This weekend I made the intentional (and what many would say extremely selfish) decision to not go away with my family to one of the most magical places on earth. I intentionally decided to hang back, to be alone. Because I simply could not go.
Actually I could go…but I really didn’t want to.
(Insert Jim Gaffigan’s voice here) How can she do that? How can she be so selfish to miss out on Family Camp at Windy Gap? She will miss out on the horse rides, ropes course, music, skits and games. Won’t her husband the be Lone Ranger in the hoe down? (Louder and more high pitched:) Doesn’t she know her kids NEED her? Doesn’t she know her children live for this weekend each year? Shouldn’t she choose another weekend to be so selfish? Why? Why would you not go with your family to family camp this weekend? Why?
Because I need a time out.
Did you ever put your kid in time out because you needed one? Who knows what might have happened if you hadn’t put him in time out? A few minutes more without the time out and the neighbors would be bringing social services to your front door?
What appeared to be punishment for the child was actually for their protection.
(No? Just me then.)
I absolutely could have gone to the mountains of North Carolina this weekend. I would have laughed and run and tumbled with my children. I would have belted Brown-Eyed Girl with the best of them. I would have waved at my boys beaming as they marched their ponies around the stables. I would have sincerely smiled and laughed and been swept away at the magic of the moment and the tender touches of God in that place. I would have soaked in the scenery and Love that wraps around Windy Gap.
And we would have come home. And I would still be sick inside.
Will this weekend of solitude heal me? Will I be well within 72 hours?
Not fully…but if not now, when?
This is what I think we do: We think we will get better. Or it isn’t a good time for a time out– so we stuff it. We keep putting one foot in front of the other and put on a good face. We pretend. We shop too much or drink too much or watch too much TV. We work on controlling all the things. The housework…we can conquer the dust and the dishes. We can control our food…or our length of our runs. Worse, we control our husbands and our children and somehow our world feels more manageable.
Rarely do we admit we need a time out.
We need to sit and reflect and be alone with our thoughts. We need to weep and pray. We need to be angry or confused or whatever we are feeling. We need to write or read. We need to get unstuck from whatever is sticking us. And often we have stuffed things for so long we don’t even know what that thing is?
This morning I sat with an old friend* discussing grief. He sat in the wing-backed chair across the room smoking his pipe saying really intelligent and heart-gripping things.
He told me how he had been angry too. He wondered if God was a “cosmic sadist, or a spiteful imbecile?” He continued, “Jenni, the conclusion I dread is not, ‘So there’s no God after all,’ but, ‘So this is what God’s really like. Deceive yourself no longer.'” You mean I am not the only one thinking these thoughts? Fighting, wrestling, and doubting the goodness of God?
His words washed over me. He made me feel normal. Sane. I laughed out loud…I nodded and, “mmmhmmed” a lot. And I closed my eyes, exhaled, and thanked God I was in time out. That my children were laughing and jumping and singing and I was listening and learning and sitting with my mentors** at a time when I needed it most.
I am starting to feel the color return to my soul.
Here’s what didn’t happen: While my pipe-smoking mentor was mid-sentence, a loud burst from the other room interrupted his sentiment. The sound (now capturing the moment) was either a lamp crashing or a child being flung to the floor. Loud screams following with arguing about whose fault it was–and what was supposed to be 30 simple minutes of quiet time has now become a referee match for mom. Today, this didn’t happen.
Because I am in time out. And we are all better for it.
Your time out may look different from mine. It may not look like solitude with your favorite authors, a journal, and the ocean. It may look like a weekend away with a few girlfriends to reflect and be real. It may look like a women’s retreat…or an overnight with your hubby. It may look like a coffee shop for 2 hours on Tuesday. It may look like a long 3 hour run. Or it may look like a visit to your favorite counselor next week.
We don’t do this enough. We rarely give ourselves permission to take a time out.
On paper I could not have chosen a more inopportune (and public) time to take my time out. By most standards I look like a pretty bad mom. No mommy of the year awards are being won with this decision. I can still hear my daughter’s sweet voice in my ears, “But it is family camp?!” Haunting words. Bad mom abandoning daughter…sending her solo to do family camp with only the men in her life. Words that keep you tied to the alternative: thrust into the unhealthy lie, “I’m fine, I can do this.” Or, “I should do this, my family needs me.”
When in fact you are not fine–you are not super woman.
I am sure that pushing through would have produced a lovely memorable weekend with my family. We would have laughed and played and I would have convinced myself how glad I was to go and not miss out on the adventure. But a more honest and unhealthy long term family portrait would still be hanging in the hall.
We are not super heroes or robots. Sometimes we need to take a time out.
Give yourself grace. Give yourself a time out if you need it.
From one mess of a mom to another,
*C.S. Lewis (A Grief Observed)
**Anne Lamott, Lilias Trotter, Lloyd Ogilvie, and Andy Stanley