It takes more effort than it ought to to step out of the daily routine. I heard the other day on the news that Americans are taking less of their paid —their earned — vacations than at any time in the last 40 years. Even as studies show that workers who take their vacations are less stressed and are more productive and more likely to be promoted, the majority of Americans skip taking time off.
I’m pretty sure that, left to my own nature, I’d be one of those vacationless people. It seems easier to me to “just keep swimming” day in and day out. There is a comfort in the routine isn’t there. I’m not going to miss anything if I show up everyday. I’m going to look necessary, indispensable, and important by continuing to exist in my normal flight pattern. Parts of me are more nourished by knowing what to expect and not having any surprises pop out at me.
Other parts of me, however, that get lost beneath layer upon layer of day after day of the same. Pretty soon my life looks dull from underneath all of those layers. Dull, but comfortable—comfortable but lackluster.
Early this spring my Man reminded me that the sabbatical from work was approaching. My dull self groaned both inwardly and outwardly. I whined, I avoided any future mention of the topic for months until finally, I was led kicking and screaming into a time out of my comfy lackluster normal.
Our time away was not exactly what you’d call full of glitz and glamor, because really, it was none of that. It quickly became a time in which a different normal reigned in a different environment. I still cooked, laundry still needed tending, children still required raising and yet a deeper nourishment happened in my heart as a result.
Things—everyday things—were clearer and more delightful both while we were away and upon our return. Relationships within our family—the same family I had before leaving town—fit a bit more snugly. My outlook on the coming school year—the same school year I’d been dreading since summer began—seemed to hold fresh promise.
When we are brave enough to step out of normal there is nourishment to be experienced.
Does one need to step out of normal for an entire month like my family did in order to gain such nourishment?
Oh, I hope not.
Since our return things in our world have not been all butterflies and balloons. Our time away was not a cure all for the difficulties of life but goodness, I’m glad to know the benefits of it for I know how it helped us better face the difficulties that we met. I also know that I don’t want to get to the point of my former dullness of mind where I was existing before we stepped away and that I can’t wait another five years to be nourished by that getting away, I can’t even wait until our next vacation rolls around.
I’m determined to weave into the fabric of my weeks opportunities to step away, to give myself fresh perspective, to nourish my normal a little. It means I’m gonna have to be creative and be intentional and be determined because it is so easy to say, “There’s just not time to …” and go flying back to dullness because it’s easier. It also means that knowing how beneficial stepping out of routine once in a while is for me, I need to help others in my world do likewise!
I’ve begun practicing a few ways of stepping out of the regular: let the kids watch a marathon of the Cosby Show on a Saturday while I snuggle up with a book I’ve been eager to devour, declare myself off limits for an hour and grab a bubble bath at the end of a school day, go on a run and be gone for more than an hour, go alone to the library and browse to my heart’s content. My daughter plays the ukulele to step away from her normal and my son shoots basketball or heads to a nearby college campus to run on the track.
See! Nothing glitzy or glamorous but how very much more nourished I am on the other side of these little respites. I think it’s so tempting to think we need to arrange an entire weekend away to shake things up and though a weekend away would surely fill the bill, it’s not awfully practical to do with any regularity. In this case, go big or stay home is just too much effort. I think go purposefully and go often because something is so much better than a dull nothing.
Be creative and think of ways to step out of your normal to refresh and nourish your perspective. It’s worth the effort and it will make you a better worker/parent/church member/student/cook/laundry lady....too!