My family holiday plans this summer were much the same as they were last year – day trips around Southern Ontario, visits to local markets, shops and towns. And, for one week in August, an annual trek to my sister and brother-in-law’s home in Killarney, Ontario for several days of swimming, campfires, good food and great company.
The day trips were fun. And my extended family gathered in Killarney to enjoy a week of some of the loveliest weather we’ve seen all summer. My husband and son joined them. And I decided to stay home.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy our annual vacation. In fact, I look forward to it every year. I can almost taste the fresh whitefish at the waterfront chip stand and see the Killarney Mountains rising gracefully above the shores of Killarney Bay. I can almost hear my niece screeching for joy over some new-found treasure in the surrounding bush. And feel the familiar rhythm of sharing a space with my oldest sister after years of living apart.
But for some reason I couldn’t get myself ready to go this year. I felt an overwhelming sense of fatigue – both physically and mentally – and the annual holiday seemed like a mountain I couldn’t climb instead of the enjoyable excursion I’ve always known it to be. When my husband suggested I stay home this year to rest, my entire being suddenly felt light with recognition and relief. I was tired. And five whole days on my own was a glorious gift I couldn’t ignore.
It wasn’t easy to watch my family pack up and leave for the trip. My husband drove away and came back around the block to find me still standing on the porch unsure about the decision I was making. I felt deeply torn between personal need and the knowledge that I wouldn’t be present to create memories with my family. Making the choice to step outside of my established routine and familial traditions felt foreign and uncomfortable. But I listened to my instincts and stayed home, alone.
I used to know how to spend time on my own. Doing the things that I instinctively knew would recharge and renew my spirit – unaccompanied excursions to my favourite places, walks with my dog, weekly Yoga classes. But, somehow, through the advancement of years and changing responsibilities as wife, mother and working professional, I relegated my own well-being to the end of my priority list. It wasn’t an unconscious choice. I knew, and still know, that I need personal space and time to recharge. But I kept postponing that time to another day. A day that never seemed to arrive, until now. Despite my best intentions for enjoying “me time,” it took two full days to conquer the entrenched feelings that I should be doing something productive – defined activities that provide a sense of tangible accomplishment, such as cleaning, laundry, sorting toys and yard-work. But as I settled into the stillness, I slowly let go of these prevailing priorities. I realized that it is more important to be there for myself – to give my mind, heart and health the time and attention they deserve to breathe and renew. So I let the dishes pile-up in the sink, left the laundry unfolded and didn’t make the bed. Instead, I reconnected with all that I enjoy – reading, walking, cooking and writing. And I even treated myself to pampering pleasures that I’ve been postponing since my son was born – massage therapy, highlights and a facial. And I started to feel like me again.
I’m not naïve enough to think that five days are enough to rejuvenate me for another couple of years. But it’s a beginning; incredible reminders that in order to thrive in my every day life, I must consciously add my needs to the top of my priority list. That by carving out the regular space I need, I’ll continually renew my spirit and not feel the physical and emotional deficit I did this summer. I truly missed being with my family this year and participating in all the traditional activities I so enjoy. But I had someone else I needed to spend time with. Me.