Family vacation after 40 years

The last family vacation was the summer of my 6th year of life.  We were at Lewes, Delaware beach camping in tents on the sand. I stayed in the tent with my parents while my big brothers had a tent to their own.  Their tent was waterproof, ours was not. Dad and Mom cooked dinner at the campsite nightly. Dessert was a can of fruit cocktail. At that time there was only one cherry in the mix.  It was a mad sword fight of the forks to capture that solo cherry. I am not sure if I ever was successful, yet it was great fun every night!

  Now we are all grown up with grown kids of our own.  The nuclear family and their mates came to this cabin retreat in Boone, NC.  The talk of having a family vacation was to occur Someday.  

Where does the time go?  In the end, does it really matter?  We are here now, enjoying the woods, water and each other.  Shared meals, clinking glasses, stories of love, heartache and support fill the air.  We explore together a new patch of the globe. I am so happy to be all together in this magical place.  Afternoons are filled with reading, hot tub talking, and naps after mornings filled with intense hiking or shopping.  Life does not get much better than this.

On the last family vacation 40 years ago, the big brothers were venturing off to college and early adulthood.  There were many conversations about successful navigation of the next chapter of life. I remember sitting in awe as I had another decade until I would even begin to experiencing that life phase.  Now we sit around the table and discuss the transition to retirement with just as much wonder, worry and delight as we did all those years ago dreaming of adulthood. I am not planning to work full time for another decade; I am slightly behind them in the phase of life too.   Even today, I look forward to joining them in the retirement phase.

A cabin in the woods along the water was something I remember both parents talking about frequently.  Life and death got in the way and we are finally here.  That someday finally became today. Mom and I are the single gals that even out the pack to 6. The sweetest part is that this spectacular cabin is owned by our cousin.  We can’t help ourselves from remembering our youth altogether. That cousin joined us one summer during our beach vacation in tents.  That particular year the VW bus broke down and extended our vacation unexpectedly.  All the kids were delighted!

As a child, I wanted to hurry up and join my brothers in the phase of life where they were.  Now in middle adulthood, we have come to a similar place in life with adult children.  They are wonderful advocates as I navigate life slightly behind them.  There is an unfair advantage that I am fortunate to experience.  Finally, they don’t consider me the annoying little sister too often.  It is amazing to reflect on how the last 40 years has played out for all of us.

Who knows what the next family vacation will have in store for us.  I just hope it is not in another 40 years, or it may have to be in a nursing home!  There is nothing quite like the sound of family laughter to lift your spirits.  This time together as a nuclear family plus spouses has been spectacular.  5 days is the sweet spot of time together.  2 of the days are filled with travel while 3 days are dedicated to adventure. 

Our unforgettable moment will forever be the 5-foot long black snake on the windowsill of my brother’s room.  You have never heard so much screaming and laughter.  I was alerted to this snake and walked up the stairs all confident.  I mean, it’s a harmless snake, right?  I walk in the room to take a look as I hear my brother say it’s at least 5-feet long.  My eyes spy the snake as my brain takes in the information of the size.  Before, I know it, I am on top of the chair yelling at the top of my lungs, “Holy Shiiiiiiit!” Next thing I know I am in the kitchen on top of the cabinets as the ladies in the house are running out of the room.  Good thing the brothers were calm with a plan to remove the snake in a box safely.  

We have not stopped laughing since!

Cheers to the Family,

Kristin Springfield

The first week on a new job is like….

The first week of a new job reminds me of the first week of every semester in college.  The first day brought excitement and hope.  By Wednesday, I am crying in the corner and think I have made a serious mistake in life choice.  Then Friday comes with the gift of two days off to try to get my shit together again.

In college, the first week is when I would receive all of my syllabi for each class.  My organized self would promptly add EVERY task to a calendar.  By the end of the week, I was losing my mind with panic feeling like there was no way in the world I could get all of those tests and projects completed and actually get to class on time.  I would be completely overwhelmed, tearful and feel awful.  That is when my Dad would just happen to call to check in on me.  He certainly got an earful of words that could barely be understood through the tears.  With his very logical mind, he would talk me off the ledge of quitting college and remind me of my worth.  At the end of the call, I would feel better, for my parents were the people I want (ed) to be proud of me.  Mom and Dad would tell me how much they loved me and reassured me I could finish the tasks since they were spread out over 3 months not 3 days!

We would laugh about these phone calls after I made it out of college.  That first-week hell is probably one reason why I never wanted to go back to school. I was determined to work my ass off the first time around so I never had to feel the way the first Friday of every semester felt.

I have a ridiculously high expectation of myself.  I want to be efficient, productive, helpful and certainly not a burden to anyone. Once I achieve that level in anything, I work very hard to stay on top of everything so life flows as smooth as possible even in the face of change.  I have not felt that first Friday of college feeling in such a long time, I forgot how crippling unreason self-expectations can be; until this week.

