The breaking point came on a Wednesday morning. Eleven a.m. central time. I was doing one of the many drive-by cleanings I attempt throughout the day just to maintain sanity.
They start as a bathroom break. Then I take the long route through the laundry room to drop off towels from the bathroom or lonely socks found in hallways along the way. Step through the living room for a dishes sweep. Drop plates and cups off in the kitchen. Return to computer. This time I’d squeezed in a diaper change as well.
Work, emails, and unfinished writing projects waited while I picked up my toddler’s shirt and pondered how it had wandered so far out of place. It was then that I heard the sympathetic voice-over on a commercial for Las Vegas.
“Everybody needs a break,” the voice consoled.
The tears rushed out of nowhere and stung my over-tired lids. That’s when I knew I’d perhaps never heard a truer phrase.
I was tired—the kind of tired that just can’t pick up one more messy room or fulfill one more task at work without reenergizing. I needed to get away.
Not necessarily to Vegas. The truth is, I didn’t really even need a car. That commercial could have been for anything from a candy bar to a steak house to the beach. Any one of those things can sometimes be just what I need to get away.
That day with the wayward toddler shirt and evocative commercial, I determined immediately to do just that. My beautiful life—full of romance, children, big dreams, and fulfilling work — didn’t justify those hot, sudden tears. I knew if I could find some space, I would remember this. And if in that space I also thought of things that needed to change, it was there I’d find the bravery to make it happen.
Over the years, there have been three ways I’ve learned to “get away” from the pressures of life. Whether it’s to a new place, out in nature, or simply through quiet, time has taught me how to fully experience being away so that when real life comes knocking again, I can’t wait to return and present this refreshed, more positive me to life.
I love to see new places. To watch life ebb and flow through different streets, faces, and lives than I’m used to on a daily basis. My problems seem much smaller as they melt into the buzz and whirl of an unfamiliar setting with its own daily rhythm.
Besides that, the unique energy of a new place inspires me along with its varied architecture and unique shops and restaurants. Knowing all that the world can offer convinces me to make the most of what I have. I almost always leave new places adjusting my priorities and organizing my own life into a rhythm I know I can respect.
Mark Twain said that traveling is the surest way to end ignorance and bigotry. I’ve come to see this as true. I like the feeling of learning something new about both the world and myself. As I’m faced with my own unimportance, I become more aware of my place in it.
I may sound like a world traveler, but I’m not. I just deeply appreciate wherever I have been. The places I’ve visited — other than through research, movies, and books—are few and not remotely far between. The thing is, there’s something new and unfamiliar and inspiring in every place — even if it’s only a couple hours away. Even the next neighborhood over provides a getaway if I have the eyes to see it.
I once tried to change my daily devotional time to a prayer walk. I quickly found that once outside for even a few moments, there was nothing left to pray. Only peace and gratitude remained. The very trees around me told of God’s unlimited power, and the wind seemed to carry the evidence of His ever-present help.
I always feel nearer to God outdoors. Just a brief departure to my front porch accomplishes this nearness for me.
Yet while my porch in Missouri is my most frequented step into nature, I often think past it to the ocean. Far away, it is there, lapping at the shore, still whispering. It is almost impossible to remain stressed around such incomparable beauty. The power and rhythm of the ocean is immoveable. It overwhelms my thoughts, and its salty, breezy goodness whispers right into my soul. It tells me in the age-old words of the psalmist, “Be still, and know God.”
There’s no louder evidence of God — whether the tree-lined street my house sits on or the mighty ocean waves — than the great, quiet expanse of nature.
There are times when the best I can do for a getaway is to find a place of quiet. It’s amazing what I can do with my thoughts when I air them out in some good old peace and quiet. I find it in yoga exercises while I stretch and move my body. I find it in the car where creative, happy thoughts fill my mind as I drive. And I can even find it behind the locked door of my bathroom if I just need one moment away from the chaos of motherhood.
In my household of little boys, quiet is sometimes found behind a wall of music. I put in headphones or go to the kitchen and turn on the iTunes that I’ve saved. The songs have memories tied to them that strengthen me. They are tracks friends sent to me as gifts when I was troubled. And they are the light and happy songs I’ve chosen because they make me smile. It’s not truly silence to wrap myself in the music, but it is a certain kind of quiet.
A long drive, a bubble bath, a quick escape to the garden, backyard, or fancy living room where no one ever goes. When I find my quiet place, I’m never far from a getaway.
While I believe what that commercial said that morning, “Everybody needs a break,” I think the purpose of getaways goes further than merely offering a break. I don’t need the space just to escape from life, I need it to rejuvenate for my life. To find the places that remind me to be thankful and that strengthen me to be brave. In this, I experience a true and worthwhile getaway — one that prepares my heart for home.