For many, the idea of Paradise involves a plane ticket and a packed suitcase, as we escape from our daily routines hoping to find "paradise" in more exotic locations.
As a mother, I’ve had to learn to create my own version of paradise. My husband, Glen, travels FREQUENTLY for work. When we became parents we agreed that I would assume the role of CEO of our household. So when my kids were little and he returned home from a long business trip, I would literally wait in the door and pass my boys off to him like a relay sprinter handing off a baton in a 400 meter race.
Just an hour alone wandering the aisles of Target or taking a bath without a toddler walking in with a handful of toys to enhance my “bath-time experience” felt like paradise to me.
Elementary school and junior high passed by quickly. My role evolved from diaper changer, activity planner and chauffeur to referee, counselor and private investigator.
During the winter of 2016, my (youngest) son Ellis decided that he wanted to attend a boarding school. I’m not even sure how it happened—my husband and I never-ever thought of allowing our children to attend school away from home, but our son was so excited that we agreed to give it a try.
Several months later, we dropped our eldest off at college and our youngest at his new boarding school. And just like that, my husband and I became instant empty nesters. The first week was easy. We spent it lounging on the beach in Tulum drinking mezcal margaritas. It all seemed perfect, like we’d crossed an imaginary finish line with nothing but gorgeous sunsets looming in the distance. I should have known it wouldn’t last.
After a week spent basking in our euphoric glow, we returned home to a house of silence. I’d grown accustomed to the constant dribbling of a ball on our hardwood floors, the steady stream of friends greeting me as they filed through the house (and raided my pantry), the thumping sound of bass reverberating through the bathroom walls as music played when one of the boys was showering. And let’s not forget about having to break up the occasional brotherly altercation.
All those times over the years that I spent yelling “turn it down” or “stop it”...and here I was, lost in this new silence. The things that used to annoy me, I now found myself longing for. It was as if someone took a switch and turned off the background soundtrack of my life.
The first two months were tough. Wait, who am I kidding? Actually, it was really effing difficult for the first six months. Overwhelmed with sadness, I considered getting an antidepressant to help combat my gloomy mood. There were times when my husband came home from work only to find me curled up in a fetal position on the couch. I felt as if my life had lost its meaning. I felt like I had no purpose. And it wasn’t just me. My husband, also experienced the same feelings of loss and sadness. We didn’t eat dinner at home for months—avoiding the empty chairs around the kitchen table that were a harsh reminder of our cherished evening ritual of having family dinners.
But after a few months, something changed. Instead of running away from our home to escape the silence, we enjoyed evening meals in a spotless house, followed by a night on the couch binging Netflix. We spent more time together: Meeting for lunch, grabbing Saturday afternoon drinks, discovering new places in our city, enjoying late nights with friends. We became a couple again.
Then something else happened. In the silence, I heard a voice. My voice. I started writing things down that I wanted to do. I began thinking about all the professional and personal pursuits that I had put on hold. Now I had time to indulge my passions and creative endeavors. Instead of dreaming it, I wanted to be it, live it. And I wanted to share it. My friends have always looked to me for advice on travel, fashion, shopping, decorating and entertaining. It dawned on me that I should start journaling these very things and how they enrich my life. And that’s when I decided to start The Caftan Clique, a platform to document the places, people and things that inspire me. For me, the caftan symbolizes freedom, movement, travel, and rediscovery, The Caftan Clique wasn’t meant to be a superficial vanity project. Instead, I want to simply offer encouragement to all the other women/moms out there who have put their own personal dreams and goals on hold. I felt a newfound AND profound sense of movement and freedom — and I wanted to share it.
And then everything changed. My youngest completed his second semester, came home for the summer and decided that he didn’t want to return to boarding school.
I love my children but this threw me for a MAJOR loop. Of course, I wanted my son to come home. But there was also a part of me that felt selfish, almost ambivalent about his return. I struggled because I felt guilty about these conflicting emotions. Thankfully, my girlfriends reminded me that I am both creative and a good mother. This was the first time in many years that I’d been able to reclaim a part of myself. I was stuck believing that there was only one road leading to where I wanted to go. They helped me to realize this was an obstacle but not a setback. I just needed to take a detour. Our goals aren't achieved overnight. As long as you are moving in a positive direction, you are closer to realizing them.
Ultimately, his return home is a blessing. Life is short and I’m glad that I’m able to spend the next year and a half bearing witness. Ellis is seventeen and like all teenagers, he’s seeking autonomy. However, it’s still important for me to be emotionally available and attentive to whatever he’s going through. For example, this morning he woke up with a fever. By noon, homemade turkey soup was delivered to his bedside. I bet they don’t do that at boarding school.
My travel schedule has been light recently but that doesn’t mean that I can find my solace in the place that I hold dear: My home.
Not everyone has the freedom and flexibility to just hop on a plane. Whether it’s work, parenting or finances keeping you from traveling, embracing where you are is paramount. You don’t have to leave your house to find paradise. It’s something you create, something you can find inside yourself. I find it simply sitting in my bed taking my first sip of coffee in the morning while enjoying the amber glow of the fireplace….or I feel it looking out of our living room window in the late afternoon with the light filtering in as our son throws the frisbee to our German Shepherd in the front yard. Paradise is about finding beauty in the moment. Sometimes these small moments may feel inconsequential, but they all add up to create a tapestry that reflects your life, your existence.
Vacations don’t last forever. There comes a time when we all have to return home. The key is to create a life that you don’t want to escape from.
As much as I love traveling to warm tropical locations, I can still feel the sun on my face while I'm sitting in the adirondack chair on my front porch, three hundred miles away from any ocean. I can share my thoughts, dreams, insight and inspirations with you while I'm sitting at my desk. I don't have to leave my home, my city, or my state to travel. All I have to do is open my mind, heart and eyes to be able to see something new. I can read a book, get lost on Instagram, or take a walk in my neighborhood to discover new places.
Although I’m feeling content with where I am in life, It's important to have something to look forward to. Traveling renews and inspires me. So…while I’m on the sidelines cheering at my son’s basketball games this winter, I'll be antcipating our next getaway.