We traveled much of the past summer. Our warm summer days were filled with trips to visit family, a weekend away for my husband’s work, and a family vacation.
Travel is work, but we have the system down – purchasing mix and match outfits to aid in easy packing and child dressing, precision folding to maximize space in our packing cubes and luggage, tidying the house before we leave and stocking the fridge with essentials for our return, and unpacking as soon as we get home to air the luggage and start the exhilarating cycle that is laundry.
I remarked to a friend who understood all too well, that if I had to pack another bag, I’d cry.
Yet two days after returning from our last trip, I was reading about new vacation destinations, studying the district school calendar, and texting an out of town friend about meeting in the middle.
Within two weeks, I had booked another vacation.
Here’s what I know: I’m not very good at living in the right now. In this part.
I love to plan things – travel in particular. The beautiful world around us is always interesting to me and I can endlessly research the ins and outs of seeing it all. Planning all the logistics of trips and laying the groundwork for relaxing, wonderful experiences for my family brings me joy. And the skills required – coordinating complex schedules, finding the best value, researching activities and places, thinking through all the details, and having Plans B, C, and D waiting in the wings – are certainly in my wheelhouse. I’m able to use my talent as a gift to my family.
But when something is on the horizon – a trip, a party, a work project or other large responsibility – I struggle to take my focus from planning for it. I accomplish life’s necessary tasks in the meantime but that thing I’m planning is always in my line of sight, even if just at the edge. We skip entire days of fun and living as I prepare for what is ahead.
And there is always something ahead.
I read something that really struck me. In her book A Million Little Ways, author Emily P. Freeman says the following about showing up for our own lives. “This, right here, is all my life is right now.”
So how can I really live in this part?
Maybe this sounds like you, too? Maybe work deadlines loom, unfinished house projects stare you down, or you’re looking anxiously forward to something you anticipate – or dread.
Here are three practical ways I have been trying to get more life out of my days:
- Schedule life-giving activities on my calendar. For someone that loves to see the world, when I’m home, I just want to see home. I want to clean my kitchen, drink my coffee, do my laundry, and take care of my people. I know, though, that a rich life requires some friendship, fun, and new experiences. So I intentionally add an activity or two to our calendar and keep the appointment. I can’t go wild here, but I know that taking a few hours away from the tasks at hand will add to, not subtract from, our lives.
- Write it all down. I clearly lay out my project tasks and organize them in the order they need to be completed. For a trip, this includes things like decisions to make (are we the only couple that must add discussions about particular things to our to-do list?), necessary shopping and errands, research to complete, reservations to make, and packing. I enter these tasks into the Reminders feature on my phone and set alarms for the timebound ones. This does not need to be fancy or time-consuming. Even making a quick paper list frees your mind from the clutter of constant to-dos.
- Thank God for this part. I praise Him for the everyday tasks and moments spent with my family and friends. This part won’t be here tomorrow (by then, we will have moved on to that part). As we all know, life changes and these moments, for better or worse, won’t ever be the same again. Recognizing that makes me grateful for, and present in, each one.
My kindred friend with the wild travel schedule passed me a handmade gift recently – a beautiful journal with Psalm 118:24 (HCSB) on the cover.
“This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
This part is a gift. This part is all there is right now.