October 16, 2018
In the last 60 days I've spent only 17 of those nights at home. I'm not sure how these last two months got scheduled as the "away time" of the year, it just happened that way as we made plans through winter and spring for our summer and fall.
After kids were all done camp this summer, we took a family trip working vacation to New Hampshire. Following our family's return, I left on a five day trip with my brother to New Mexico for the Conspire spiritual conference with Richard Rohr.
In September, Damien and I went on a two week backpacking trip (and actual vacation) with my parents on the Long Trail in Vermont. The week after our return, the kids and I were gone for a three night cabin-camping trip with our homeschool community on a beautiful little lake on the border of the Outaouais and Laurentides regions of western Quebec. And finally, last week we were gone for 9 days to Nova Scotia to stay with my parents, another working vacation.
This most recent trip was full of all the usual goodness that is my parent's place including the beautiful view out those windows, the wood burning stove on chilly fall days, stars in the sky at night, owls swooping through the yard, family suppers shared at the big table, and regular hikes by the ocean and through the balsam fir woods. In addition we celebrated Thanksgiving with a traditional Thanksgiving meal (one of my favorite meals), my cousin was visiting from Alberta, I did a university tour with Celine, and had an exciting work week.
I know, how do you squeeze that much good stuff into 9 days?
After two summers of long road trips, the last one ending in a high level of anxiety for me, we weren't planning anything big this year. But even without a long road trip I've managed to spend a good chunk of the last few months traveling. This time without anxiety as an unwelcome travel companion. Hallelujah!
This has been a good year for me on many fronts and I am just so deeply appreciative of this gift.
The gift of a good year.
I was due for one, but aren't we all? I have lived this year with a sense of wonder. I was in a hard place for several years and new hardships would roll in after others settled. But this year has seen a mostly upward trajectory. How did that happen?
Because I'm always anticipating disaster and preparing contingencies (at least mentally) I also wonder when the flip will switch again in my life. When will the next financial crisis hit? The huge loss of some kind, the diagnosis, the accident, the whatever will happen to burst the bubble, when is that coming?
It reminds me of what Brené Brown calls foreboding joy. I don't dwell there, and life has been too full of wonderful things to brood this way, but it does niggle at the back of my consciousness. Like somehow tempering my joy now will help prepare me for the next struggle, difficulty, or hardship that life will inevitably deliver.
And then there's that weird thing we do when sharing our stories with others, "life is great but you know I'm still struggling with x & y" because we worry that other people can't bear our joy during their own trials and tribulations. Which maybe they can't.
Have you noticed that sometimes it's as hard to bear another person's joy as it is their pain and suffering?
I know this is true in my life. You have to grow and develop as a person (beyond some of our selfish, grabby tendencies) to be truly happy for other people's joys and successes while you yourself are in a difficult spot. Parenthood helps with this growth for sure, or at least it shows you what it can feel like to rejoice even when you are in sorrow.
I always want the best for my kids, so I celebrate all the victories, successes, and joys in their life regardless of what's going on for me personally. This has taught me a lot about how to hold contradictory emotions and experiences at the same time. I do it for my kids and I can extend that open heart to others.
But that is all a little tangential to the story.
Last week, while at my parents house I experienced a keen sense of "these are the happy days". There wasn't a feeling of foreboding attached, but definitely an awareness that these moments don't last.
This season of raising and being in close relationship with our teenager/young adult children whose schedules and commitments still allow us to all travel together and spend a week with the grandparents, this is fleeting.
To be with my children, to share a life together was always my number one reason for homeschooling them. Kind of selfish in some ways, because what if they didn't want to be with me? Homeschooling has facilitated developing a very close relationship and doing a lot together.
My people are my favorite people to be with, but they're growing up, as is the natural and right order for things. And every time we still go somewhere together feels significant because of that.
Our trip to New Hampshire this summer carried those same emotions for me, deep gratitude and a keen awareness that this season of family life is coming to an end. I know that the change, kids growing up, is good and right. But man oh man, these are good days.
My traveling season has come to an end as we settle into another year of homeschool co-op and city activities, groups, and communities; some new, some familiar. Another season of family life to live and cherish.
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