Decompression Period

De·com·pres·sionˌ dēkəmˈpreSHən/
  1. a release of compressing forces, in particular.

After having a heartfelt conversation the other night, reflecting on the past year, maybe the past couple of years, this word got brought up in reference to a song that was written by a band after coming off a long tour, about trying to acclimate back into everyday life.  I realized as I envisioned successful rocker types taking their kids to school and mowing the yard, (both rather unrealistic lets be honest) that this is exactly the season that I have found myself in.  Am I some rich and famous star with my tour bus parked in the driveway and an adoring fan base happy to have me back stateside? Clearly, not. But I definitely relate to the analogy of releasing a period of life that was overrun with compressing forces. 

As our conversation went on things began to make sense. We talked about the fun and exhilaration of the previous season of madness. The long days and long nights. The constant go mode. The messy, chaotic life that moved at mock speed all the time. It was a blast. It was expensive. It was so much fun. It was also wearing. It was long, loud, a bit lonely, (yes, really) and sometimes, it was just tiresome to keep up with. We talked about the unnerving feeling each of us would get, that neither of us had known the other felt too,  when we stopped long enough during the chaos to think about all the areas of life we were neglecting while immersed in the fun madness.  How was it that we could be having a blast while simultaneously letting worry creep in and spoil the mood? I can tell you now how: those times of exciting adventures were very often, really just false escapes. I don’t mean to diminish some really fantastic memories I’ve made with my loved ones, I just mean that in the true sense of things, these were less about having fun, and more about escaping reality.

See, I have realized now during this period of decompression, that just like the cliché goes, you only appreciate the sun when you’ve seen the rain, its hard to really enjoy a “vacation” from real life, when you rarely return wholeheartedly to said life and live it, in all its mundane details. If you are constantly escaping from everyday life to head off on grand adventures, or even just small, mile a minute distractions, you can most certainly be guaranteed to never be fully in the moments you create for yourself of escape and fun. Trust me on this. I had become the queen of the escape route. I’d been unknowingly attempting great escapes from my life for the past several years. Unsuccessfully juggling the mundane everyday life that was always back home waiting for me, while also going, going, going, running, escaping from it. How do you tend to something you spend a great deal of time neglecting? The compression was building up- essentially two opposing and competing forces. The more I ran from the everyday, convincing myself it would be there waiting for me when I was ready, the more I ruminated on it while I was gallivanting off here and there, trying to ignore it.

The result was the opposite of an escape, because the space between leaving the everyday thoughts behind and finding them again rudely disrupting my fun time, grew shorter and shorter during my escapes. To the point where they began to draw me back in almost as soon as I’d tried to ditch them, and so I would try harder. Plan more escapes, fill my time with more adventures, more distractions. And the vicious cycle continued. Until one day, when the compressing forces had reached their maximum, just as science would predict, and much like a balloon popping; the pressure began reversing as it started finally, to release.  What did I learn from this moment? That it had never been in my control. A decompression period is a natural law of physics. What goes up, must eventually come down, kind of thing. And so it has.

And here I am today. Decompressing. It still feels strange. It still feels unnatural at times. I have brief moments when I am unsure of what to do because my mind thinks I am supposed to be running off somewhere or doing something, else. That the mundane everyday is not enough. But it is. My heart knows that it is. My body, my mind and my soul need this period of calm to exist right now. I was longing for it all along while spending so much time escaping from it before. It feels foreign, it feels boring, it feels strange, but it also feels right. What will people think if they learn that I am choosing to hunker down, and decompress? That I am content to work on the everyday parts of my life, and find joy in them, instead of running head on, into the next adventure? You know what? I don’t care what people think. Waking up each day with the purpose of accomplishing things I had grown accustomed to putting off feels really good. Things about the everyday that once seemed dull, now excite me. They are mine. They need the same care and attention that the thrills and the distractions used to need. But the everyday, surprisingly, is more rewarding. I no longer have that sense of dread creep in when I am immersed in a moment with my kids playing at the park, or buying groceries for planned out dinners for an entire week, or sorting out clothes that the boys no longer fit.


Photo credit: Jenny Bennett Life is Swell Photography

When did Bean get tall enough to touch the ground when he swings? Finding an old tiny t-shirt in a drawer while clearing it out of outgrown clothes.  I remember getting this one for Monkey, now at the edge of childhood, who used to parade around in it and his undies while playing an air guitar. It still faintly smells like him at that age, must be the dresser. Thinking of what the favorite meals are for each member of my family, and then purposefully selecting the ingredients for each at the store with no urgent place to get to next. Having the time to roam the aisles in search of just the right thing. Fresh vegetables, yummy baked goodies, and enough distraction-free time to prepare them. Its fulfilling to do many small things that serve many small purposes in this big life. What am I forgetting? Nothing. Its a joy that is pure,  that is mine to feel without remorse creeping in and spoiling the moment. Free from the restrictions of compression. Free from the guilt of neglecting these small important details of life while I was busy having fun escaping from all the beautiful mundane moments that were waiting for me.

Life is all about balance. I am in no way suggesting we give up the entertaining and often welcome distractions life affords, and dive completely and solely into the mundane. But what I am saying is that a period of decompression is vital. For some, they naturally achieve this balance in a more even, rhythmic way, regularly offsetting periods or even just moments of compression with decompression. It seems almost mystical to me that some have such a perfected sense of balance. For others, like myself, it took for the whole system to implode before realizing that I was long, long overdue.

So I embrace this period of decompression with everything that I am and everything that I have to offer. I am learning to find joy and satisfaction in the everyday, the boring, the mundane. Its actually beautiful and exhilarating. Who knew? And best of all, it costs me not an ounce of remorse later. And so, I say to my adoring fans, it feels good to be home America. Thanks for the warm welcome back. I’ve got a yard to mow.