You've heard it a thousand times: If something isn't working right, unplug and give it a minute - including yourself.
This is really great advice, but for some reason, hard to get through my thick skull. Fortunately, at least once a year - whether I want to or not - I have to unplug . It's called Family Camping Reunion.
Each summer I spend about three weeks preparing for our 16 hour road trip (one way, give or take) and camping extravaganza. This includes extensive list-making, fine-tuning all of the necessary arrangements for our house and critters while we're away, organizing and packing not only clothing, but everything required to provide a relatively comfortable home-away-from-home stay in as little (and probably damp) space possible, and then rethinking it all at night instead of sleeping. While I love seeing our extended family, I gotta confess that on more than one occasion, I have dreaded the whole affair with the air of one being led to the guillotine. Cramped pop-ups or tents do not always happy campers make - especially those who are just slightly OCD and more than a little resentful picking up after everyone! Give me a beach in Bali with a swim-up bar and no responsibility, and I'll show you one relaxed momma, but a sand-filled sleeping bag and cooking over an open flame without the aid of my normal kitchen equipment is not what I call a "real" vacation...
...until this year.
The first thing I unplugged was my attitude; not an easy feat for this compulsive whiner. It's amazing how much difference letting go of expectations makes - not to mention how much easier it is on the ears! I tried to go into this year's trip with the thought that any change would be a good one. What with writer's block and feeling depressed a large chunk of the time, I wasn't doing so hot with all of the standard creature comforts, so really, why let impending discomfort take the blame for what I was slowly recognizing as an internal deficiency?
Next, I let go of perfection (or what passes for it around here) and went with the bare bones. Since only three members of our household were making the trip this year, we downsized everything including our mode of transportation. Want a puzzle? Try fitting a cooler, suitcases, tent, cots, sleeping bags and various other necessary camping accoutrements into a tiny Suzuki with enough room left over for passenger comfort. I did it, but only with a lot of creative crevice filling, and ditching whatever we could survive without.
The trip out was actually quite pleasant. Hubby had burned CD's with each of our top ten favorites, and with fewer souls to wrangle, pit-stops were shorter and less frequent. We arrived already ahead of the game, and fair weather lasted all week. With hubby's help, I unplugged my pride and, to the best of my ability, my mom-guilt. When he offered to cook not once, but twice, I let him, and did not even care that my daughter ate little more than hotdogs and chicken all week; at least she was fed. And, whenever I could, I let myself relax into the upsides of camping: later bed times, morning walks on the beach, no make-up, and most of all, no tech! Facetime takes on a whole new meaning when the person you're chatting with is sitting around the campfire with you. I didn't take a single picture, make a single call (other than to check in at home), tweet, check Facebook or gmail. I didn't market my books, not even once, and I for sure didn't miss it!
We're back home now, and soon I'll be just as "connected" as I was before we left. But, maybe with a few modifications. My batteries have a little more charge now, and I'm seeing things with new perspective. I have rebooted. I must have. I'm already looking forward to camping again next year.
Photo credit - Ron DeKett
My hubby and I have a fun new habit. Every day he emails and asks me to tell him a story about some specific part of my life, which I do, and then I ask for one in return. His intent when he began this was increased connectivity, and possibly a history of sorts to pass along to our kids. You see, neither of us knows much about our own parents' growing up years, other than a few oft-repeated tales that will forever live in the annals of family lore. Some are detailed enough to make you feel like you could have been there, but a mere handful of anecdotes does not a lifetime make. There are many things we would like to know, things we wish we had asked. With both his parents gone now, he'll never have the chance. Next week, when we visit my mother several states away, I'm looking forward to sitting down with her and trying to get a few more stories to add to the family collection. And, just maybe, we'll create some new ones together.
I hope your summer is going swimmingly, and that it is full of stories worth remembering. Don't forget to share them with the ones you love!