As we have stumbled through these frigid, snowy, obscenely cold days of January and February, perhaps you have held onto some new year’s resolutions to become a kinder, thinner, healthier version of yourself. I love setting goals, and I spend my professional life trying to help people move toward personal goals for change. And although I have a slew of things I’d like to work on, I don’t want to get so busy striving, accomplishing, completing, finishing, and improving that I miss out on living, enjoying, resting and being.
Between my book release and a variety of family and personal obligations, the first two months of 2014 have been exciting, but also exhausting and chaotic. They have also reminded me of my desire for 2014 to be a year of traveling light.
Last December, Jeff and I flew to Houston to celebrate the birthday of a dear friend. We continuously marveled at how easy it was to travel without our kids. We sped through the airport with only carry-on suitcases. No backpacks crammed with portable DVD players and crayons and books. No sippee cups or bottles or snacks. No babies in diapers or toddlers who forget to pee unless asked repeatedly and even then have accidents in the most inopportune moments. No complaining or whining or questions. No messing with car seats or strollers. No back pain from hauling multiple children and all their stuff from place to place.
It was just us, and we were – actually, physically – traveling light.
I love the whole metaphor of traveling light, but living that reality is difficult. And although a weekend away makes it feel easier, traveling light isn’t really about leaving the kids behind any more than it’s about quitting a stressful job or cutting off a challenging relationship.
Traveling light doesn’t mean throwing aside the hard stuff in my life. Rather, it’s about learning to live in those places without being buried under them. To live with a lightness in my attitude that acknowledges the darkness within myself and others, but fiercely searches for the gentle, the humor, the tenderness and the silly.
I want to be able to do things spontaneously in my personal or professional life without getting completely stressed out by the whole process of shifting gears. I want to be patient with my kids instead of feeling rushed and irritated at their slowness, their mess, their kid-ness. I want to use a calm voice instead of an angry one. And I want it to be because I actually feel calm inside, not just because I’m using my “I’m a good mom and look how patient I’m being in this teachable moment” voice.
A few years ago I ran a half-marathon with Team in Training. I had never been a distance runner, and a group of us trained together for several months in preparation. Over Saturday morning long runs we got to know each other, both in personality and running style. One of my teammates, Shelley, was a natural athlete and a much faster runner than me. On race day, however, she had to make a pitstop in the first mile that slowed her down. Consequently (and unbeknownst to me) she ended up running behind me for the first several miles of the race.
Somewhere between miles 8 and 10 I started dragging. Wondering if I could really, actually do this thing. And suddenly, Shelley whizzed past me. I didn’t expect to see her until the finish line, and it was an unexpected gift. As I watched her fly by, I was immediately struck by Shelley’s light and easy stride. She didn’t look like a runner who was frantically trying to make up lost time; instead, she looked easy and relaxed, like she was out for an afternoon job.
“She is running light,” I thought to myself. And I immediately realized what I was doing wrong. Heavy feet, heavy breathing, eyes on the ground, doubting thoughts. “Look up,” I said to myself. “Watch Shelly. Run light. Breathe. Run light.” And I did. And it made all the difference.
When I crossed that finish line, it was one of my proudest moments. Some of those 13.1 miles were exhilarating, easy and fun. Others were painful, exhausting and boring. But running light got me through it.
As meaningful as it was to complete that race, how much more do I want to cross the finish line of this year (this season, this experience, etc) with pride in my relationships, my work, my marriage and my parenting?
I want to travel light – not by leaving the hard things behind, but by loosening my grip on control, breathing through the pain, and really learning over and over again what it means to pray.
I want to travel light.
What about you? What does traveling light mean for you?
Remember to check out my latest book, Things Your Mother Never Told You. Sarah Bessey, author of Jesus Feminist, calls Things Your Mother Never Told You, “Redemptive, wise, practical, honest and tender.”
And if you’re close to Chattanooga, you are invited to my book release party next Wednesday, March 5 at The Camp House at 7 pm, with special guests Lisa Williams of Living Water for Girls, Eric Peters and Charity Lusk-Muse. Desserts provided and drinks available at the coffee bar. Hope to see you there!