The other day, I ran away from home.
Call it a wild impulse. Call it “had enough.” Call it pandemic-induced.
I just … walked out. In tears.
Because we live in the middle of hundreds of acres of farmland, I started walking down the fence row separating the field behind our house from the one next to the house.
I made it about halfway down before I came to the second large rock (boulder might describe it better) and decided it was a good place to sit down and really give in to the tears and frustration.
I don’t know how long I sat there. Five minutes? Five hours? Eventually, I stood up and started walking. There’s a grouping of trees that I’ve always wondered about. By this point, I was past the tears and the fresh air was working the wonders it usually holds for me. If I was 12, I would have walked this long ago, I thought to myself, remembering my childhood ramblings and explorations. What’s been keeping me in?
I mean, the laundry isn’t going anywhere. The dishes will still be in the dishwasher. And the yard work … yeah. No worries on that disappearing.
So what had been keeping me in? We don’t have our typical packed schedule, full of end-of-the-school-year stuff, sports tournaments, and who-knows-what-else. I’ve been on furlough (entering week two as I write this), and on stay-at-home for just as long as the rest of Ohio.
And we have the advantage of land — ours and the neighboring fields.
There was no good reason to stay in.
As I was making my way down the fence row, I was pulling a David-a-la-Psalms and just raving in my mind at God, and I realized something. In the lack of schedule — furlough means I’m essentially on staycation while the kids are doing schoolwork — I hadn’t been praying my morning Rosary.
Oh, I’d been doing my morning spiritual reading. And that was great. St. Thérèse of Lisieux walked with me and then St. John Paul II picked up. Great wisdom. Great insight. Great food for thought.
But … not so much a prayer life, if I was being honest.
At this point, I had reached the interesting trio of trees. I positioned myself behind one of them and peeked back at the house. It was amazing how much smaller it was. And how much calmer I was.
At that point, my phone dinged again. (Hey, I might have taken off, but I was texting my best friend as I did so, like any mom-gone-teen would.)
“The kids are coming to rescue you.”
I found I was no longer enraged at him, at the kids, at my life. In fact, I laughed. Out loud.
“They think it’s an adventure.”
I could see them. Running toward me. The distance was closing faster than it had for me.
“They have the dog too?!?”
“For protection,” he replied.
I could see his smile.
“Mom, were you trying to find some quiet?” my 5-year-old asked as soon as he was within touching distance, hugging me fiercely.
He then proceeded to talk for the next 45 minutes, filling the walk around the field with observations, questions, and things that only 5-year-olds say.
“I love you, Mom,” he said every so often, punctuating it with a hug.
By the time we made it back to our yard, I had a bouquet of some of the finest dandelions and field flowers of anyone in my county. And I was reminded, in a way that was both tangible and slightly hilarious, that God loves me.
But He also respects my free will. That’s why there was no smack across the head with a set of Rosary beads, though, in fact, what I need is to start my day with that not-so-small bit of self-care. He’s always a gentleman, inviting me — even when I can’t — literally, canNOT — visit Him except virtually. He still wants to spend time with me.
I was reflecting on my (failed?) attempt at running away a day or two later when I snuck over to the barn to feed the animals and do evening chores.
The barn was LOUD.
And I realized, once again, the gift that this time has been.
Though they’re one of my favorite parts of my life, I have never before noted the exact day the barn swallows came back, chittering and swooping through the barn in displays of aerial acrobatics. Usually, this time of year, the crazy I’m facing is how to be in at least two places at once as I juggle schedules and meals and demands.
Amidst the anxiety and stress of our pandemic-induced stillness, though, I was able to note exactly when — what day — the barn swallows came back. And I got to walk around that field out back, with my kids to enjoy it with me.
Running away is generally frowned upon. Giving up is generally dismissed. And yet, sometimes, what we need most is to admit our defeat. We can’t accept the help we need until we acknowledge that there’s a problem.
And, sometimes, we don’t know there’s a problem until we run away from it.
There’s a humility and a beauty in giving of ourselves. But let’s not be blinded to the beautiful humility of receiving the gifts God offers us, so gently, so insistently, so often. Let’s not forget to say no to say yes.
And, of course, let’s not forget to pray that morning Rosary (or whatever that morning prayer is for you).
About the Author
When she’s not chasing kids, chugging coffee, or juggling work, Sarah Reinhard’s usually trying to stay up read just one…more…chapter. She writes and works in the midst of rural farm life with little ones underfoot. She is part of the team for the award-winning Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, as well as the author of a number of books. You can join her for a weekday take on Catholic life by subscribing to Three Shots and follow her writing at Snoring Scholar.