It took almost a full week for me to stop compulsively checking my day-planner. We were officially on our summer vacation, but it didn’t feel like it. I still wasn’t mentally slowing down quite yet. It was like when you pull a ceiling fan cord to slow down the circulation, but for a few seconds the blades still keep spinning at top speed. You stare at it. Is this thing working? Will it slow down?
But then it happened. My body did, in fact, shift down to that slower speed called vacation mode. That speed I wonder sometimes during the busiest weeks of the year whether I’ll ever come across again.
It was the third day of vacation in southwest Michigan. We had gone to the beach twice already but both days I huffed around, barking that nobody saw how hard I was trying to relax. Damn it, people, I’m on vacation! The kids constantly interrupted as soon as I managed to lower myself down into my beach chair. I’m hungry. There’s sand in my bathing suit. Tell him it’s my turn on the giant inflatable flamingo. I wanted to totally be left alone, which is my knee jerk reaction when things get chaotic with the family. Everybody leave me alone, I wanted to scream. And the hubs wasn’t reading my mind (a thing I continue to believe IS possible if he would just TRY a little harder).
I left the beach both days with a tense neck. I felt like my dog when she digs and digs at her blankets, dig dig dig…I knew I had looked ridiculous…expending massive energy in an effort to simply rest.
But then a weird thing happened. We decided to go back to the beach another day, and I did something bold: I deliberately left my phone back at our vacation house. I didn’t take it with me. My husband had his phone, my children were with me. All was well. And I was going to ride out the afternoon on that wave of faith. When we got to the beach, I took my time. I slathered the children in sunscreen, fed them snacks, fanned out all the beach toys in the sand so they could see the possibilities for imaginative play before them. Then I expanded my camping chair under the shade umbrella next to my husband and plopped down into it. And a strange state of mind came over me. One I didn’t recognize at first because it had been a long time since I felt it. It was the mental repose of vacation mode. Suddenly I didn’t care what time it was. Or what we would do after the beach. Or whether I should be texting someone in my life. I couldn’t check on anyone—I didn’t have my phone with me. It was a freeing limitation.
My kids were picking out smooth rocks to try and skip across the water. That looked like fun in this new state of mind I was in. I stood up and joined them. We skipped rocks over the mild afternoon waters of my beloved Lake Michigan. Then I wanted to sit down. And so I did the thing I only do if I’m really, really relaxed. I sat in the sand. I just sat right down in that place where the waves come and rush into your swimsuit. I sat right there. I felt nine years old. I felt my shoulders droop and my brain soften to happy mush. I was finally relaxed.
I sat like that till my kids started arguing. But their arguing didn’t even break the spell of vacation mode. In fact, I simply got up and walked away from their bickering. I’ll let them sort it out. I got up and went to my husband, B. Sterling who was himself sitting on a camping chair under the shade umbrella.
“I finally feel relaxed,” he said. I plopped down in the seat next to him.
“You read my mind, “ I smiled and patted his knee.
And we watched the kids bicker and play and bicker and play on and off in the sand and waves till… I don’t even know what time.