Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Where The Heart Is

We're home.

We spent the past two weeks almost entirely off the grid.   This afternoon we slumped into the house, suntanned, tired and more than a little grubby.    I threw the large duffel bag full of smoldering dirty laundry onto the floor, peered into the fridge that contained one piece of hardened cheese and some shriveled strawberries and groaned.

The kids ran to the television and gave it hug.   They haven't watched TV, been on the computer or played a video game for over fourteen days.   

I glanced around, nervously, at the house.   The air felt flat, stuffy and unfamiliar.    Little piles of stuff waited around every corner.  I tried to straighten up as best I could before we left, but I was coming down with a cold that day, my head swimmy with fever, and mostly I just shoved things into corners and fled.

That mental ticker tape that lay dormant in my head for the past two weeks woke up:  I need to go grocery shopping, start the laundry, sort the mail, get to all the backed up jewelry orders, return phone calls. 

And I felt it - an edginess, an itch to run around and get things done, a dizzying feeling that I'm way behind on everything and I'll never catch up.     I felt disconnected, removed, out-of-sorts.    I stood in my kitchen, frozen, wondering where on earth to start.

I idly fingered through the mail - bill, bill, really big bill, reminders for overdue library books, forms to fill out and return, invitations for things that have come and gone.  

It all made me want to lie down and take a nap.   That's what I'd do if I were at the beach camp.    We did a lot of snoozing out there, curled together on the big soft bed, a cool ocean breeze floating through the window.

As I teetered out the door two weeks ago I had a pit in my stomach, wondering how in the world I was going to survive out there without my precious electronics, distractions, long chatty phone calls, blogging and twittering.    I couldn't fathom fourteen whole days together with nothing but mother nature, a few board games and our own selves to keep us entertained.   I thought we'd make it a week and then we'd just come home, desperate to get back at it.

I was wrong.   Blissfully, wonderfully wrong.   

Those things that I feel keep me afloat in day to day life - the computer, television, packing the day full of appointments, playdates and activities - I didn't miss them at all.   

I felt completely untethered - my cell phone battery died and I didn't want to charge it up, because the silent phone was such a relief.     No electricity meant no vacuum cleaner, no dreaded washing machine or dryer.    Things got damp and sandy and we hung them out on the line.    Who needs clean laundry when you live in your bathing suit?     We cleaned off by splashing in the ocean and rinsing in rain water when we got home.  

It was so freeing - my kids looked like little urchins who lived in a sand pit, and it didn't matter one whip.

I don't really want to get back at it, not at all.    I will, of course.   The washing machine is humming away in the background as I type.    I called some friends, got caught up on their lives.   I took Finn to a friend's house for a playdate, went grocery shopping.    

Now it's midnight and I can't sleep, because that nervous chattering in my head won't stop.   My brain, against my will, is ticking through tomorrow, all the things that have to get done, and it's giving me a belly ache.

The thing is, it's not so cut and dry as it feels.  All the fancy bells and whistles of day-to-day life dropped away quickly out there, with barely a thought.     The kids didn't miss the television - not once.   They didn't even use their plastic beach toys.    Each day I'd lug the big bag of toys to the beach and it would sit, untouched, while they scrabbled in the sand with their bare hands, created hermit crab hotels and mermaids out of rocks and seaweed.

There isn't any reason we can't bring some of that magic back here.    It's right under our noses, all the time, but we don't see it because we're distracted by the flashiness of television, the seductive draw of the computer, the desire to distract ourselves from the one thing that matters most:   each other.

Summer, home full time with the kids, is hard.   Without the structure of the school year, the days stretch out seemingly endlessly.   I think back to the first couple of weeks of summer, before we got away, and how I would wake up with a feeling of mild dread thinking:   how are we going to get through today?  I would get kind of panicky, like I had to keep the pace moving because if we stopped we'd all go nuts.

I want to carry the feeling of stillness I felt out there, off the grid, with me over the coming weeks.   We got back to basics and it was amazing.    I want to remember that we have everything we need - more than we need - right here.    I don't need to jam pack each day, running around doing stuff.   Summer is a time of stopping, recharging, taking a deep breath and, gulp, enjoying time together. 

I'm going to try not to cringe when I'm asked, the moment I open my eyes, "what are we going to do today?"

The answer is simple, and it is a blessing:  whatever we want.


  1. When dearest one and I were on holidays last week he often asked me if I wanted to use his laptop and more often than not the answer was no. I did a lot of thinking about what it was that appealed to me being disconnected from my daily life out on the beach. I haven't come up with answers but there was something about that I really really liked.

  2. I know you've said that your weight loss isn't about vanity, but Ellie: YOU LOOK FANTASTIC!!

    And the sunset photo of your and your husband is a total framer. :)