It’s been one of those un-Instagram-worthy years. The kind that makes you want to grab a thick eraser and make all the bad parts disappear: the lack of the sleep, the constant illness, the family struggles, the financial challenges, the miscarriage . . . the pain.
But I didn’t have an eraser. Instead, I was trying to deal with nearly 12 months of personal struggles while in the basement of a house that was not my own, attempting to wrestle my negative thoughts without my quiet, introverted mornings. And I had no idea how to cope.
Emotions were weaving too quickly, and every blessings seemed cursed from underneath. I was confused and hurt, and unsure of how to keep making the best of every day while I grasped for any minute to recharge in peace.
But my 18-month-old daughter is the love of my life, and her daddy is the husband I’ve always wanted and needed. So when the walls start to cave in, and my life gets too “people-y”, and I can’t get enough controlled self-reflection in our little, no-door basement bedroom . . .
I pack my bag for the night, filled with journals, books, and a bag of cherry Twizzlers and, with my husband’s blessing, I head to the city for a ridiculously cheap online hotel deal and leave my little family behind.
The first time, I was embarrassed and ashamed, telling no one. I had never heard of any mom taking “self-care” to such levels. Who would leave her baby and husband behind? Who would shirk her call of motherhood? For a night of sleep alone? A long morning at a coffee shop? An uninterrupted marathon of House Hunters International and Chinese takeout?
Me. I would. And it was like the first breath of fresh air in months.
I missed the warm body of my husband next to me in bed. I constantly checked my baby sleeping on the monitor and whispered good night. I craved the familiarity of my own room.
But I needed this.
Too much had happened, and too much of my life was intertwined with one another, that I could no longer stop, reflect, and process the hurt and pain that seemed to keep resurfacing, week after week. There was no one in my life to hold blame, and nothing but people around me who wanted the best for our family . . . but I could no longer breathe between the visits and the struggling relationships and the short nights of sleep.
So when I left, I grabbed those 24 hours with both hands, and made the most of every minute.
I walked idly through a bookstore with a coffee in my hand. I wrote out all the questions and fears and struggles I simply couldn’t in a house full of people. I read fiction just because I enjoyed it. I took a shower as long as I wanted, and took time to dry my hair afterward. I cried thinking about my family and lost little one, praying and talking with God in a way I hadn’t been able to in the months before. I slept in, and lay still while the sun came up and warmed the bedroom.
I starting hoping again, looking forward to the next day, the next year, leaving all the mess and pain behind me, as much as I could. I felt freedom without unspoken obligations and etiquette.
And then I came home.
I hugged my daughter so tightly, she squealed; I kissed my husband so passionately, I never wanted to stop; and I went back to the cleaning, and the laundry, and the cooking in another wonderful woman’s kitchen.
I wasn’t “fixed” and I certainly wasn’t suddenly all joy and hope and rainbows. But I was refreshed and at peace for at least another short while until, a few months later, I needed to breathe deeply yet again.
I did what mothers shouldn’t do, and spent money on a seemingly unnecessary evening, away from my family. But I know God gave me this unusual gift of one night, to start to sort out things that wouldn’t leave my spirit alone, and I was a better wife and mother for it.
I’ve made this little escape now a couple of times; I keep hoping that each will be the last and that instead, I can be in our own little home with our own growing family. And with faith in the One who makes that possible. I know that one day, it will.
But until then, I’ll take His peace where I can, and leave. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.