Do you ever feel like all you do is prepare and prepare for a vacation, and when you arrive you don’t actually vacation? If this sounds like you, it might be time to hurry up and slow down. Here’s why.
by Jordan Paul | Jordan Paul, passionately passionate about all the passions…and bread, comes at you with spunk and honesty as she’s trying to balance life as a tandem-breastfeeding mom of two girls, small business owner, and non-cleaning housewife. You can find her roaming the aisles of Aldi, mindlessly humming The Alphabet. Follow her on Facebook.
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A month ago, I abruptly booked a cabin in the mountains in Blue Ridge, Georgia. Chris had bags under his eyes from work stress and the last trip we took was seven years ago, for our honeymoon.
It was time. Our trusted neighbors had vacationed in the exact same cabin and when they got back in one piece, I decided that it was safe and good enough for us, too. But from the moment I pushed “confirm” on the Airbnb website, I had started living in a frenzied, crazed state of mind as I worked hard to prepare us for our ten-hour car ride, a week in cold weather, and a full seven days of togetherness off the grid.
Every mother knows that when a trip is planned, she’s not only packing for herself, but she is packing for an “every-case scenario” for the children, too. I was no different. I was planning for the starting outfit, a blowout outfit, the tantrum outfit, an outfit for lounging, getting dirty, and the car rides. And then I started with the kids 😉 KIDDING!
I made lists and lists of all of the things I had to do… mess-free car activities, movies to download, snacks to bring, groceries to buy, crafts to make, and books to read. My mind was going into overdrive thinking of everything I had to remember just so the girls didn’t feel like their vacation was a complete drag.
So imagine my dismay when I had everything sprawled out and organized to put into a suitcase, and then my husband comes upstairs and packs everything he needs for the week in ten minutes… the night before we have to leave (eye roll inserted here).
It just seemed like I was hurrying and hustling to get everything perfectly prepared to leave for vacation so we could do what, exactly!?
And as someone who dreams of the times when there is nothing to do, as I often stare at my list of never-ending responsibilities as a mother, let me tell you the most beautiful things of the nothingness I experienced.
1. Silence and Starlight
We got there (the car ride is another story) and it was everything I wanted and more. A beautiful cabin, nestled in the mountains surrounded by cold air, crunchy leaves, and lonely branches. I told my toddler to “shh” and to listen. She innocently responded with “I can’t hear anything.” Exactly, sweet girl.
There was a silence that was so loud, yet peaceful. No phone ringing, no notifications, no email pings, no screaming toddler shows, no news broadcasts; just nature content with itself. An air so confident with its existence that it didn’t feel the need to fill the quiet space with sarcastic jokes or mindless music. I found myself looking up and around and staring at the wise old cabin in the woods.
It never has to hear the constant dings of distraction that we’re flooded within our regular lives. And at night, when the sun took its well-deserved break, we got to see the sky filled with the stars that I’ve only ever read about. Back at home, I wish for the night to come, not because I want to admire the sky, but because it means the girls’ bedtimes and just a moment alone, untouched. But here, under the blanket of glitter, nighttime became a nod from the Earth constantly winking at me on a job well done.
When was the last time you set an alarm to watch the day begin? For me, my day usually starts with a baby screaming and a toddler sprinting down the hall to shout in my face. But there, with a beautiful, unobstructed view, I set an alarm, and sat with coffee and a journal, just to watch the sun lift its head and stretch its arms.
Every day, there was a new hue of oranges, blues, and reds. On days when the girls would be up with me, I wouldn’t allow talking before the sun “woke up.” Mainly for my own sanity but also to just sit and fully experience and appreciate the artistry on display in the distance. The sunrises were a reminder to me to not take routine moments for granted.
We wake up knowing that nature is dominant and our day will begin accordingly. But watching silently allowed me to realize that even if something happens the same way every day, there’s still beauty to be recognized and appreciated. Mundane car rides to school have turned into fun conversations about hopes for the day. Cutting sandwich squares and halving grapes has turned into appreciating my beautiful, healthy, very hungry girls.
I wanted the week to be a time of reconnection with my husband. We’re constantly sharing calendars and bath time duties that we’ve left little time to share how we feel. It was a chance for us to sit back, with no distractions, and find again what makes us who we are as individuals and as a couple. It was a chance to have hard conversations and candidly speak about our journey and our path forward. I left our retreat feeling so appreciative and loving toward him and all he does for our family and our marriage.
Some conversations didn’t have many words; just personal reflection, hand-in-hand in front of a fire. It was emotional and gritty, but it was perfect and needed. Sometimes we said it best when we said nothing at all. And then 7 days and 13 hours later, we were back to reality. Practices, school, meal prep, emails, deadlines, and bills. They were kind enough, though, to wait for us.
The week of “nothing” was perfection and I’d hurry up and slow down all over again.