Last month, I went on a road trip by myself. I had never done that before, and I must admit, it was quite relaxing. As I drove into the Colorado mountains, I couldn't help but marvel at the blue skies and the snowcapped peaks. I rolled down the windows and let the wind rush over me, and I felt grateful, happy, and blessed. There's just something about being alone in a beautiful place...God feels nearer somehow.
I drove to Moab, Utah where I met my college roommates so we could run in a race together. They are some of my best friends in the world, and I'm so grateful that we've all stayed in touch despite the fact that we live in different states and are in different stages of life. We stay close through a private blog that only the five of us have access to, and we manage to have a girls' reunion at least once a year.
The trip to Moab was the first time I'd left Noah overnight, and it was harder than I expected it would be. I knew he was in good hands (he was with my sister during the day and Ryan at night), but I missed him immediately, as soon as I drove away from my sister's house. I called her every few hours to check in and see how my little man was doing. Sometimes being a stay-at-home mom can feel tiring, isolating, and frustrating, but this brief time away reminded me how incredibly grateful I am that I get to spend every day with Noah. I had a wonderful weekend with my friends--it was so so good to see them--and when I got home, I was ready to be a stay-at-home mom again. It helped that Noah could not contain his glee when I walked in the door. He was grinning and reaching for me and panting in excitement. When I picked him up, I hugged him close and put his cheek against mine--and then I almost started crying. I was just so happy to see him.
The trip made me think about so many things. On the car ride to Moab, I listened to an essayistic memoir called A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and on the way home, I listened to an epic novel called A Thousand Splendid Suns. Both books made me deeply ponder the world and my place in it.
I don't know quite how to explain A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. It was unlike any book I've ever read in form and even in content. The author, Donald Miller, realizes that, though he's made a career out of writing stories, the life that he's "written" for himself is boring and uncompelling. He is not living a good story. Each chapter introduces a principle of writing meaningful stories and then applies that same principle to living meaningful lives. The book is funny at times, sad at times, and overall very very thought-provoking. It made me want to live deliberately, to set goals and go after them, to consciously choose a meaningful story.
I felt like it came at a good time. I have entered a new chapter in my life, that of motherhood, and I can decide if that story is going to be boring or beautiful. Ryan and I will also have to make decisions about his career in the near future, and I want to choose a story that is going to fill our lives with meaning, not just money. There is soooo much more to life than money.
On the way home, I listened to A Thousand Splendid Suns, a novel which captures the struggles of women in Afghanistan by telling the life stories of two Afghani women. I fell in love with the main characters, and I have thought of them often in the month since I finished the book. Their stories made me so grateful for my life--for my husband, for my freedoms, and for my opportunities. This book was profoundly sad, but it touched my soul. Not an easy read but definitely an important one. It no longer seems like such a big deal when I have to make several trips up and down the apartment stairs to carry in the baby and the groceries, or when I am doing a sink full of dishes for the third time that day, or when my husband isn't home until 11 p.m. because he is on-call at the hospital. I love books and movies that remind me to count my blessings, and this was definitely one of those. I wish it was easier to hold on to my resolutions to be more grateful (I hate to admit that I have complained a time or two about the dishes since reading this book), but I figure the more often I have an experience that reminds me how blessed I am, the more likely I am to permanently internalize that fact. This is one of the many reasons why I love reading.
So from start to finish, my solitary road trip was a good one. I definitely think it should become an annual tradition for me. It gave me time to think and reflect, and I came home with renewed perspective and resolve to treasure each day of the life that God has given me.