I came downstairs that morning huddled up in a sweatshirt. The air was crisp and fresh, even inside the house. It was summer in the mountains and I had escaped the first wave of oppressive heat that hits the low country like a tidal wave, searching for the surface to come up for air. As most know, summer in Charleston packs a wallop, and this year I wasn’t having it.
I shuffled through the house to start the morning coffee, with no agenda attached to the day – just some journaling and maybe a quiet meditation before everyone started stirring, asking what was for breakfast.
My teenage son padded out after me, bleary-eyed and towering a good 8 inches over me. He grew so much this year I almost didn’t recognize him. He took one look at me and said in his hoarse, morning voice “The internet is still down.”
The night before, our sweet little rental cabin on the top of the hill in the middle of the North Carolina mountains had been struck by lightening. We lost power for a while, along with any touch we had with the outside world via the internet. And there were no signs of access to Facebook or Instagram coming back anytime soon since we didn’t even get ell service that far out. We were in a spot so remote that our driveway alone was a mile long. The thought of getting someone out there to fix anything seemed kind of far off….like a pipe dream at 7:00 in the morning on a Saturday.
As the kettle came to a boil, I breathed a semi sigh of relief. No contact. With anyone. Just us.
Magic was real. The universe did have my back.
Let me back up.
Over the past 3 years, I have been barely surviving. I felt like a fish barely under water. I was flailing around under the extreme pressure of life, gasping for air and struggling to find a way back into the cool, clear waters everyone else was floating around in. At 38, I had lost my parents, barely a year apart from one another. Shortly after that, my sister passed away somewhat unexpectedly. I had failed romantic relationships, tense family issues and some financial struggles that almost took me under. In a word, I had hit rock bottom and didn’t know if I was going to make it back out.
I have been through hard times in the past, but never this deep or dark or cold or lonely. I had never danced with despair this way. Each day seemed darker than the next. Each moment, I slipped further into the an abyss I wasn’t even sure had an exit ramp or an off switch.
So, I did the only thing I knew how to do. I unplugged from the world. I shed what didn’t serve me. I walked away from the familiar. And I got in touch with myself. I did the repair work on my crumbling foundation. I went to work on the mechanics of my life. I took myself down to the studs – stripped bare of anything that could pull me under any further. Slowly, brick by brick. Stone by stone. I rebuilt myself.
I did it by journalling. By reading. By exercising and taking precious care of myself. Each day, I continued to show up, just for me and nothing else. I went and cried in yoga and on the beach. I poured my heart out in therapy. I walked. I ate healthy food. I meditated. I healed. Slowly but surely, found the way out.
My little family and I went to the mountains for 3 weeks this summer. I chose that trip because I knew we needed it – we needed time together. And I needed time to myself. Time to regroup and recharge. Time to unplug. Time for me. I spent precious time with my teenage son who I seem to be losing a little more each day. I planned out long and gentle walks with my sweet, aging dogs. I spent lovely moments lingering over long meals with my supportive family and friends.
I needed this time away from distraction and obligation… and heat. I needed time to remember who I was and what I had come through…and most importantly what I was leaving behind. I needed time to plan where I was headed. The only way I knew how to do it was to unplug and surrounded myself by the trees and the water and the fresh air and all the other things I love.
So what I learned most on this trip – you need to power down to recharge. You need to unplug to reboot. I learned that this winter over my long walks on the beach each morning. I learned it while I was journaling and exercising and just plain old showing up for myself. And I saw it first hand as my son and I walked together those crisp cool mornings with the dogs sniffing for groundhogs and squirrels near our feet as we wandered through life just happy to be together.