I started my second assignment in my traveling OT life.  By the end of the 2nd day, I was on that familiar ledge of college.  I went to a local exercise class (Yoga sculpt by AMT) that is certain to have me sweat out everything I have in me in order to help reset.  It worked the day before, why wouldn’t it work on this day?  Well, that is not how it went.  The instructor shared a message about being enough as you are in this moment.  The tears started to build behind my eyes.  Then she played a song where the singer told a story of wanting to stop by someone’s house to tell them how much he loved them and believed in them.  That was it for me.  The person at that moment I wanted (needed) to stop by and talk with me was my dad.  Much like those first Fridays of each semester, I needed to know that I was doing a good job, that I am loved, and that I will do well in the end as long as I give myself a break.

Sadly, I could not have that conversation with him except in my head, for he passed in December.  It always surprises me when I miss him the most.

Glad to have tough days here

Even though life is so much better than it was for me in VA, there are still tough days.  I am sad at times and still crave a certain kind of connection.  Yet I have to say, I would rather be struggling emotionally here in Sioux Falls then back in Danville any day!  In South Dakota, there are only a few places the past shows up, which are in my mind and on social media.  I have a choice for both of those triggering items.  Thoughts provide an opportunity to be examined, challenged and reworked to be helpful rather than damaging.  Some days I am better than others in transforming thoughts.  Social media can actually be more difficult to manage, so I just block the people that my thoughts like to take hold of and punish myself with the past.  That at least keeps the highlight reels of some lives from popping up daily.

I’d rather feel sad and lonely here for multiple reasons!  There is zero probability of me actually running into a ghost from my past here while living my daily life.  If I were to see anyone from Danville here we would have a conversation about this great place and travel.  It is truly remarkable at the reduction of sadness that I feel because I no longer run into any reminder of my past here.  Even the positive memories had a sense of loss connected to them in VA for me.  Now the loss is replaced with possibility.  The slate is so clean here!  I have become rather skilled at going out alone to experience new things.  I remember being a child and having my mom encouraging me to attend things by saying, “Go! You might just have a good time and meet someone.”  So I go and see what happens.

Doing things alone is refreshing.  I take myself out to dinner and “we” have a great time.  Yet dinner goes pretty quick.  Even if I pause to look around the restaurant and watch people, it still goes faster than it would with someone sitting with me.  This is an opportune moment when thoughts can spin out of control carrying negative and damaging messages.  Moving through those thoughts is getting easier, but sometimes it does prompt me to finish my meal quickly.  My best defense is to move my body.  That way my mind has something else to think about.  Focusing on the weather, while paying attention to the sights outside soothes to me and unplugs the mind.  Taking myself out to listen to music is interesting as well.  I have met more people standing around at the music festivals and small venues than any place else.  There are always people who stand and listen during these type of events.  They are designed for listeners and well, dancers too.

Doing things alone provides the opportunity for me to free myself from all kinds of mental trash!  Doing solo activities brings all the 13-year-old fears of not being good enough or cool enough to have friends to the surface.  It is almost as though they are invited and demand the front row seat of my mind.  I combat them with riding my streamer adorned bike often.  I figure the best way to combat the child of my mind is to ride a bike like a child.

I take the time to dress up for self-dates due to another mom message I remember, “If you look good, you will feel good.”  When the 13-year-old in me calms down, I can relax and enjoy the moment.  Going solo provides the space to blend in with the surroundings and truly watch others in action.  Initially, people may notice I am alone and that I am near them. Yet, in a matter of moments, I become white noise to them as they return to their conversation.  That is what we all do when we are with friends, go on and have our discussions as if we can’t be heard.  Most of the time your debates go unnoticed because everyone around you is doing the same.  However, the solo person only has the conversation in their head to contend with while they listen to all that is happening.

People are remarkable!  I started taking a journal with me so I can document the insights gleaned from watching others.  It is better than social media for certain.  I am delighted to witness the sweet gestures of people who adore each other.  I observe the best of friends experiencing the true joy of laughter.  I also see the couples regardless of age who take each other for granted as they are out for the evening.  Those are the ones that break my heart.  Why be with someone you have grown tired of respecting and looking out for?

I have been on both sides of that “taking others for granted fence” and vow to burn it to the ground.  In my line of work, I spend my time with the elderly, and it is clear that the desire for connection NEVER leaves us.  It seems as though we are not designed to go through life alone.  I have met some wonderful people here and connected, yet there is still yearning for connection that remains unsatisfied.  My dedication to loving myself fully as I am right now has provided remarkable experiences.  I am proud to courageously go out alone to events in spite of not having someone to accompany me.  It was not all that long ago when that head trash was much louder than the courage and often kept me at home.

Wherever you go there you are.  I have to say that the location really does matter. At the end of the day, I am so happy to be where I am physically on any kind of emotional day!

Namaste!

Kristin Springfield
Riding Solo