week and I knew by the end of it, we’d all be fried. So, I made a preemptive bet: let’s get through this week, and our reward would be an extended trip away to decompress. Before I left, as I tend to do for trips, I spent some time setting my expectations for how I wanted to show up, and simply be. I planned my presence as Emily Freeman would say. My intentions for this trip were to to fully unplug and practice some of the rhythms of rest that I know matter.
What a weekend of observations it turned out to be. My first morning, while the sun was rising and the cabin was “relatively” quiet (for some reason the four and seven year old still wake up at the crack of dawn) I wrote in my journal…
Now that I’ve created this opportunity, with this space on vacation to listen to my body and soul, what are they both telling me? What do I notice about the life that is unfolding around me, when I create the space to slow down and pay attention?
I began to notice that with more freedom from expectations, tasks, and responsibilities of managing my daily life, that I could see things with a fresher perspective. Like this persistent cough that I finally had time to nurse. Or the tight hamstring I noticed while doing yoga and stretching in the sunlight of the deck.
Later that day we ventured out to a local orchard where we settled in for a funnel cake treat at some picnic tables. After nearly being dragged down a hill (true story) by our puppy Coco, I sat in amusement watching my wife and daughters race each other in the grass. How often do we get to do this? How often do I stop to appreciate how fast these little people are growing?
When it was my turn to race I barely (just barely) beat Riley, my oldest who will be a full blown teenager in a matter of weeks. She didn’t seem that scary to me today, not like all the warnings I hear from parents about how terrible teenagers are. No, today she was just my daughter, one who came surprisingly close to beating me in a foot race.
Later that evening while the girls played in the hot tub in the deck, Samantha and I sat reading by the fire as the sun began to set. Precious moments. We weren’t in a rush to be anywhere or do anything. No schedule. Just being there, in the moment. What a gift.
I hear too many of my friends use the phrase, busy to describe their lives. And the truth is, they are busy. I would argue too busy, but isn’t that the life folks have chosen? We’re choosing differently. Over the past few years as a family we’ve begun to embrace the rituals of sabbath that allow us to unplug regularly in order to reconnect with one another and recharge. We’ve also unsubscribed from all the extracurriculars that had us running from one kids appointment to the next. (It turns out, the kids are slight and they haven’t missed any of those activities). Busy is a flex that people use to describe managing unsustainable lives. I don’t want to be busy, I want to be present.
The next day we went to the Swinging Bridge on the Toccoa River and hiked around in the forest before crossing the southeast’s longest walking suspension bridge. Everyone liked it except Coco and Samantha. Unlike last time, no one fell in the water (though we did all have to find outdoor places to relieve ourselves so that was an adventure!).
Here’s what I know: when I create space like this I’m not only better for me, I’m also better for them. I wrote in my journal to end the trip…
I’m a different person when I’m intentionally unplugging in order to reconnect and recharge. And everyone around me knows it, including me. I move slower. I’m kinder. Gentler. More observant. Closer to the person I always want to be.
Each night we did the thing I love most doing on the start to our weekly sabbaths: we curled up under blankets and gathered around the tv to watch a family movie. It’s getting more and more complicated to choose a movie we all like, but we’re still making it work each Friday night. Who knows how long this tradition will hold up, but my hope is that we keep coming back to it. Slowing rituals like siting around the table or riding bikes or dance parties in the living room, continue to keep us grounded and connected to each other. The pace of everyday life may come with its pressures to keep up, but weekends like this one help me to appreciate the what the pace of life in the slow lane has to offer as well. It’s a purposeful disruption from the status quo, and I’m all here for it.