Thursday, June 16, 2011

Abandoned to Joy

As I watch my children play on our vacation in Hawaii, I'm so touched by their sheer abandonment to the joy of new experiences.  They give their whole attention to just enjoying the moment.  Baby sister tries to scoop handfuls of pebbly, gritty sand into her mouth just to see how it feels on her gums.  She splashes the same toy over and over in a bucket of water to hear the sound and feel the cold water.  Big sister swims, actually swims, not wades, in the ocean for the first time.  She convinces dad to rent a kayak (which she calls "my row boat") and spends a couple of hours laughing on the bow and saying "yo ho ho" pretending she's a pirate in Neverland.  And, she tells her new bff, a server at our first hotel who was really kind to her several days in a row, "I love you" and gives her a huge hug.  Really meaning it with her little heart.

As their mother, I'm happy they have this ability to just live in the moment, lavishly love others, and relish their surroundings.  At the same time, I can't help but contrast it with my adult view of the same situations.  I've been thinking recently of how my mind is always racing.  I know some people who experience this have trouble sleeping and lay there at night thinking.  I've been blessed with the ability to fall asleep quickly most of the time.  For me, the mind racing thing happens when I wish I was able to just be.  Like my kids.  I tell myself that I'm going to just sit on a chair and look at the ocean for ten minutes and then I start wondering if I forgot my cousin's birthday, trying to decide whether I should bring a meal to a friend at church the day after we get home, thinking about how I'm going to sleep train baby girl (again!) when we get home, what we need from the grocery store, if spf 30 is enough for baby girl, mulling over the secret plans I'm making for our 10th anniversary.

This kind of thinking isn't contemplative or reflective; it's the ordinary junk that I turn over and over in my mind.  Time to just be and just think isn't in great abundance with two little kids.  This morning I stopped in the middle of my run, borrowed a pen from a stranger, and jotted down this:

Why isn't there more in my life?  What do I not want to think about or face in myself?  Why on vacation do I still look at my watch and hurry to the next thing?  Why do I feel like I don't deserve an hour do to nothing by myself?

Maybe because even though it's a vacation version, my mental to do list is on a looped track:  reapply sunscreen, change the baby's diaper, refill the sippy cups, do a load of laundry, clean up the toys, reapply sunscreen, give the kids a bath, make sure they have snacks, make sure they drink enough water, put them down for a nap, take them to the pool so they're tired enough to go to sleep tonight after those naps, reapply sunscreen, fish something out of the baby's mouth, remind big sister to stop putting things in her mouth, remind big sister to go to the potty, make dinner, do the dishes, make sure everyone has clean pjs and baths and sippy cups of water and their favorite stuffed animal and white noise and a dark room and that the sheets don't smell funny and that there aren't monsters in the closets or under the beds . . . no wonder I fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.  But only until I have to get up in 2 hours with my teething 10 month old who won't sleep.

It's a work in progress, but I'm trying to learn from my kids and add "let it go, enjoy yourself more, be abandoned to joy" to that list of things to do.  I think I'm going to send myself a postcard with those words so I can remember to take my vacation lesson and apply it to regular life when we get home.


  1. Those photos make me happy.

    "My mental to do list is on a looped track..." So true. In fact, I think I often just switch one loop for another when I try to interrupt the cycle. But as you're saying, it is a habit that can be broken.

  2. The key is to catch yourself when you're in that mental loop and say --Aha!--and then realize you don't have to be in that loop. Cute pictures! Glad you at least have some lovely scenery to do your thinking in.

  3. I have the opposite problem! I can't seem to get the loop started. So I'm consistently late, forget stuff all the time, and am always behind on the housework. Let's meet somewhere in the middle! =)

    By the way, I don't think I've told you lately how much I enjoy your blog--and your recipes.

  4. Kids have a great ability to "return to joy"... one of the most prominent themes in psychology and mental health. If we can train ourselves to return to joy (by God's grace), we can make it through anything! And Bec, the list of things you mentioned... that list compiles your vocation... your labor as a means of grace. I am reminded of a favorite quote from Henri Nouwen... "Becoming God's beloved is pulling the truth revealed to me from above down into the ordinariness of what I am, what I am thinking of, talking about and doing from hour to hour." Enjoy the rest of your vacation!

  5. LOVE the first photo! I can safely say, that I mirror all of your thoughts, and the inability to stop thinking of all need to do while simultaneously doing another x,y and z makes me always overwhelmed, and I often have a tough time going to sleep! I need to re-sleep train too:( After our big vaca in July... -annelies

  6. Rebecca - your words make me smile, then weep. I've been laying in bed this morning wondering what happened to the days when summer Tuesdays meant all of us hopping in the van and heading to the beach? On those days I watched you embrace life with abandonded joy with your siblings splashing in waves and wondered why I was caught in the loop you describe. Now its your turn. Blink twice and you'll find yourself waking up alone, surprised to find its a summer Tuesday and there's a Honda parked where the van used to be, no summer sugar cereal in the cupboard and a whole new loop to spin in today. But the beauty of it is you will also find that your investment of today will result in beautiful adult children who are your best friends, and the spf worries, the unrestful vacations, the endless lists and chasing in circles, all pay off in huge quantities of love. Life . . . it happens.

  7. Wow Bec...I just discovered your blog. In addition to the amazing recipes here, it is so great to chart your life! Love the thoughts, insight and lessons you're learning.
    I have to say that out of the many parents I have come across in my life, you and Johnathan are one set I have a lot of respect for. Thanks for your example! =)