I just returned from a two-week vacation to Ireland, and the truth I learned while I was away surprised me:
I didn’t miss much.
I missed talking to my parents regularly, of course. And I missed my cat, and easy access to my entire cabinet of bathroom supplies and my own bed (because there is really just something right about your own mattress). But there were a lot of other things that, though I had a tough time leaving them initially, I never thought about much once I was away.
While we were off hiking in the mountains and standing on ocean shores and generally enjoying ourselves and God’s creation, life became much smaller and simpler. Our worries were about how to get from point A to point B, or about when or where we might eat lunch, or how to get to that abandoned abbey in the distance. We didn’t check our email eighty times a day. We didn’t fret about work or meetings or bosses. The worries or problems on our minds that seemed huge when we left became negligible once we were away from them; the things that we just had to do seemed much less pressing when we stepped away from our lives for a while.
Here is what became important: laughing. A lot. Giving ourselves the time to figure things out and explore. (“Where does this road go? Should we try it? If we do, it’ll take us half an hour of the way…but hey, who cares?”) Holding hands. Really seeing where we were. Praying. Marveling. Making memories. Resting. Thinking. Communicating with our loved ones. Smiling and making people smile.
It’s not that I want to pretend I had some Eat Pray Love moment and found enlightenment on vacation. I love Ireland (oh, I do, and it is my heart-home), but I love my home life too, and my habits, and my routines and comforts. But leaving everything behind for a while whether it is to go overseas or just to get away for a while locally really throws into sharp relief the things that matter, that move me deeply, that make up the fundamental rhythms of my life.
On a frightening level, I suspect that most of us are just deeply distracted day to day. I know I am, and my time away made it embarrassingly clear. We’re beset with errands and to-do lists and meetings and TV shows and websites and things that we make ourselves believe are necessary and super-important. And we tell ourselves that these things are requirements for our happiness and comfort…and somehow they become noise that fills up the world and takes away our ability to hear clearly.
“I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways,” says the psalmist in Psalm 119:15, and that is only really possible if we give ourselves the space and the silence to do it. What I’ve gleaned from my vacation is not just the joy of being away, but the realization that I need to intentionally make the space in my life for that to happen: to keep a fixed view on what matters and what does not, and let the other things appropriately fall away.