This month in the Life on Purpose Academy this is the topic, Enjoying Your Life, on Purpose. A lesson that I feel like I have a crash course on every time I plan a family trip.
I’ve shared in the past that family trips are a stretch for me, I find them stressful.
I’ve actually gotten really good at finding them stressful and my brain is an expert at noticing what can go wrong.
Anxiety is an unwelcome companion for me on trips, but one who rides front-row middle seat regardless.
So this past week we had a family camping trip planned. Just us and the kids and the promise of riverside relaxing.
Our camping trip last year left me with a lot of evidence that I should worry about camping with the kids. It left me with a story of how stressful it is.
So I really had been digging into preparing myself mentally for this trip. I WANTED TO ENJOY IT, ON PURPOSE. I’ve been using visualization to imagine the best rather than worry about the worst. (See it in the Facebook Group// See it on Instagram)
I don’t want these fleeting experiences to pass by me while I clench my fists and hold my breath.
My son says he can look at my face and know if I’m stressed. He is watching me, always. He is adjusting his behaviour.
On one hand, I love that he is empathetic and aware of others. On the other, I wish he had the freedom to not be checking in with my jawline and narrowed eyes for feedback.
I told him this past week, ‘Sometimes I make faces and it doesn’t mean anything about you, this is just what my face does and if I have a problem I will talk to you about it’. I can easily forget how much power I have over the atmosphere of my home.
I felt really pumped going into this trip.
We had all the lists checked off (funny enough we still missed some things), the gas tank was full and the kids were only fighting about the windows and radio volume just a little.
It felt good.
We even stopped at this really cute coffee shop on the way and they had gluten-free muffins, which always feels like a bonus.
But then my husband brought up a topic that I was feeling very over-sensitive over. The ‘are we there yet?’ was becoming more incessant and by the time we made the 3hour/4hour trip to the campsite I was hot, bothered and trying to mentally regroup myself.
We were parking the trailer in 39*C and the kids were begging to go to the river and my Fitbit flashed fireworks that I just got 10 active minutes….just being there, sweating in the hot sun, while we parked the trailer and set up camp.
By the end of the first night, we high tailed into town for ice and stopped by to look at the lake we wanted to visit the next day. That 7pm ‘visit’ turned into a full family night swim.
I want to remember forever that look on the kids’ faces when they realized we were running into the lake alongside them.
Throwing off our shoes and shirts and tucking our keys into shoes – none of us had a towel or a plan to go swimming but there we were, having this little spontaneous adventure as families filed out of the beach and the sun was setting behind the mountains.
We stayed at the campground for three nights. The kids made friends at the park they said it was their favourite part of the experience. And Conor and I spent so much time sitting in our beach chairs that we have matching white lines across our burnt bellies.
Each day had some hard parts, some more than others.
One morning, in particular, was so hard that when I had cooled down I took my daughter aside for a long talk and then asked her to do a ‘team-building exercise’ with me.
We made sandcastles.
But there was a moment before that where I was still fuming and hurt and Conor was trying to get us all to play this ‘would you rather’ kinda game and I just wanted to get up and walk away.
Sometimes we need that parent who does the opposite of us, they help us do what we can’t.
One of my favourite memories of the trip will be watching my youngest son have his 6th birthday – and strutting around calling all the shots like a little prince. He made himself this beach chair fort and then put a bucket of water at the beginning to make sure all the sand was off his feet before he got in. He sat in his fort eating doritos and announced ‘I’m going to shut this place down!’.
He’s our youngest but, now that he has turned six, it was really hitting me that this is the next stage of parenting for us. There is no more toddling around. How much longer until he doesn’t hold my hand anymore?
I hope to always remember that moment when Conor and the kids were walking to the lake and my youngest ran up alongside them to tell his dad ‘sorry I haven’t been listening’ and Conor simply put his hand on his little fluffy head and it felt like we all exhaled for the first time that day. I didn’t have my phone to take a picture so I snapped it in my mind hoping to always remember their silhouettes in front of me.
Enjoying this trip was work.
It meant feeling the feelings and not resisting them or running away on the stress train.
It meant me praying for humility to keep refreshing my proud heart with compassion and love.
It meant I kept asking myself ‘ but how do I want to show up right now?’
We do ourselves a disservice to assume that enjoying our life should be effortless.
As we drove home my brain went to all the ways this could have been easier/better – if we had a cabin, if we rented a motel suite, if we had AC in the trailer, if we had this list of things that other people have, if, if, if…. But the whole reason we went on this trip was to unplug from our lives, to eat hotdogs and chips and stay up late, to spend solid chunks of our day at the water without an agenda – together, for fun!
And I was up against my mental chatter of anxiety trying to get everyone well-fed and well-rested and trying to manage emotions that I had to keep reminding myself what this was all really about.
I want these waterfront experiences with my family because underneath I long to experience our summer as a family, together.
I want this mix of adventure and serenity to be something that brings us closer together rather than divides us. I want to extract all the summer goodness out of these years we have our kids at home with us. I want to just unplug from it all and be together.
And I’m learning that I don’t have to change a thing about what it is or isn’t. This exact experience is available to me and I get to have it – if I want it.
Enjoyment is always possible when I let go of the ‘if only’ and ‘yeah, but’.
But we have to have the courage to accept this rather than nobly tell ourselves we will settle and end up resenting the whole experience.
We have to really be all in for what is available to us and not run away with all the ways it *should be different.
We have to want what we have. What’s that saying ‘want what you have and you’ll always have what you want’. We just have to make peace with the parts we don’t like as much in order to let what we do love shine through.
What if you do have what you want already?
What if it is there, waiting for you to enjoy?
What if you removed the distractions that keep you from seeing it?
If you want to get support on this issue of Enjoying Your Life, On Purpose then come join us at the Life on Purpose Academy for this month’s lessons and coaching on this topic.