I am writing this blog post in my car.
Why, you ask?
My house is so messy there is not a surface on which I can rest my eyes without also seeing crumbs, discarded face masks, or dirty socks. In the sole clean room, my office, I can hear my children yelling at their video games and each other through my closed door. This post-church Sunday afternoon has included an unholy amount of yelling, a plate of pasta and meatballs accidentally overturned onto the floor, and a ham sandwich lost to the jowls of our hungry Australian shepherd. I have sat down about five different times to write a blog post, interrupted on each occasion by a new inter-sibling conflict. My nerves are so shot that I am afraid that if someone looks at me wrong, my body will simply abandon Earth and launch itself into outer space.
Clearly, it’s time for a getaway.
Now, ideally, a getaway involves clocking more steps than the walk from my house to the driveway. A getaway involves going to a place where I am not responsible for deadlines or deliverables, for school pickups or soccer practices, for grocery shopping or meal prepping. A getaway is a magical place where my time is mine and mine alone and is used for pouring into myself and myself alone.
Now, sometimes, this means settling for the quiet sanctuary of my car. But every once in a while, I need a longer span of time. I need multiple nights in a row of not thinking about how dinner will find its way from the grocery store to the table. I need multiple days of placing a glass down on a counter and not wondering who has had a drink from it. I need multiple mornings of sleeping in without rolling out of bed and immediately signing into my work computer.
I need this because it is essential to reconnecting to the core of who I am.
I realized this the very first time I craved a getaway. I was a new mother in Vermont, my daughter just past two years old. I was also early in my teaching career and while I enjoyed the craft, I was spent from its emotional toll. I felt that I was swimming in a sea of responsibilities and my identity was waving at me from a distant shore. So, after learning about a Benedictine monastery with a pay-what-you-can-afford rate, I packed my bag, waved goodbye to my daughter and husband, and drove myself down to Southern Vermont. It rained nearly the entire time, but I didn’t mind. I was too busy eating simple meals that I didn’t prepare, reading through a stack of books I had been neglecting, and sitting on my bed smiling at the quiet. It was glorious.
Ever since that small pocket of rainy solitude, getaways have been an important part of maintaining my sense of self. This self is easy to lose when you’re a parent, when you’re a spouse, and when you’re a worker. (It’s even harder to maintain when you lack the funds, paid time off, and support systems to enable a getaway – a reality for many parents of color.)
It can be easy to forget that we are whole people and not simply the sum of the many parts we play. Getaways are an antidote to the idea that we can be all things to all people while neglecting ourselves. Getaways remind us to be quiet. They remind us to play.
These days, getaways seem harder to come by. I have three children now, and they have soccer games, youth events, and milestone moments I don’t want to miss. With a daughter in high school, I think constantly of the fact that I have a rapidly dwindling amount of Christmas breaks, spring breaks, and summers with her.
I also have a desk job that will devour as much attention as I want to throw at it – which can be too much when I’m not careful (thanks, imposter syndrome). Not to mention we’re still in the midst of a pandemic that has complicated travel and heightened our collective – and my individual – anxieties for the last year and a half.
But the need to get away hasn’t subsided. I still need to pour into myself. I still need to remember who I am. And I need to show my children how soul-restoring a getaway can be.
One of the best gifts my mother gave me was going on a getaway. I was a junior or senior in high school when she received a grant to study printmaking in South Africa with several other artists. Before the trip, she cut off her nearly waist-length locs, fluffed her fro, and packed her bags. She waved goodbye to me and my father and took off in a plane to fill her artistic well. It was the first time I had seen her go on a trip by herself that wasn’t to visit family or travel for her graphic design day job. I felt proud of her.
One day, my children will be spouses, or parents, or workers. And one day, they will be so deep in their responsibilities that they may look up and wonder where their self is to be found in the chaos. My hope is that they will remember me stepping out for a walk, taking a breather in the car, or going for a trip to some locale. That they’ll remember me emerging fresher, calmer, and more rooted. And that they’ll pack their bags, wave goodbye, and do the same.