You need a mini vacation. Not a big one. Just a couple of hours. Maybe you’re a single mom and have no spouse to pawn the kids off. That’s fine. Hire a babysitter. Drop them off at your mom’s. Do something.
Because you need to take a mini vacation. Alone.
But it was stressful. Always checking the number of downloads, always fretting whether I should have used this image instead of that image, or this phrase instead of that. Maybe I should have advertised on google. Or maybe I should do a book signing. Did I categorize it properly? Or maybe I should’a…
The list goes on and on. And the background noise wasn’t helping. We’ve recently started training a new instructor for our photography classes. This means that my wife is gone and training during the most stressful time of the day–bedtime. The infant screams in the background for milk. The oldest boys fight over toothpaste and who gets to snuggle with dad. The toddler runs around, refusing to let me change his diaper. I chase him as scattered legos stab my feet.
Whine, whine, whine. Scream, scream, scream. “Daddy!”–another high-pitched shout.
I’m about to blow up.
Stress. Ya’ll know how it goes.
My stomach was in constant knots. I was having trouble falling asleep. I felt like a ziplock bag of water, climbing toward the boiling point as the microwave counted the seconds to detonation.
I had to be alone.
Take a mini vacation
I asked the misses if she could watch the little padawans so I could unwind just for a couple of hours. Five hours, tops. That’s all I needed.
I packed my kayak in the back of my pickup. I loaded a new audiobook onto my audible app (a dramatized Lord of the Rings. Wicked cool). And for 90 minutes, I cracked the window and let the cool air toss my unkempt hair.
I arrived at my destination–Veteran’s Lake in Sulphur Oklahoma. It’s a small lake, closer to pond-sized. But the water is clear enough that I could nearly see to my toes standing chest-deep in the water. A running trail surrounded the lake, punctuated by ancient hardwoods and dried underbrush. A soft breeze blew, which caressed my skin with gentle coolness.
I left my phone behind. I left my phone behind. It was like dropping shackles I hadn’t realized I was wearing. The relief flooded over me. Now, I could escape.
I paddled to the center of the lake and prepared to swan dive, but I saw a couple making out in a gazebo. Not the sort of environment that’s conducive to vacationing, I think.
So I paddled further to the outskirts of the lake.
Silence. Well, not silent because crickets called in the distance, the wind rustled the leaves of the nearby trees, and my own breaths sounded in my ears–long and slow. But there were no car engines, no screaming kids, no alerts from my cell phone. Just me and nature.
I paddled to the midpoint between shorelines and stood in the center of my kayak, doing my best Karate Kid impression. I squealed like a little kid and cannon-balled into the water. The refreshing water enveloped me, caressed me, melted away the stresses of the last several weeks. I sunk deeper and deeper, savoring the quiet sound of my own heartbeat.
I poked my head above water, donned my snorkel and goggles and went back under. I studied the tiny bubbles that clung to my hands. I gazed at the underside of my yellow boat. And I dove deeper and deeper and looked upward at the burst of sunlight filtering through the blue water.
See, I love deep water. I’m not a fan of kiddie pools because when I swim, I want to feel like I’m floating in space in zero gravity. When my feet meet the bottom, it destroys that illusion.
After revisiting my childhood (in an adult body), I sat on the kayak, letting my feet dangle in the water, and I just listened–to God, to my own thoughts on life and family, to my own breath. And as I did, it was like somebody injected morphine into me. Peace circulated through my veins, relaxing my shoulders, clearing my mind, and letting me float in a cloud of peace. The only stressful thought that entered my mind was holy cow, I may have to start paddling again before this breeze carries me off to shore.
What a wonderful thing to stress about.
I don’t remember how long I stayed like that–just sitting there in my kayak as the waves rocked my body into a mental lullaby. You’ve got to understand–this is not like me. I’m not one to just sit down. I once spend dozens of hours in the hot Oklahoma sun, and hundreds of dollars landscaping my backyard so I could have moments like that. But what do I do? I inevitably sit on my porch swing for thirty seconds (tops) before I get up and start weeding the garden, or filling the water feature, or picking up dog poo.
Let me say it again–I’m not one to sit and do nothing.
But, it seemed my body or my spirit knew I needed it.
So I sat.
Inevitably, the clouds turned dark as if they were a clear signal that my time was up. I paddled back to shore, packed my stuff, and found a local Mexican restaurant. And I ate slowly (again, not something I’m wont to do), savoring the cumin-infused rice and salty steak fajita meat.
Then I went home.
And let me tell you something–in the days since, I’ve been a better dad–more patient, less prone to anger, more inclined to listen and ask them about their day and what troubles them. I’m a better husband–more willing to make dinner for the misses so she can nurse the baby or have a break of her own.
I think the problem is that stress becomes a habit. Constantly buffeted by that, we forget that this is not normal! I don’t think our Creator intended us to be always strung as tight as a band-saw blade.
Break the cycle, my friends. Take a five hour vacation. Once a month is all you need. I promise you it’ll make you a better employee, mom, dad, brother, sister, aunt, uncle, or whatever.
What is your mini vacation like?
What is your vacation like? Not all of you are amphibians like me. What is your ideal vacation? Really, I want to hear about it, and maybe get some ideas of my own. (Seeing as how winter’s fast approaching 😉 ).