I'm writing this with a sigh. A blissful sigh.
Last month, Steve and I went to the beach. Alone. For over three days.
It was early January. We were coming down off Christmas-crazy (and three of our five family birthdays). The living room had been stripped of it's holiday cheer and returned to normal, except with many more toys sprinkled all over the floor and furniture. I was in the midst of writing book #3, submitting new articles to various publications, doing chores, managing my disease, getting the girls readjusted to being back in school, and wiping my son's nose 1500 times a day. My younger two weren't sleeping. One due to teething, the other due to a still-undiagnosed sleep issue.
We were tired. Burnt out. Blue.
We were bickering. Trying to remember WE ARE ON THE SAME TEAM (but failing). Surrendering to life.
And here in the Midwest, we knew winter was just getting started. Every day was the same: gray skies, chilly temperatures, cloudy.
I had the revelation that we should go to the beach. "We" being just Steve and I. So on a whim, I told him my idea. Within three days, we had flights and a room booked, a rental car on hold, and we were buying things that Florida people need, like sandals. We secured child care (my parents). We were cautiously optimistic. We held our breath hoping that no one would have an epic bout of illness.
The days leading up to our trip were full of anxiety and planning and trepidation. Was this actually going to happen?
We had the most blissful time. We ate what we wanted, when we wanted. Lunch at 2:30? No problem! Margaritas at noon on a Sunday? Why not? Ping-pong on the beach at 9 p.m.? Sure! Laying on hammocks and star-gazing? Done! Sleeping until 9:00 in the morning? Yep! Browsing a bookstore without telling someone "no touching" or "stop licking the floor"? Check!
One day, as we walked leisurely along the shell-floored shore, we passed by a family who appeared to have adopted two of their children. I mentioned to Steve how unremarkable we are without our kids. Invisible to others. Normal. Uninteresting. No double-takes, no questions about our authenticity, no "your kids are soooooooooooooo cute" comments that make us squirm and make our children uncomfortable.
Part of the reason our trip was the exact opposite of our everyday lives is because we didn't have to worry about keeping our little ones safe, alive, fed, bathed, and semi-happy. But the other reason is that we weren't spotlighted when we saw another person or family. We were just a pasty-skinned couple on vacation, not an "adoptive" family who, by our presence, must indicate that we have some incredibly interesting, complicated, mysterious life wrought with a history that would make for a great Lifetime movie. Or maybe Hallmark.
Our vacation gave us perspective. It gave us renewal. It gave us time to reflect, plan, and simply just BE. We read. We laughed. We bickered a bit about things that didn't matter (because that is what married couples like us do). We were spontaneous. We were relaxed.
We were just us, but not pre-kids us. The vacation wasn't about going back to an earlier state of being or identity. It was about getting re-grounded in who we are now ("old married couple") because we are parents: more empathetic, more educated, more empowered.
Getting away from "it all" provided us with the space we needed to think, to reconnect, and to consider. It was wonderful.
So if you find me sniffing a seashell or wearing short-sleeves in winter so I can keep an eye on my very slightly tanned arms, just know that I'm keeping vacation in my heart for as long as I can.