As I sit looking down at my flight information, I can’t help but to smile and breathe in a huge heaping sigh of relief. Finally, I am getting away from it all. Not just from the hustle of working late night hours at my part-time job in Manhattan, but away from my other, full time on-call job as well. In a few weeks, and for the first time in several years, a group of five other women and I who, as luck would have it, are my sisters in life, love, struggle and birth, will become ladies of pure unadulterated leisure, even if only for a week or in my case two.
The six lettered confirmation code beams up at me as if they are lights at the end of a very long, tunnel.
You see, almost twelve years ago I had freely and with complete joy and understanding of the mountainous job at hand, chosen to become executive assistant, personal chef, travel planner, chauffeur, playmate, educator, nurse and maid to two of the most powerful beings in the world: My children.
The last few weeks of school for my boys, ages six and eleven, had been chock full of testing, graduations, picnics, potlucks, end of school trips, the practicing of plays and presentations, family breakfast, family picnic, and family night. This was all on top of preparing my fifth grade son for his new sixth grade middle school which meant sweating through several hours of orientation in a non air conditioned cafeteria listening to forty students pick, strum and bang their way through a rendition of something vaguely resembling a Beatles song. By the time report card pick-up came, I was spent, done, fried and exhausted beyond belief.
My sigh was tempered by the fact that I still had to arrange their summer schedule of play dates, outings and necessary at home lessons in guitar, piano and Spanish. If not me then who? For, as supportive and helpful as their father is and has come to be, there is no way he can handle the managing of his children on his own right?
This is what I had begun to believe about him and myself. I had become accustomed to mentally patting myself on the back for being a martyr of sorts, for having patience and perseverance to do that which women have been doing for millennia. I’d been so proud of my sacrifices in the name of motherhood. So proud to say I’d driven myself to near exhaustion, putting aside my own needs of nurture, peace and joy for that of my job and my children.
I had to face the fact that I was quietly becoming resentful, irritable and more of a weakened support for them, myself and everyone around me.
This trip represented a choice to give myself love and allow others to step up and take up a bit more of the responsibility. Choosing to put down the weight of the world, no matter how much beloved, felt really good.
And I was not alone. Across the country, my sisters were doing the same. Three out of the six of us were parents to school aged children. Two of us married, two in committed relationships. One, at the age of forty two, was a grandmother of two. One was an educator and Vice Principal at the middle school we attended so many years ago on the south side of Chicago. And finally, the one woman whose home we would be enjoying, though single and without children was considered amongst her friends as the constant provider, care giver and mentor, a guide, a mother, goddess and friend who needed to take time for herself as well.
So though we were using her place as something of a refuge for peace and rejuvenation, we had all decided to be self sufficient and not allow her the need to be tireless hostess during our stay.
Reigning from NYC, Chicago, Louisiana, and Texas, we had planned this trip months in advance, saved for tickets, arranged travel dates all done over email and two and three way phone calls, some in the afternoon when the kids were in school, after or before work, but most took place after my boys were tucked into their beds.
It all seemed very covert to me, as if saying it out loud would tempt the Universe to rain down chicken pox, 104 degree fevers or a series of broken bones or sprains that meant I would not be able to make my great escape.
We text messaged the countdown to the very last minute.
Anyone listening in may have thought that this was our first vacation together but it was not. Our family, which spans across the globe, is know for large gatherings, family reunion cruises and oversized barbecues, birthdays and holidays. No, us getting together was no different except for a few strict rules: absolutely no children, spouses or partners allowed!
I am still in awe that we managed to pull it off, still shocked that we actually made it.
Arriving at my eldest sister’s one bedroom cottage in Los Angeles we all lay down our hard earned titles of responsibility.
Sleeping on couches, air beds and such, we begin the task of awakening to our selves as individuals.
We laugh freely and uninterrupted on our sister’s deck invoking forgotten dreams, manifesting intentions to care more deeply for our own inner children. We light candles and talk about the joys of life. We drink wine over rarely enjoyed hot meals prepared by whomever feels like cooking. There is no pressure, no schedule to keep, no obligation to anyone other than ourselves. We sleep till we have had our fill, we walk the beaches at sunset and or sundown, sometimes hand in hand, sometimes alone, but always with a sense of peace.
Phone calls home become less and less fraught with stress and worry and are replaced with feelings of love and calm. Our carefully built support systems of spouses, partners, family and friends are doing just fine without us.
What a magnificent revelation for us all. And through that realization, we remember to trust the structures we have built for ourselves over the years. We began to remember that we do not have to do it all alone. And by the time we leave one by one to return to our homesteads it is with new found joy and renewal.
I myself, returned home to the chaos of two wild boys, three dogs and multiple bills to pay. The hectic pace of my life has not changed one bit and the transition back to “mommy” is daunting at first, but then I remember that feeling of calm, those moments of peace and I can’t help but smile. And though it’s only been a week since I’ve been back, I make sure everyday to take a few moments in the morning before the boys awake or in the evenings after they go to sleep for myself. Knowing that taking care of myself is the best way to have the strength to care of them. Speaking to my ever busy warrior sisters across the miles, I hear that same sentiment echoed back at me. Needless to say among all the other things going on in our lives, we are already planning for next years retreat, a time-out of sorts to nurture and water our roots so that the tree of our lives remains happy, healthy and strong.
Damasa Perry Doyle
Damasa Doyle, previously a columnist for Complex Magazine, is a creator, writer, and working mom. She resides in Brooklyn, New York with her two children.