“And distant places give us refuge in territories where our own histories aren’t so deeply entrenched and we can imagine other stories, other selves, or just drink up quiet and respite.” The Faraway Nearby – Rebecca Solnit
Summer vacation is finally here for me! Yay! 8 weeks of “letting it go”, Idina Menzel style, which means not constantly worrying about my 27 kids. No, you didn’t miss me beating out Michelle Duggar for the most children birthed through one woman’s vaginal canal, I’m just a teacher. Wait, no, I take that back, not “just” a teacher, but A TEACHER, who every year, in addition to presenting lessons and providing guidance, while simultaneously filling a multitude of other roles and completing a multitude of varied tasks for 50-60 hours a week, opens her heart to let its strings be plucked by a new crop of kids who will become like her own.
During the school year I, like most teachers, become deeply entrenched in efforts to assure success for each student, even if and when they’re not contributing any effort themselves. But this blog isn’t about the sleepless nights spent worrying about how to reach a certain child, or the trials, tribulations, joys, and rewards of being a teacher. It’s about refuge. A place we all need directions to.
Whether we work in isolation at home, from our homes, or out amongst the masses, we become deeply entrenched in our workaday routines and challenges. We and those we interact with have a modus operandi. Expectations flow to and fro, hand in hand at times, with failures to meet them. When successes abound or at the very least outnumber the fails, hopes are kept afloat. And with each success a singularly essential piece of our jig-saw life puzzle appears, fitting in just the right place to complete our personal mission picture. If we’re truly lucky, what we each were meant to do, the calling that we’re passionate about, becomes clear to us. The tribe that we belong in/to appears and the right place to achieve our goals is affirmed. Feeling fulfilled, we’re able to smile back at ourselves in the mirror. But it’s not always that easy. In fact, it’s mostly difficult, as worthy aspirations tend to be. And that brings us to the need for refuge.
Whether we’re a butcher, a baker, a candlestick maker, or a bad ass rock star of a single parent working two jobs, we all need a place where perhaps no one knows our name and isn’t calling it out constantly. A place where there are no expectations of us, where we have no legends that preceded us, where we can be our true selves or whoever we want to be for a period of time and just breathe. But not all of us have the resources to travel to distant places, to immerse ourselves in exotic cultures, to try on new personas, hobbies, or pastimes and for a short time, escape to other worlds. Most days a mom of young children might gladly settle for just going to the bathroom alone and the coast to coast corporate trainer has simple dreams of being unpacked and off stage for a while. So where is refuge to be found?
In literature, film, art, and nature, refuge is relatively cheap. To walk in nature, to only the beat of my heart, opening my senses to the wonders that abound, has always lifted me. Leave me alone in a bookstore and then curled up in the mystery of someone else’s story, a window to another world, and I’m an extremely happy girl. If money isn’t a consideration, then please sail me to the middle of the ocean and I’ll soon become giddy, even intoxicated with the quiet and respite I find there. You might choose to run like the wind, dance like noone is watching, take pictures, or paint.
Refuge is so very personal. Refuge is so very necessary. For each of us, the answer is singular, belonging only to us. Whether we do it through travel, reading, meditating, immersing ourselves in creative arts or in nature, imagining other stories, other selves, becoming drenched in whatever our respite looks like, gets us out of our personal trenches, and restores us. We are better mothers, fathers, husbands, wives, friends, employees and employers. We’re just all around better human beings when we take time for refuge, time to take care of ourselves.
Peace, Love, and Refuge