In keeping with the theme of how we #momsohard from last week, I want to talk about outlets. I’ve heard from so many of you that the only thing that kept them sane during the baby years was x, y, z….They have an outlet. Whether it’s exercise, shopping, reading, hiking, music, painting – everyone seems to know what they need to do to feel like themselves. To return to the person God created them to be. To escape, feel free, to be centered again.
A dear friend asked me about a month ago what I do for me. When life gets crazy, how do I escape? For her, it was taking herself to the mountains and hiking. She and her husband were working out a schedule where this could become a regular occurrence. When she asked me, I was stumped, truly. I thought about her question for days. We know my husband needs a certain amount of alone time to go to a movie to escape. This friend needed a certain amount of freedom to be able to leave her kids with her husband and go into the mountains. What did I need? What was life-giving to me and regularly attainable?
I think I was born a bargain shopper. Like, I probably came out of the womb looking for a really good deal on stuff I don’t need. It’s truly an addiction. So when I was asked what I do for me, my first thought was, “I go shopping!” Here in the Mile High, Goodwill stores have 50% off days at least twice a month. It sends my bargain drive into overdrive. I’ve only recently been able to harness that into actually making money for our family, instead of just continuing to fill our house with junk (although, mind you, there is still an enormous amount of junk I bring home because hey – fifty percent off!). But was what I do life-giving? Or was it actually just masking my insecurities about not working, not contributing to the household under a thin (worn) veneer of stuff? I used to come home from those shopping marathons loaded down with bags of baby clothes that needed to be washed, toys that needed to be cleaned and clothes that didn’t fit my husband and needed to be returned. What I was doing was actually just contributing to the busyness and clutter of my life.
So, I kept thinking. What actually leaves me feeling good about how I spent my time – well after the high of a dirt-cheap tricycle has worn off? What I am finding is that I most feel me, I most feel free, I mostly need time alone to process. This comes in two main forms: writing and driving and listening to music (…and now I sound like a 90s emo kid).
When I worked at my first big girl job, I was in a small town outside of Raleigh, NC. The surrounding area was perfect for summer evening drives on winding roads with the windows down and the music UP. I would drive and drive (until I hit a deer in my dad’s car, and then the drives were a bit more cautious) and I would crank my favorite songs up and sing loudly. I LOVED IT. I always did such good thinking and processing with the poetic words of my favorite songs playing loudly. Then, I’d go back to my little 3rd floor apartment that felt like a treehouse and I’d write. I’d think and process and get it all out. And once the music helped me sort through what I was thinking and feeling, and once my words helped me nail down how to handle life and speak truth to myself – I was good. I was in touch with who I felt like God was shaping me to be. I was aware of the issues in my heart and had a healthy way of working through them.
Now that we live in a big city and have three kids, those opportunities for long country drives with the music loud have become few and far between. Between traffic and stop lights and children telling me, “I don’t wike dat song! Dat too woud!” I rarely get the time to drive and sing and pray. I don’t write, because it’s harder work to think through my thoughts on a deadline of “Everyone will be awake in 45 minutes so DO IT! Write! Get it out!” It just doesn’t work.
This week, my dear husband has encouraged me to take a “mommy sabbatical.” He gave me “homework” of things he wants me to read, but the rest of the time is mine. I’m driving alone in the mountains. I’m singing lots to our littlest (who is vacay-ing with me). I’m thinking and processing and writing. And it’s so good for the soul.
So, friends, what do YOU do for you? What are your outlets?