Starving for a Break

You know those families who are always trying to keep up? They buy huge unaffordable houses to fill with a plethora of unaffordable objects. They buy comfortable oversized luxuries vehicles only to transport them to school and work because they’re so strapped financially by monthly payments that they cannot afford to wander anywhere else. Life is so STUCK that the individual family members gradually smother each other and themselves in things while they are clueless to the reality that they are all starving for a break from it all. Trying to keep up leaves amazing people feeling completely mediocre every time. We all know these families who are drowning themselves to keep up with the Kardashians, but what about those families who try so desperately to save money and make frugal decisions that they miss out on life as well? What began as good intentioned rational life choices transformed into a group of “no guys” who do not remember how to take chances. They are so busy saying “no” and sitting in their reasonably priced homes on discount furniture eating off brand popcorn and watching free movies that they too are overwhelmed by feelings of mediocrity and starving for a break.
Confession time: my household struggles lean a little more toward the off brand popcorn, free movie scenario described. We try to be mindful of where we spend our money to emphasize the important parts of life (in our opinions): nature and travel. Our time on this planet is short, and my husband and I feel it’s our responsibility to teach our children how to respect the natural gifts we’re given and to always wonder about and explore the world around them. In an effort to begin our children’s worldwide explorations, we’re beginning to plan their first international trip. Next summer, the six of us (because of course our first daughter-Belgian former exchange student-has to join us in our international adventures) will backpack Costa Rica visiting and exploring beautiful rain forests, waterfalls, volcanoes, and beaches. As we’re currently undergoing major career and life transitions, the financially responsible decision for this summer was to stay close to home and focus on the beauties of our home state, but friends, we were starving for a break. Our small home overflowing with emotional distress, fears of change and instability, and typical family stressors was bursting at the seams, and it was worth it to take a short beach vacation.

One of my beautifully complex daughters has been struggling with our adoptive journey in a unique way lately. Her struggles, though so easily empathized, have manifested themselves as manipulative, hateful actions that have left each of us feeling powerless and mediocre. For the past two to three months, every decision or action taken in our home has been dictated by fear of her outbursts, and we have served her a large helping of tough love that hurts me infinitely more than it hurts her. Our little beach escape offered us life’s greatest gift: perspective. We are all on the same team again. We are a whole and healed family who built extravagant sandcastles, danced at sunset, rode waves on an oversized watermelon float, night swam, and even practiced mindfulness in the breaking waves. Taking this break gave us a chance to dust ourselves off and get back up again. My beautifully complex, terrifyingly angry daughter smiled ceaselessly for four days. Her sisters forgot they were resentful of her. I forgot just how exhausted I was by our unique hardships. Most importantly, we took the time to stand in awe of creation much larger than we are and remember that in the midst of our personal storms, the world keeps moving. It’s okay. We’re okay. We may be a mediocre family, but our purpose is far from mediocre.

Balance is such a crucial part of life. Whether you’re a starving college kid, a single young professional, a parent of three, or a retiree, focusing all your attention on work, money, and success is never the answer. I’ve heard it said that even focusing on family too much can be a downfall. I think the importance is in which aspect of family you’re focusing on. I’m somewhere in the middle of these life stages, and we’re also somewhere in the middle of how our household focuses our attention and spends our resources. I am certain we will not survive our personal family hardships if we block ourselves into a trap of mediocrity due to focus on unimportant parts of life.
Friends, take a vacation. If you don’t have time, make time. If you can’t afford it, adjust your standards. Practice yoga on the beach (even if you look crazy). Dance in public (even if you have no rhythm). Eat a double scoop ice cream cone (even if it blows your diet). Leave your phone in the room (even if you have a work deadline). If you never unplug and focus on the people and landscape of your life, what are you working for anyway? If being mediocre means offering my children a balanced life, I choose mediocrity. Just paint the room black. There is a loud beauty within the mediocrity. Find it. Bust the speakers. Never turn it off.

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