I had been a bit anxious as the date drew near. Floating in the middle of the ocean for a week sounded good on paper, but the logistics made me nervous. I had been on a cruise before – decades before that is – and while I had believed that the trip was destined for amazing adventures, something within me was still a wreck (and hopefully that wasn’t a sign of what would happen to the ship).
What if the ship hit something that caused it to sink? Unlikely, but hey, it had happened before. What if my stomach wouldn’t get its sea legs? Ongoing motion sickness wasn’t something anyone would want to suffer with as you navigate the ocean’s waters. But surely modern medicine would be able to fix that concern.
I somehow found a way to suppress those worries, realizing that both would be out of my control. But the one worry that lingered like a bad headache wasn’t as severe as a sinking ship or a queasy stomach. Instead, I knew that for several days I’d be in the middle of nowhere unable to connect with my family. For a week, I would be mostly disconnected. No internet. No facetime. No text messages or social media. It was just me, my friend, and the ocean. And while this momma of three was excited about the quiet time, deep down I wasn’t quite sure how I’d manage.
It was a much need girl’s trip. Leaving behind my husband and my children wasn’t easy, but I knew that I’d come back rejuvenated. The Caribbean was calling my name, and I had so many intentions of writing my next few books as we were adrift, navigating between islands. Expectations are a beautiful thing, most times. But what I had expected to gain from the trip and what I actually did were nothing similar.
You see, while some of my original fears some would call irrational, one actually did come true. Thank heavens the boat didn’t sink! That fear washed away as each wave crashed against the boat. But in return, each wave that the boat tackled made my sense of stability more and more unhinged. The unfathomable happened. I was plagued with motion sickness to a degree I had never felt when the boat was in motion.
During those times, the only relief I could find was when I was laying down. The best place where I found respite was on our balcony in the evenings. The sky as black as I’d ever seen filled with scattered stars twinkling. It was a beautiful scene even if my nausea was an unwelcomed guest. Usually if I would find myself in such a situation, I would seek social media to fill my time. Scrolling through Facebook for new updates on my friends… perusing Pinterest for the latest farmhouse style décor… or uploading beautiful Caribbean photos to Instagram to share the awesome experiences we had when we were docked. I yearned to do that, and yet, here I was, feeling at my worst, and as disconnected as I’d been since before the internet (yes, I do remember a life pre-internet!).
For once, the choice to give up being so connected was made for me. And in return, I got the best gift I could have ever received this holiday season. I found myself daydreaming, something I hadn’t allowed myself to do for quite some time. My friend joined me on the balcony and together we stargazed, confident that the big dipper was following our cruise route. I watched movies with such great attention, allowing myself to get sucked into the storyline like I used to as a kid. And when the seas subsided, I even spent some time tackling a puzzle, determined to feel the gratification of marrying pieces that were meant for each other.
During our excursions on the beautiful island of Grand Turk and in the forts of San Juan, I was gifted with a sliver of time to chat with my family, but outside of that, I was as disconnected as I’d ever been. I couldn’t report to anyone outside of my friend and the new ones we made on the ship. And while in the beginning I felt lost, by the end I realized that I become the most found.
As with most beautiful treasures, I find that I don’t notice them until I’m meant to. For me, the most beautiful kind aren’t bought at the store, but rather the intangibles… I’m talking about those treasures that come from an experience. The ones that never break or go out of style, but rather change you from the inside, leaving you more fulfilled than you ever thought possible.
It hit me a few days after we docked back in Florida. I was on the living room floor with my kids playing a game. The room was filled with giggles and a warmth that can be found anytime the five of us are together. While everything in that moment felt perfect, I could feel I was missing something. A small tinge of worry that I had lost something that was once so important to me got me looking around for the missing object. It took me a minute to identify what I was missing, and when I did, I opted to leave it right where it was.
I didn’t need my phone anymore. I didn’t need to be connected in every social sense of the way. I had created a new habit of living in the moment, and I had begun to break my internal need for phone time. It was then that I realized just how important it was to be disconnected, for that is the only way to be truly connected.
This holiday season, if you are like me, you may still be frequenting the stores to check off the last of your list as you search for the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Sure, a sweater may be a big hit or the latest tech gadget may bring a smile to the person opening it, but I venture to say that the best gift this year doesn’t require you to break the bank. In fact, it does quite the opposite.
This season put down the phones. Shift your social life to that which is happening before you, not that which is broadcasted online. Make meaningful memories with those you come in contact with instead of reviewing your TimeHop to remember your memories from the years prior. Put down your camera, for capturing the moment is far better than capturing a photo of it.
Give the gift of disconnecting, for when you do you will that being connected is by far the greatest gift you can give.