Have you ever cried mystery tears? You know, the kind that flow from your eyes as you’re feeling some overwhelming combination of happy, sad, grateful, and full of love? The ones for which you can’t quite pinpoint one emotion as the catalyst? Mystery tears glided down my cheeks as I sat in the theater of Norwegian’s Escape cruise ship on our last day at sea.
I was full of emotion as the ship’s crew stood on stage and sang a cheesy yet touching song about how we were part of the Norwegian Cruise Line family, now and forever. A video played highlighting events from our week at sea, and I glanced to my left to see my 3 amazing, children watching in awe, cheering on the crew, and soaking in their final moments onboard. I didn’t want it to end; I wasn’t ready to go back to the real world of cooking, cleaning, working, bedtimes, and chaotic mornings. This had been the best week of my life — of our lives and I was struggling to accept that like many good things, it had to end.
I was desperate to find a way to hold onto this experience. What was it that made the week so damn perfect, anyways? Was it the energetic and inspiring staff and their amazing ship? Was it the fact that all responsibility had been lifted from my life? Was it the smell of the ocean and the beauty of Bermuda? Of course! Of course, it was all of those things and sadly, none of them were coming home with us. But it was also me. Them (my kids). Us. The power was in us to bring our cruise attitudes home and make life in the real world just a bit more… vacation-y. Here is how I plan to do just that:
7 nights and 8 days without a cell phone was quite possibly one of the best parts of our entire trip. I was not attached to my phone at all during our vacation. I felt free and calm and disconnected and I returned to the real world with a solemn vow to disconnect and unplug more often. I will not respond to texts and emails immediately. I will not succumb to the pressure to be on call all of the time for all who have my number. I need to focus on being where I am and only in that one place. My cell phone, the texts, and the frequent trips to social media only take me away from the present moment. I wish I could take my cell phone and throw it in the ocean once and for all!
Dance Like No One is Watching
My kids and I love to dance. We do it all the time in the privacy of our own home, car, backyard, etc. But something happens when we bring our moves out into the public world. We get timid. We start to worry about what they think. Inhibitions kick in and suddenly we are frozen with fear of judgment and with that, it is as if we lose our stellar sense of rhythm. But not in the cruise world! We danced like no one was watching. I guess it’s because we didn’t know anyone and we were pretty certain we would never see these people again. We danced like we were in our kitchen and we danced pretty damn good, too. As we step off of the cruise and into the real world, I choose to care less what they think. I am not even sure who they are, but I know one very important thing- their opinion? It just doesn’t matter. Why let it stop me from having fun, moving to the music, and letting loose. Life is too short to not dance.
Fear is a Liar
I cannot even tell you how much sleep fear stole from me leading up to this cruise. I was terrified. I thought my son would fall overboard. I was deathly afraid that I, a sober alcoholic, would accidentally pick up an alcoholic drink and lose my 5.5 years of sobriety. I envisioned the cruise ship hitting an iceberg and wondered if the women and children would still be led into the lifeboats first. I worried about not making dinner reservations ahead of time, and I feared for my children’s safety should we ever separate on the boat. I was so scared because I was embarking on a journey that was entirely new and unknown to me. And guess what? None of those fears were warranted. Sometimes, you just have to take a deep breath, dismiss your own crippling fears and tell yourself fear is a liar. Your fears are not facts. So, let that go and don’t waste another moment being afraid.
Gratitude Doesn’t Expire
With every waking morning during our vacation, I thanked God for the opportunity to take my kids on this cruise. I thanked him for my sobriety and my health and I thanked him for blessing me with 3 beautiful, funny, kind, energetic children. I did not want one day of vacation to pass without speaking my gratitude to my God, who got me here, one day at a time. But my gratitude can’t stop just because the vacation ended. I must remain just as grateful every single morning- for the big stuff like a luxury vacation and the small stuff-like shoes to put on my feet. I must always remember that many of the things I have in my life today are things I desperately prayed for years ago. I must acknowledge that there are millions of people wishing for the very things that I complain about- a job, a home, a bank account, and I must make a conscious decision to live in gratitude. The memories of our cruise are with us for a lifetime and my gratitude must never expire.
Vacations make it easy to be your best self, but character isn’t built during life’s easy moments. Character is built during the hard times, the challenges and the emotional pain. And so as we bid adieu to the best vacation ever, I must challenge myself to be my best self in the real world. To find the gratitude when the going gets tough, to dance when everyone is watching and to live in faith, not fear. Because sometimes it isn’t about the destination (or the vessel) at all- it’s about the inner journey.