Since last October, our family has been planning a spring break trip to visit friends and historical sites in Pennsylvania, a trip for which I had:
- Researched where to eat, what to see (and best day to see it), entrance fees, hours of operation, parking fees, best driving routes, etc.
- Made a neat pile of all my research and had a packing/things-to-do list two pages long.
- Checked out children's books and tapes about Gettysburg, The Statue of Liberty, Valley Forge, and more.
- Selected travel friendly activities for my children and bought lots of snacks.
- Did all the laundry, packed all the bags, vacuumed & cleaned out the car, cleaned out the fridge, cleaned the whole house.
Are you tired yet? I was.
Minutes before our planned departure I told my husband, “You know, I really don't want to go on this trip. I just want to stay home all by myself for five days.” He quickly agreed, discussed with our four kids, and within minutes they were gone. Without me.
At first I felt guilty and slightly rebellious–who am I to opt out of the family vacation? I love my kids, was looking forward to some family time and was eager for them to learn about our country’s history with me as their tour guide!
But I really did need a break. It had been three and a half years since I had the whole house to myself for a few days, and in fact, what I'd wanted last Christmas more than anything was “12 hours by myself in my own house!”
Once I gave a million kisses and waved good-bye, I found myself suddenly alone in a perfectly clean and quiet house. I had no desire to venture out of the house; I just wanted to luxuriate in time to myself. I made a long list of things I wanted to do, including some sewing, organizing and keeping in touch with loved ones.
I called my 88 year-old grandparents for a delightful hour-long phone call. A few minutes later a dear high school friend called me, saying “I just saw your phone number in my book and thought I should call you.” We spoke for two hours, our friendship never missing a beat. I chatted with another out-of-town friend who happened to be coming to Boston this week; we've planned a day's worth of lovely activities.
I began to sort through files on my desk, finding long-forgotten scribbled notes on tiny scraps of paper with phone numbers and emails of friends I meant to contact months ago. One friend had a baby in December–still haven't been to see her. Another newly-discovered friend is an amazing artist, mother and person–someone I'd love to know better. My husband and four children going in different directions had left a wake of neglected friendships and missed opportunities.
More than that, I had filled my mind with so many to-do lists in the midst of mothering chaos, I had forgotten how to hear my own voice over the past few months. When a quiet moment did come, I didn't how to use my free time because I didn't really even know what I wanted to do.
With everyone gone, I thought I would feel lonely, that I would listen to books on tape all day to keep me company. But I'm not. I love the silence and the chance I have to hear my thoughts, to wonder what what I will think up next, to wake up early, my mind spinning with new ideas.
Just this morning I woke up with a plan for how to improve my town’s Patriots Day celebration. Paul Revere rides through our town each year complete with a mini-parade, a speech from the Mayor, the high school band and lunch at the Revolutionary-era funeral home. But because the crowd (mostly comprised of young families and grandparents) waits about an hour between the time that the mini-parade is over and when Paul Revere actually rides in, the high school band runs out of songs to play and an awkward dead space ensues.
My early-morning idea was to involve the city historical society, the city family network, the local top-notch university and other city and business organizations to sponsor several historical activity tables for the children to learn more about Paul Revere and the history of our town. I mapped out the layout, supplies, partners, activities and funding in less than an hour and realized that I felt so strongly about this project that, if needed (gasp! How scary is that to my shy self!), I could go talk to the mayor, business owners, historical society president, or whoever I needed to help get this event rolling.
It was so refreshing to discover that I felt strongly about something that I was willing to step outside of my comfort zone to make it happen. In my normal ‘non-rebellious, non-hermetic' life, I often find myself pushing away really good ideas because I just don’t have time to develop or implement them. Maybe, just maybe, this time away from the noise will allow me to set some priorities for myself until the next time I take an extended break.
Joseph Campbell wrote, “You must have a room, or certain hour of the day or so, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don't know who your friends are, you don't know what you owe anybody, you don't know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen.”
As I carried on coherent conversations with my long-lost friends, many were at first shocked I would stay home, but then commented enthusiastically, “Oh, that is exactly what I want to do!”
It has been my perfect stay-cation and I highly recommend it.
Kudos to Janika for ‘asking for what she wanted'; kudos to her husband and children for saying ‘yes'.
For Mother's Day, your birthday, or even next year's Patriot's Day, why not ask for a Stay-cation? Everyone leaves, and you magically remain home alone.
P.S. In the spirit of full disclosure (she says with tongue firmly in cheek), I've purchased more than several pieces of art from Swallowfield, and plan to purchase many more in the coming years. Jennifer Judd-McGee's art makes me happy!
More about Janika: (She asked me to shorten, but it was far too interesting!)
Janika Dillon originated in Ithaca, New York where her parents were in graduate school. She spent her childhood roaming her Wichita, Kansas neighborhood on a sparkly blue banana seat Schwinn bicycle and organizing club meetings in the tops of trees. Her teenage years were spent in Provo, Utah where she played violin in the orchestra, designed and sewed the costumes for school musicals and Shakespearean plays and dreamed of traveling to Europe. As a student at BYU she studied Communications and German and had the time of her life studying abroad in Vienna, Austria and Frankfurt, Germany. Two hours before departing for an 18 month church mission to South Korea, she turned in the final draft of her honors thesis about noted 19th Century woman's suffragist Emmeline B. Wells.
One month after returning home from her mission in Korea, she returned to work as an intern at a small manufacturing company in Seoul. The fascinating experiences with the women in this office and other companies she eventually interned at inspired her masters thesis on “Women in the Workplace in Korea” for her degree in Organizational Behavior and International Development. Janika worked in Exec Ed for a few years before moving to Boston with her husband James and deciding to stay home full time with her four young children.