When was the last time you were alone for more than 24 hours? If you are a parent, the answer probably is “before kids”. I did the math for myself and I came up with 7 years. It had been 7 years since I had spent time alone with myself, and only myself…no girlfriends or family or overnights with my husband (we have yet to do that one…), just me. Kind of crazy, right? What’s crazier yet is the fact that it took me a near breakdown before I admitted to myself that all I really needed to feel better was to just be alone for a significant amount of time. Not more sleep, not more supplements or exercise (although I believe strongly in the benefit of all of them) or less wine or caffeine. No. What I needed to restore my balance was to just “be” away. That’s it. To hear only the sound of my own breath and listen only to the voice inside my head, gently reassuring me that I was doing the right thing…that I wasn’t a bad mom, that I wasn’t selfish, that I wasn’t harming my family in any way by needing time away from them.
I have been feeling “off” (for lack of a better word, although overwhelmed, drained, depleted also come to mind) for several weeks now. At first I thought it was just the summer break and adjusting to the changing needs of the boys, our schedules and the complex developmental stages they are both hitting simultaneously. But there was something deeper, less unseen that had been pulling me down, making me feel anxious, sad and angry. I couldn’t figure out why I was so blue and upset all the time…crying at night after bedtime because I had lost my temper one too many times that day with the boys or because I hadn’t managed to get anything else done in my day besides survive the sibling rivalry and ensuing tantrums.
One morning while at the gym, bombarded by TV screens all around me, showing all of the horrendous news of the day, it hit me…I am too sensitive. I’ve lost a way to filter out the negativity that plagues our world and I have been internalizing it, profoundly. I am aware of it while it is happening…I feel it creeping in on me, taking hold of my heart, squeezing it tighter and tighter. Striving to live my life from a place of love and gratitude, to be a person who chooses to see the goodness in humanity and the beauty in our world, while eschewing fear and negativity can be difficult sometimes. It’s like for every horrible event that takes place in the world, my heart burns and rages that much harder to feel and share the love that exists in us all and will heal our brokenness. The highs and lows of my sensitive heart were throwing me off balance and I needed to find a way to restore it.
So, I chose to go on a little “mom-cation”, as I called it. And what I found to be true is what I’ve always believed in and is my chosen life-mantra: “Always trust your gut”. Listen to that voice in your head, pay attention to the whisper and roar of your heart, it knows best how to bring you back to love and your purpose.
My weekend away consisted of me renting a “tiny house” (about 100 sq. ft.) in Sebastopol, CA, where I was free to come and go according to my own will and whim. This alone was restorative enough! Just listening to my own desires and curiosities was quite liberating and fulfilling. I brought along my paints and brushes, some art books and sketchbooks and a few small crochet items. The only plan I made was just to relax and do things that made me happy. So I did.
I played with colors and layers of paint, without thinking of anything other than just painting. As an artist/maker, I rarely give myself the freedom to just explore. I’m always so focused on an end result or finished product. It was so liberating to just play and feel that sense of pure joy from putting marks of color onto a piece of white paper.
I went on a long walk into town and found myself drifting in and out of antique shops, a used bookstore and the small, quiet park in the middle of the downtown square. I had some “new-to-me” crochet granny squares, found at a thrift store, that a friend had given to me. I turned a few of them into a tiny yarn-bomb, attaching them around a bench in the park. (If you’re not familiar with “yarn bombing“, just keep following this blog and you will find out soon enough. I think I’ve developed a bit of an obsession for the thought of “bombing” the world with yarn love.) I crocheted several You Are Loved hearts while sitting on this bench and then dropped them around town in different locations. All of this left me giddy with delight, wondering what the recipients would think/feel upon finding their little surprise. I felt a sense of lightness and internal warmth returning to my heart and it was so good.
Only two doors down from my “tiny house” was a gorgeous little yarn store, where I spent just a wee bit of time, drooling over the gorgeous colors and textures and chatting with the lovely owner all the while. After packing up my belongings on Sunday, I headed over to Cast Away and Folk in Santa Rosa to further pursue my adoration of all things fiber-y and keep my happy-o-meter at a relative high. Walking into this store is like getting to enter the pearly gates of craft Heaven…it’s so utterly divine and beautiful. I lingered, just soaking up the air in the room, inspired by the color and light all around me. I flipped through books and magazines full of beautiful patterns and ideas and after spending most of my morning there, I think I was vibrating when I left.
And then, just like that, my weekend came to a close and I was driving back home with my heart and mind reconnected, my spirits lifted, my body relaxed and at ease. I walked into a house full of love, to two little boys squealing with delight and jumping into my arms and to a strong and supportive husband who only had to take one look into my eyes to see how much I had regained my center.
Before I left, I had a really meaningful online chat with a friend who truly understood how I was feeling and could relate to my need for alone time. She put our mutual feelings into words so eloquently: “Alas, I see that it is a wonderful part of me that seeks space for creative expression, silence, synthesis, reorganizing and that then my social butterfly is happy to be born again as she is renewed.“
Renewed. I can’t think of a better way to describe the way I’m feeling now.