Day One: The Experiment Begins

love the spin family at sunset

It is day one of our great experiment of family vagabonding–seeing the world while taking care of business (school and work) online.

Well, if you want to be exact about it, it’s day 15.

But for me it was day one, because this first big trip was about being by the ocean, and today was the first day I actually got in the ocean.  Here I am, waking up a block from the beach every morning, but some days I might as well been in a cubicle in an office building in Tulsa, for all the difference it would have made in my day.

This is because of that obvious, irritating, and forgotten maxim—”Wherever you go, there you are.”

As we removed so many things that can cause discomfort–bad weather, altitude, complacency, predictability, interpersonal drama, never-ending house chores, all that stuff–I’m left with what discomfort still remains, and realize I brought myself with me.

So this won’t surprise anyone, but I haven’t stopped being a drop-down drunk workaholic who can’t get up from her computer for 5 minutes to go look at the water, or eat, or shower.  The “one-more-thing” paralysis that starts when I first check email in the morning before rolling out of bed, and ends some days long after the kids have gone to bed.  Here in paradise, I still find I’ve lost the entire day and haven’t changed my clothes or been outside for a truly unhygenic amount of time.

When we stayed with Kath and with Amy, they all noticed it.  I got sideways glances from all of them, just as if I’d started sipping a secret flask at 9 a.m.  “You need to go outside for a minute,” they’d say.

When I’m by myself, I can pretend it’s not completely unreasonable.  The kids know how I am, and have essentially honed the skills of Boxcar Children–schooling and feeding and taking care of one another as needed—when mom’s on one of her work binges.  And it just so happened that one of the more intense work spells hit right as we left for our experiment and has only just started lightening up.

I can justify that this is just one of the joys of self-employment, but if I’m honest with myself, that’s not it.  It’s just obsessiveness and imbalance.  Self awareness stings, and with all the good things I’m noticing about this different way of life, seeing what doesn’t change with the external world is a hard pill to swallow.

So it was almost 4 o’clock, just an hour before sunset, when I finally walked into the water today, finally keeping my promise to show Lucy how to boogie board. Sophie and I jumped waves and admired the coming sunset, and I felt the water push and pull me back and forth while the sky went up in orange flames.

I often use the metaphor of the ocean to explain how I feel God working in my life, a gentle push and pulling (and sometimes the barrel wave that flushes your sinuses)—it moves me in a way I only can see when I look back at the shore.  I had to work to let go of work, to let the waves move me and stay in that glorious now.  That shouldn’t be hard, yet habit makes it so.

Ben was riding wave after wave on a boogie board several yards down the shore.  Lucy came nervously to jump waves with us, and I’d hold her up when a really big one came.  Noah played happily in the sand.  My mom watched the coming sunset.

I could do this every day—get my work done and then head to the shore.  I could work to live instead of the other way around.  I have to make some changes inside of myself, not everything can be changed by circumstance.

My mom was visiting for the weekend and snapped the breathtaking picture above at sunset. Little silhouettes of everyone but Noah, still intently playing on the sand, are swimming in all that glory.

I’ve learned so much just in these two short weeks about myself, my relationship with my kids, my marriage, what helps, what doesn’t.  I can see how removing everything but the essentials really simplifies and clarifies things, but that includes a clearer spotlight on my own unhelpful habits.

I’ve vowed to go to the beach every day, even if I don’t get in.  I came to heal my body, mind, spirit and family, and that can’t happen at my computer.

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