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We arranged our world trip to start in Asia so that we would be able to strategically head to New Zealand for their end of Summer/ beginning of Fall. We wanted to beat the crowds flocking to New Zealand during the peak summer months but still enjoy good weather. Instead of the warm weather we prepared so carefully for, we were greeted by winds and rain when we arrived on the South Island and spent more than half of our time there bundled under jackets and umbrellas. We had a few days of rain once we settled in the North Island, as well, and I resigned myself to the fact that we would be spending the remainder of our time in this country chilled.
I was prepared to buy sweaters and long pants, and then the sun came. And decided that enough was enough- we deserved more time to enjoy summer in New Zealand.
And so we have.
We’ve enjoyed such deliciously warm, sunny weather on the North Island that we were out exploring the beautiful nature around us every single day last week. We really struggled when choosing whether to spend our 2 months settled deep in the heart of the big city of Auckland or on the city’s outskirts in a tiny village, and every day I’ve been grateful for the inspiration to lead a quiet life.
What we love about our town, Matakana, is that it’s a small town surrounded by other small towns. Each is proud of it’s own strangely unique outdoor adventures, which has given us lots to explore. Of our daily jaunts last week, one was especially meaningful to me.
On Tuesday we set out to a nearby town in search of some rock cliffs Ben found on Google Maps. The drive led us down some rabbit holes, but eventually we found the beginning of the track leading to the cliffs. It turned out to be a 90-minute walk, which we returned the next day to actually complete. Ben gave me the option of going back for the cliff walk or to go on another drive to a new scenic outlook that day, and I (admittedly surprisingly) chose the hike. In retrospect I consider that inspiration, because it was exactly what we needed.
I’m convinced this walk is one of the most beautiful in the world. It stayed close to the coast, but uphill. We were treated to views of the water, neighboring islands, and volcanic rock on one side, lush hills and old trees with thick tentacle-like limbs on the other. The walk eventually led to a series of large boulders we climbed over to reach a natural arch in the rock. The water was especially angry that day, and the sound of crashing waves next to the hazy setting sunlight made the walk not just a feast for the eyes but for our other senses. Honestly, tears are coming to my eyes as I remember this walk. We may be going back tomorrow.
The reason I was so insistent on getting outdoors last week (not that Ben needed much convincing) was that I was being plagued by feelings of inadequacy. This comes and goes for me in phases, and last week it came on strong. I didn’t sleep through the night once last week, and was so full of stress and self doubt that I, ironically, could hardly focus on finishing my work tasks. I ended up staring at my computer for hours, then watching the entire Dynasty reboot on my phone. When that family starts looking normal you know something is wrong!
The problem is this blog business. I love that I’m so committed to remembering the adventures we have on our trip, but sometimes my grand plans for success get out of control and I forget what’s really important. Should I be taking pictures to fill my Instagram schedule? No, I should be doing it to preserve memories. Should I be trying to turn my traveling family into YouTube stars? No, none of us actually like having a camera in our faces. Should I be contacting the businesses around me offering promotion? No, I really need the time off (ish).
When your job relies on the public you start to look towards people’s attention as a way to judge performance, and that can become a dangerous tornado of emotions.
Ben needed the outdoor distractions almost as much as I did. He’s been struggling with the best approach to a proposed distribution partnership for Reflectoes and a seasonal slump in Oh, Susannah sales (there’s just no holidays for gift giving right now!), so inevitably our conversations turned to work at almost every meal. Poor Whit. No wonder he pretends he’s selling things on Amazon when playing with his stuffed animals.
It was one of those weeks where I really wanted to be the fun, happy, loving spouse and mother, but I just couldn’t get out of my own head long enough to crack a smile.
I have been praying this week to feel the joy and love that I’ve missed, and my prayers were answered on Sunday. Our Relief Society lesson at church was on this incredible talk by Dieter F. Uchtdorf, which I’d somehow never read or heard before. Our teacher led us in an amazing discussion about how we can get out of the weltschmertz (a German word meaning the sadness that comes from brooding over the fact that the world is not how we think it ought to be) by believing, loving, and doing. I made copious notes, but was particularly struck by a paragraph from the talk which explains very clearly how strongly Heavenly Father loves us. I realized that instead of praying to feel missing joy I need to be praying to feel the pure love of God, which, once realized, could help me put everything else into perspective and help me have the love and patience I need for my family.
Our teacher ended with this thought from a published social experiment: behavior is contagious. So I decided to change my behavior to then change my attitude, and hope it rubbed off on the people around me. Check back in next week to see if it worked.