Happiness was the last thing on my mind in October 2009. In fact, it was a foreign concept to me back then. And yet, I never thought that taking a break from my family could lead to me back to my happy place. But a one-bedroom cottage on the coast of North Carolina helped me reset myself and find my way back to a happier, less cynical me.
To say that 2009 was filled with ups and downs was an understatement. My family had experienced multiple deaths recently with the loss of my grandfather hitting us the hardest -- on top of losing one of my dearest friends to brain cancer. And my husband's family had overwhelming medical issues, too, with his dad suffering a stroke, multiple heart attacks, and then recovering from a triple bypass. We were on long road trips more often than not, and life had become just one more day to get through.
Planning a beach trip for Halloween weekend seemed like the perfect idea. My son wouldn't miss school, and we would be renting our favorite cottage on the North Carolina coast. It was going to be a welcome break that would just give us time to be together as a family in a setting we all love and enjoy immensely.
I was pleasantly surprised when the owners of our cottage mentioned that they should have asked me to come property sit for them all week, as they were going off on their own little getaway from their own routine. They know I am a writer, but more importantly we have mutual friends and they knew how difficult our year had been.
While I couldn't stay the entire week, I had the opportunity to come home and then come back a few days later. By myself. It was quite literally the first time I had been alone in over 10 years. What would I do? How would I feel? Unanswered questions, sure. But I was at least willing to give myself the chance to find out how I would respond.
It turned out that it was quite easy. I shopped for healthy groceries. I walked on the beach, journaled, sent my first book to an agent, but perhaps more importantly, I found myself. My girlfriend from high school lives in Wilmington. She's the same one that I traipsed all over Europe with. We drank ridiculously expensive coffee, dined on Korean food, and I lived vicariously through the ups and downs of her single life.
I was Lisa. For a few days, I was able to reconnect at a deeper level with myself. That feeling made me want to get back to my family and rejoice in the freedom that I do have in those roles. Being a wife and mother has defined who I am as a person. It makes me happy, just as releasing my anxiety over the past year on that trip made me happy. I could forget about responsibilities, knowing that they were being handled by my husband's competent hands. More importantly, it gave me new, fresh perspective and energy to continue handling the ups and downs of daily life.
Would I recommend it for anyone? No, I wouldn't. You have to find what makes you happy. But for me, it was a change in scenery. And it is one that I will be doing as part of my own self-prescribed happiness formula.