Summer is here. That means BBQs, watermelon, corn, outdoor activities, good books, poolside fun, and if you're lucky (perspective right?) spending time with the family.
I'll preface this post by saying my last trip was indeed easier for me because I went to see my sister and my husband's family. There were no childhood memories or parents to question my life choices both past and future. And, fortunately, at this point, I am pretty removed from my prior triggers.
I was back East for two weeks. I was there for a couple of reasons. My sister was packing up her super cool apartment on the East River in Long Island City to go back to Cali. I was there to receive instruction, help with purging, and entertain my 13-month-old niece.
The following week I was with my husband's family in Connecticut for our nephew's graduation. Fortunately, I love my husband's family. Coming from a tiny family where my sister and I are the last Casanovas and we have two aunts and two handfuls of second cousins that we are actually close to, being at a family reunion that requires tents is a welcome experience.
Although my autoresponder said I was off the grid, my time was really always on. Packing, cooking, and cleaning were the majority of our daily routines. We were always together - almost. Being in small spaces with lots of voices in the past would have thrown me. Unable to be still and listen, I'd get caught up in the commotion of other concerns and wants. This time I was able to get quiet time for me every day. Even if it was just my 10 minute meditation (which, Go Me!, I've done every day since 12/16/16 - this is the first time I've made it more than 3 days), I had the ability to check in.
I slept with a teething baby and cooked for 120 people and I still found moments for me. Waking up around 6 AM even on vacation was one way I made that happen. Again, I've never made a choice to wake up that early and now I love that I have time to read, write, visualize, meditate and exercise. My how times have changed.
Now, if you are going home to insanity or abuse, if you have fighting family members that don't speak to each other and hold you in contempt if you visit the other, or, if there's mental illness or addiction… these things still apply.
So, here are four ways to keep it together:
- Celebrate where you are:
- When we were in Connecticut, I left the house early and took long walks to a nearby lake. I listened to the Law of Attraction and poached a private beach to sit in silence. I'm from Miami and I live in Colorado so I was constantly awed by the massive properties and farms with their perfectly mowed lawns, lush green overgrowth, dense woods and flowing flowers.
- I uncovered a vortex in Brooklyn and had a serendipitous video chat with both my father and mother (who are no longer together and rarely connect) in the place where they once fell in love. I then took the ferry back to my sister's and watched the Statue of Liberty fade in the distance of a red sunset.
2. Celebrate who you're with:
- OMG. My niece Kaia is adorable. I have almost no experience with kids, especially babies. And… oh my, my, I'm in love.
- All our nephews and nieces are growing up. They are pulling up their own diapers and choreographing dance recitals (I'm kind of bummed I didn't bust out the dance we practiced at the party - next time Mia). They are growing in feet, their voices are changing, and they are pulling the all-nighters that follow graduation day. I'm totally aware of how fast they transition and how fast time moves as I get older.
- Seeing my husband with his nephews and nieces and how much he loves his family makes me happy not just for him, but happy to be in his presence. He savors those moments and I like witnessing him satiated.
- Going through my sister's closets, under her bathroom sinks, and through the last years of her life gave us hours and hours of being together, reminiscing and visioning what life will be like next.
3. Celebrate who you were and no longer are:
- Going back gives us perspective. It lets us see where we were and compare the dreams we had with the ones we've lived.
- Going back is like cracking open a time capsule. Without our intimate understanding of each other's day to day, all of us may seem the same. So, what did our family and friends see as our strengths and what examples did we set for each other? Are we still being the models of what we wanted to be?
- Let go of the conflicts and judgments and attachment to what were once easy triggers. I no longer care how much time I get with my husband when we see his family. I now savor my solitude.
4. Celebrate the exit:
- Part of the reason why these times may feel sweet is that, especially if everyone is getting along, they feel short. If you want to kill each other then yes, it feels like an eternity. That's ok. Celebrate the moments you have together. In a few days, you'll be back to your routine and your comforts… or back to the grind.
- If you're dealing with insanity and arguments, the first rule of fight club is to make sure you have an exit. That might mean leaving the room. That might mean having access to a rental car. If you do have to check out, make sure where you go is to check in - internally. Again, keep it together. Be the witness and watch without being a participant. Often, the only way to stop escalation is to not engage.
- When we're with our family, we're in a bubble… perhaps a time warp. We may regress to 10 if we're living in our childhood bedroom getting in trouble for leaving our clothes on the floor. Again, in days we'll be immersed with our friends, colleagues, and partners who know us as very different people. Wait it out. The mirrors reflecting your worth are waiting for your return.
When we look for what we want to experience and make space to come back to the knowledge of what we want, it makes it a whole lot easier to be in the chaos that some call home. With all the non-stop movement, this family visit was a trip that truly was ease and grace.
I kept it together because I constantly came home… to me.
And...just because I thought this was fun...