I was sitting at the shore of Bowman Lake in Glacier National Park, my toes dancing across the top of the glassy water making small ripples against its surface. My husband and children were off to the side of me, sorting through pebbles looking for the perfect skipping rocks. Their playful voices broke through what would otherwise be the silence of the woods – a sound that includes a whistle of the wind and far-off chirps from mountain songbirds that I know nothing about.
I took a slow breath.
In. Out. – deep enough to fill my lungs and my gut.
My body and mind were both desperate for a break. I’d caught COVID-19 on the plane, although on this day I hadn’t realized that yet. I just knew that my face was hot, my heart was beating faster than it should, and brain fog clouded my mind. I needed to slow down.
I picked up my camera and snapped pictures of the mountains across the shoreline and of the kids playing at the water’s edge. I rubbed my temples, looking for clarity, trying to push the murky brain fog away. I spent an entire year planning this vacation, dreaming of this very moment. Yet, I didn’t feel at peace.
The kids had found their skipping stones. I watched as they flitted across the water. Some made a smooth skid across the surface, while others sank instantly with a loud plop or glug. I smiled watching their Daddy help them figure out different techniques. He’s always patient with them. Meanwhile, I always feel the need to get up and go. I’m always rushed, always searching for something, always saying yes to someone. Here we were at this beautiful lake. Alone. In nature. Exactly where I want to be. And I’m thinking about where else I should be.
It took me several more deep breaths before I started to relax. I gave up the fight against my mind and took in the sensations that surrounded me:
- The numbness of icy cold water against my sore feet,
- The therapeutic grit of sandy mud against hard pebbles,
- The calming sound of short waves lapping against the shoreline,
- Crispness in the air from the gentle lakeshore breeze that dried my sweat,
- The tickling of an occasional ant or fly as it crawled across my skin,
- The high-pitched voices of my children,
- Birds and insects create a white noise background,
- The occasional distant voice of other humans enjoying the same experience further down the shoreline.
Nature was feeding me what I so desperately craved. It took several minutes, but eventually, I started to feel full. I’d been malnourished, not in the belly, but in the soul.
I spent the next couple of weeks relishing the freedom of the mountains. I appreciated my time off-grid with myself and my family. I’m a compulsive planner and a compulsive doer. Every time I start to slow down and my life stops feeling so crazy, I pick up another project.
That’s the life of a mom, right? Always busy. Always on the go. Always overcommitting to the point where I’m constantly feeling rushed and stressed and underappreciated.
There I was sitting at this gorgeous lake at the base of these even more beautiful mountains not doing anything. It felt glorious!
I made a commitment to myself then and there that I must stop over-committing. I shouldn’t keep taking on more projects just because I can. I push myself to say “yes” to everything that comes my way, to tackle life head-on because – well – life is supposed to be hard, right? I have a full-time job and then several freelance jobs and then passion projects. Both of my kids have extracurricular activities. I have a husband whom I adore and who seems to still adore me. I have a household to take care of and bills to pay. I tend to a garden in my backyard, dabble with photography, volunteer when I can, and somehow find time for the gym twice a week for so-called “self-care.” Oh, yes, and I pushed for us to adopt a puppy right before the first week of school. All of these things keep my heart pumping and my mind racing. We are all happy, healthy, and I feel truly blessed. But…
We, as moms, do not have to overcommit ourselves in order to keep our train on the tracks. The hours spent skipping rocks this summer showed me that sometimes we need to slow down.
It is ok to say no to the PTA mom. It is ok to say no to a freelance project, even if it means extra income for the family. It’s ok to not bake the cake for the fundraiser bake sale. When we try to do it all, that’s when we start to feel like we’re doing nothing at all.
Time is the only truly valuable thing we possess.
That’s why I am making one last big commitment to myself. Stop over-committing. Spend more time watching children skip rocks.