A few weeks ago, I enjoyed an incredibly romantic vacation in San Juan del Cabo with my husband. We were on a kid-free trip, celebrating our ten-year anniversary and had set the intention of planning a new chapter in our marriage.
Each morning, we would wake up at 5am and take our coffee down to the beach. There, we would sit in the sand until the sun rose and the sky turned from inky black to shades of cotton candy pink and creamsicle orange. As my husband practiced yoga, I would meditate and watch the world slowly come alive—crabs emerging with curiosity from their labyrinth beneath the sand and birds swooping mere inches above the waves, searching for their breakfast.
Each night after walking the vibrant streets and devouring decadent food, we would end up at the pool in our resort. With the epic combination of waves crashing on the beach in the background and lively music playing in the foreground, we would spend hours talking and sipping expensive tequila. At some point, I would inevitably end up in the water, floating on my back and gazing up at the indigo blanket of stars. It was magical.
After three or four days, my husband turned to me and said, “I really like Vacation Kel.”
“I like her too,” I responded.
This vacation version of me was relaxed. She laughed a lot. She danced in the kitchen and did handstands in the pool. She was playful and present. I began to wonder how I could bring her home with me.
Granted, Vacation Kel did not have any responsibility. She simply ate when she was hungry, drank when she wanted to, napped in the middle of the day, took long walks, and indulged in reading, lovemaking, and sunbathing.
Vacation Kel was free of commuting, chauffeuring teenagers, answering emails, washing mountains of laundry, and the never-ending to-do list which ran constantly through the forefront of her mind.
Still, I loved her energy and didn’t want to let her go. There must be a way to bring small elements of her into my daily life…
On the plane ride home, I continued to ponder and realized that the first thing to disappear as the wheels touched down upon the runway of reality was my ability to play. I very rarely engaged in an activity simply for the sake of joy.
Could I be so bold as to implement joy and playfulness into my daily routine?
The following weekend found me sitting not poolside but field-side, watching my boys play soccer. I love watching my kids express their athleticism, their comradery, and their leadership on the soccer pitch. And, as an added bonus, I absolutely adore the group of women who mother these young men. The “soccer girls” are hilarious, authentic, bad-ass females who talk about life and parenting, and who are always out for a good time. All of us are on the precipice of watching our teens grow into young adults and are experiencing the bittersweet realization that they will soon leave us. Thus, we are all at various stages of rediscovering who we are without our children.
One of the women announced that she had recently joined a soccer team and was loving the workout and the hilarity of chasing a ball down the field at her age.
“You should join!” she dared me.
“Yes! I’m in!” Impulse replied before logic caught up.
Have I ever played soccer before? No. Is that important when joining a soccer team? Likely.
Nonetheless, I went out the next day and bought myself a pair of bright pink soccer cleats. They brought me joy.
When I told my boys that I had joined a team, they were so proud of me! They immediately took me to the field for a training session so that “I wouldn’t embarrass myself.” Fair. In between sprints, burpees, drills, and positioning instructions, we laughed and laughed at my lack of talent.
That Sunday night, my forty-four year old self showed up to my very first soccer practice ever. Pushing aside doubt and nerves, I stepped out of my car into the pouring rain and ran to meet my team. Lacing up my bright pink cleats, I reminded myself of the reason I was there. No pressure. No ego. Just joy.
Over the next week, every time I felt my quads burn and my body ache, I smiled. The pain reminded me that I had chosen to do something silly, something playful. There was no responsibility involved, no intention other than to experience a new adventure and have fun.
Now, every Sunday night Vacation Kel comes out to play with her friends. The more she shows her joyful face, the more she seeks to integrate into daily life.
These days, on my morning runs, I sprint towards the invisible finish line, not only to strengthen my muscles, but to feel the sensation of going fast. When we were kids, we ran just to run. Not to exercise, to lose weight, to burn calories. Only for pure joy. In fact, I recently read a statistic that said, “95% of adults over the age of thirty will never sprint again in their lives.” * WHAT?! Will we also stop splashing in the pool, letting ice cream drip through our fingers, and rolling in the grass?
I don’t want to live that kind of life.
Now, I choose to crank up the volume when a nostalgic song comes on the radio. I make a point of taking a mid-workday dance break and I am teaching myself to play the guitar. Why? Because it’s freaking fun! Full stop.
Vacation Kel is changing my quality of life. I’m really glad I brought her home with me.