I breathe in. The smell of salt and the ocean fills the air. I breathe out. The sun warms my body and the sand gives way beneath my toes. I breathe in. The gentle breeze blows past me cooling my hot skin. I breathe out. I close my eyes and listen to the waves crashing on the shore. I breathe. For the first time in a long time, I just breathe.
In the last 4 days of being here on vacation in a beautiful beach house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I have looked at my phone/computer exactly that many times or maybe even less. My days have consisted of long walks along the beach keeping my eyes peeled for the wild mustangs, boogie boarding and learning to surf in the crashing waves, laying out in the hot sun, reading a book that was long overdue on my list, catching up with my in-laws, laughing a lot, and spending the most quality time with my husband that we have had in months. What my days have not consisted of is working 8-12 hours each day, trying to fit in a workout, cleaning my house, and most importantly checking my phone, email, Facebook, and Instagram repetitively just in case I missed something. Since when did it become so important to us to be up-to-date and involved with everyone all the time? Why do I get so wrapped up in what so-and-so bought at Target and #whatthey’redoingnow? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy catching up with my friends online, and I do like to know what is going on in their lives. But having instantaneous connections at our fingertips has turned “keeping up with important pieces of my friends lives” into “knowing exactly what they are doing at all times even it is just making dinner or sitting around on the couch”. I’ve noticed more and more this week that the increased number of interactions we have with people online has seemed to make each one of those interactions mean less and less.
This week I have had the wonderful gift to take a step back. When you are on vacation, there is a general understanding that you won’t be easily reached during that time so it makes it easier. But if you try to take a step back during the hustle and bustle of normal life, it is harder to get people to understand and respect that boundary. There is a need to always be busy. “I just don’t want to” or “I’m taking the night off” aren’t legitimate excuses, but they should be.
As women I think we also feel pressured to always be everything, particularly with the increase in social media. Online it is easy to create false images of how our lives are that others then feel are the benchmark. We all know that person, the one who looks like they have it all together. Their house is clean and perfectly staged, they are always posting their clean eating meals and perfectly toned body, they have designer clothes and seem to have no financial worries in the world, and every picture shows a happy smiling family. But what we don’t know is what is truly going on behind the scenes. Maybe just out of view of the camera is that pile of laundry (I know I’m guilty of this one myself). Perhaps she struggles with depression but paints that smile on her face every day for the sake of her family. Social media would have us believe that women need to be superwomen. And while women are amazingly strong, beautiful, and powerful in our own right, we do not owe it to anyone to be more than ourselves. Me? I have an eye for decorating, but hate to clean so our pretty house is always a mess. I have the world’s worst sweet tooth and struggle daily with making healthy choices, even though I am an amazing nurse. I do love to be active, but fluctuate back and forth between being very fit and packing on the holiday ten…or more. I love my job and work full time, but also want to be a stay-at-home mom. When you take a second to write it all out and look at it, it seems ridiculous to think we can do and be everything.
Being on this vacation, almost completely unplugged has been a blessing and a reminder of what, to me, is really important in my life. Here is what I have come away with:
- 1) Put the phone down. Leave the technology behind and spend the day outside or doing a hobby you love
- 2) Don’t put too much value on what you see online and on social media. You never know what is going on behind the photos
- 3) Take the time to make true connections with people. Get to know them. What do they like? What are their worries and fears? Confide in them and hold their secrets dear.
- 4) It is okay to say no. We do not need to take on the world and every task that comes our way.
- 5) Along that line, it’s okay to be bad at things. We are just not going to be perfect at everything. Being the perfect housewife, and mother, and employee, and wife is just too much for one person. Embrace what you are good at, and be okay with what you aren’t.
- 6) Time with family is precious and irreplaceable. Nothing makes me truly happier than being with my husband, just laughing and holding a real conversation.
- 7) Breathe.
Here’s to finding ways to have little vacations every day in the midst of the “real world”.