Here at Loyola Press, we talk a lot about Ignatian spirituality—because we’re a ministry of the Jesuits, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. One principle that comes up frequently is indifference. It’s the emotional and spiritual discipline of holding life lightly, of relinquishing our ongoing quest for control, and opening ourselves to whatever blessings come our way.
Indifference is an especially helpful quality to cultivate during a season when our expectations for family time can veer out of control. When our kids are young and still at home, we have expectations for more time with them when they’re out of school. If we can, we plan a vacation—and always we bring huge expectations on vacation with us.
But what happens? Just because the kids are home from school doesn’t mean they have any more desire to spend time with Mom and Dad. And vacations can vary greatly in terms of quality time and each person’s contentment level.
And, for those of us who are grandparents or great-aunts and great-uncles, summer can become a gnarly knot of decisions. For instance, my husband has kids and grandkids in Georgia and Oregon. My mother and nephew (with his wife and my great-niece and great-nephew) are in Kansas, my two sisters in separate areas of Missouri. Like most people, Jim and I have limited income, and I have limited vacation time. So, to which state of the union will we drive or fly? Whom will we see, and how many trips can we manage?
This doesn’t even factor in numerous friends scattered around the country who keep asking us to come visit—or the possibilities for having family and friends visit us. The logistics of summer can become overwhelming. Also, we can so easily slip into overspending, just to accommodate the many relationships we hold dear.
Thus, the added motivation to hold life lightly and to temper our expectations. Last summer, we spent a week of vacation with the Oregon family; this summer, we are driving to Maine to enjoy the hospitality of a friend. We won’t see everyone. Already we traveled to Atlanta for a high-school graduation, which meant that we missed a Missouri high-school graduation happening the same weekend. Decisions, decisions.
We must learn to trust the strength of friend and family bonds, knowing that most people will understand that you can’t travel everywhere at once. After all, the people you love are having to make decisions too about where they’ll go and who they will spend time with.
I have no significant advice on the matter of summer logistics, except for my first point: hold life lightly.