We turned the key of our old wooden front door and were met with a century’s worth of woody must that lofted up through the floors while we were away. With the air conditioner off for more than a week, the stale air inside of our house stuck thick in each room from not circulating. Our house’s old age always surprises me and welcomes me back home, adding us to its history and care.
Our vacation last week was a dream. While I was worried that it would be more difficult and disappointing than relaxing and fun, the way vacations can often turn out, it met us with an abundance of unexpected pleasure and leisure. Returning home we all feel refreshed instead of exhausted and remarkably closer to one another. When was the last time you heard of a family vacation actually doing that? I don’t have many pictures from our vacation, which is probably a good reason as to why it was so nice. Phones weren’t a huge distraction and we didn’t force any posed family pictures, trying to fake the fun. It happened naturally and with low expectations. No organized games, events or outings. Nothing was planned. We kept it flexible. If we wanted to go on a bike ride, we went. If we wanted to watch TV or nap, we did. Food was kept simple. Lots of snacking. No forcing the kids to stay at the table and finish their veggies. We came and went with the breeze and tried to limit how much we controlled the kids. Even they needed a break from our often militant parenting that demands their obedience and complete adherence to our rules.
Bending our family rules for a week and being a bit more free was really life giving for us and our kids. It actually helped me to appreciate the rules in our house a little bit more. Coming home to regular bed times, screen times, eating times, healthy food, and routines doesn’t feel quite as oppressive after having an entire week of foregoing what we do the rest of the year. And it makes me miss it. I miss the long evenings with the kids, snacking on Oreos and playing cards. The spontaneous jaunts to the beach. Leisure bike rides to the store. No where to be. No one to accommodate. No one to please.
If anything, that’s where coming home has been the most difficult for me. I came home having spent time alone with my family for 7 days to friends and family, both close and far, whose expectations I just can’t live up to. This summer has been difficult in a lot of ways for me, but mostly it has been most difficult relationally. I am usually very committed to keeping up with my friends and family throughout my day and week, trying not to become insularly consumed with my children, spouse, and work. That means that I regularly text, call, and keep up on social media with people in my life. But this summer, for various reasons, I just couldn’t do it. Perhaps I felt relationally tapped out. Perhaps having older kids around during the summer proved to be a lot more demanding than I had anticipated. Whatever the reason, I haven’t been responding to texts and keeping up with phone calls like a usually do. I’ve stayed a savvy social media user and responder, though we all know that that medium of connection is much more impersonal. Maybe that’s why I preferred it these last couple of months. At any rate, once I returned home from a week away with my family, I was immediately hit with how I’ve disappointed a number of people this summer. Friends. Family. Acquaintances. How I can’t juggle so many relationships, both near and far, with any type of depth for such a prolonged periods of time without disappointing someone. If I choose to start a new relationship, an old one will naturally be taken from. To spend lots of time and emotional energy on a long distance relationship means that I will have less to give to those who are close.
And then add to all of this that I’m introverted. I’m extremely relational but it costs my mind and body a lot of energy. I am charged with quiet and solitude, which as I’ve mentioned before is a rarity around my house, not with relationships. So, it’s no wonder that being away from others and the demands that my (amazing!) relationships require was so life giving. It should also then not be a surprise that it showed me how unsustainable being constantly available to so many people is. It doesn’t leave room for me to invest deeply in a few people. It only allows for me to invest shallowly in many. And I say all of this as if I have soooo many friends. That isn’t true. I don’t spend a lot of time with people. I’m mostly always at home with my kids, reading, writing, texting, lurking facebook, being super digitally social, but not super physically invested. What a shame. For me and for my loved ones. But to stop that behavior means that I won’t be as available to as many people. To get away from my texting and social media behaviors and relationships means that I’ll hurt a lot of people with whom that’s my only form of relationship with. And I hate that. I love being connected to so many of my friends. But, in all honesty, being away from those pressures was so wonderful for me and for my family and in turn, I am so much closer to them for it.
I’m not planning on stopping my relationships with people who I primarily text and interact with online. I’d miss you all too much! And I have more long distance friends than I do physically close friends. Maybe I should just ask for a little grace when I drop the ball, or maybe my phone. I do need to be in my physical space occasionally! Or maybe just more vacations.