We leave Saturday for Wisconsin. This won't be a quick trip up to see family, but a longer affair. We'll stop in Milwaukee for lunch with the in-laws and then keep driving another few hours to Fish Creek. From what I've read, Fish Creek is a quiet little town on the Door County peninsula that juts out between Lake Michigan and Green Bay. I imagine spring will just be getting ready to arrive there. Instead of the gradual transition to sandals and sundresses, our wardrobes will revert to layers of long sleeves and light jackets, maybe even hats and gloves. I also imagine quiet - birds chirping, trees swaying, neighbors out of sight and sound distance.
This trip isn't exactly a sabbatical since no one in my family is a college professor, but it is a much needed break from the regular routine of our daily lives. It's a chance for us to be together and experience life in a small town, surrounded by nature in a way we don't get here in Nashville. It's an opportunity to combat the loneliness that the busyness of daily life brings. I hope it will be a time of rest, relaxation and exploring.
After I wrote my last post, I was talking with a (highly efficient and productive) friend and I asked her how she manages to do so much and not feel lonely in the doing. She asked me what makes me feel most connected: "When do you feel the opposite of lonely? What does that look like for you?" I didn't answer right then since the conversation moved on without requiring an immediate response. But I pondered it for days until realizing that when I feel least lonely is when I have time alone for quiet, time alone with God, time to connect with my own soul. This is why work can leave me feeling isolated and alone - because I feel disconnected from my soul - split apart inside into the real me and the one who is getting the work done.
At a certain point, I do need interaction with other people to not feel lonely, but I think what I've been experiencing lately has not been a social loneliness so much as a soul loneliness. I interact with people quite a bit in the work that I do. I just haven't had space or time for soul care over the last few weeks.
I am hopeful that will change starting Saturday.
We don't have much planned for our time away - that's sort of the point. My only firm plans right now are for the girls to make their own breakfast every morning, so that I can have an hour or two of quiet time before joining them in whatever our day will hold. Beyond that, I hope for walks in the woods, swims at the nearby YMCA, explorations in the parks nearby and visits to some of the lighthouses in the area.
Last night, we enjoyed a fire on our back patio. As we sat there, I asked the girls what they were most looking forward to about this trip. My middle daughter (who is so different, yet so like me) said she is looking forward to days where she doesn't have to go anywhere at all, days when she can stay in her pajamas all day long, days where there are no scheduled activities. We seem to be on the same page, she and I.
The irony of time away from home to cure loneliness and burnout is that we will miss out on things. My evite inbox already holds five events someone in our family has had to decline regretfully. There will be other things we'll miss - a friend's dance recital, the run of a play we'd like to see, birthday parties and casual dinners with friends. But my hope and prayer is that this time away will leave us better equipped to love, serve and engage with our friends when we return. I hope we will come back with stories to tell, pictures to share and hearts that are full after feasting on rest.
I nearly ended this blog post right there. But I would be telling only half the story if I did not mention that I am also afraid of the next month. Afraid of unmet expectations. Afraid of bored children. Afraid of feeling unworthy of this respite. Fear and shame have swirled around in my heart in recent days as I have asked myself over and over, "What was I thinking?!" There is much to be done before leaving early Saturday morning. Beyond the actual trip preparations like packing and cleaning, there are e-mails to be sent, schedules to be set, meetings to be attended and arranged. I feel so overwhelmed that I have been trying to take it one hour at a time since a full day at a time seems daunting.
But I keep coming back to the idea that I am thirsty - for rest, for God, for something more than my everyday life affords. And I get the sense that this thirst is one I should tend to - one that was given to me as a gift. I enter this sabbatical time fearful and excited in equal parts, yet hopeful that this time away together will change us all in ways we can't anticipate from this side of the adventure.