Spring break has arrived in my house and the long awaited and well planned trip to go to New York to see my father in the Broadway show Anything Goes is finally here.
My incredibly generous pop decided to fly the entire family to New York and put us up at a top-of-the-line hotel; my sister, her husband, their two kids, my daughter, myself—and, get this, even our mom (his ex-wife) are all being treated to this 5-star trip.
That’s the good news.
The bad news… did I mention seven of us in total? All related to each other?
Can we say, “Holy balls, I might kill someone by the end of this trip?”
Why is traveling with family so challenging? Why does it bring out the absolute best and worst in me? Why do I regress into an angry, irritable, moody teenager when I’m with these people?
Why don’t I ever remember how hard family trips are??
I mean, after all the therapy and work I’ve done on myself I’d like to think I’ve accomplished some level of healing, growth, spiritual awakening, but get me on an airplane and in a hotel room with these people and I swear I become the absolute worst, most evil and hideous version of myself. At least that’s what my equally-regressed brain tells me.
I don’t understand it. I love these people. They’re my blood. And I think they love me too. Or do they…?
The voices in my head are not nice.
It is so easy for me to fall into an old ‘role’ when I spend a certain amount of time with my family. I mean, dinners once a month—totally cool. Birthdays, all good. Holiday celebrations, I’m in.
But, trips TRIP ME OUT AND UP!
Within a day I’m convinced that I’m the dark, complicated, pudgy one with braces and my sister is the light, soft spoken, everyone’s favorite one with perfect posture.
I’m the crappy Mom, she’s the golden Mom. I’m the one without a husband, she’s the one who knew how to keep a man. And on and on and on…
So, tonight I decided to give myself a break. Right now as I’m writing this everyone else is up on Broadway having dinner. I told them I had to bow out because I had to write my column. Now, this wasn’t a lie. I did and I do.
But, honestly, I think I’m hiding.
After 48 hours of non-stop family time I felt immediately like the “little Susan” who so often wanted to run away from home because she was convinced no one liked her. Understood her.
So, I figured if I started working on my column, spent some alone time in this beautiful room, looked at the pictures I took of Hannah today and drank some room service coffee I’d get grounded again.
“Susan, this is your higher-self talking… pull it together. You are a wonderful mom, a writer, a friend, a lover and a dog owner… breathe… the year is 2011 not 1981. Everything is okay.”
I think it’s starting to work. But it has got me thinking—does this happen to everyone or just me? Is there ever a time when we fully, completely shed ourselves of our old skin and live entirely in our present form?
I’d like to think so, but I’ve been at this recovery process for a long time and it still shocks me how quickly I can slip into that old costume I call, childhood gear.
It certainly creates a level of humility in me. I mean, if you ever think you’ve got your shit together go on a family vacation and then report back to me.
Definitely gets me to drop to my knees lickity split.
And, being a mom, I watch my daughter… 9 years old walking through Central Park in the rain refusing to go under my umbrella, getting irritated with me when I don’t want her leaning over the subway tunnel, being sarcastic when she thinks I’ve said something lame…
I mean, when she’s a Mom and has outgrown some of those rebellious, impatient ways will she feel the squirmy, icky feelings of falling into those old patterns the minute she’s with me on a family trip?
God, I hope not.
Family dynamics are so difficult to navigate your way through. They’re filled with twisted realities, unspoken (or loudly spoken) pain, enormously complex histories.
I suppose it’s because of these things that I’m constantly aware of how much I am contributing to the creation of Hannah’s history. I mean, her history is forming all the time, it’s happening now, today, always.
I guess the only thing I can do is try my best to make it a solid, loving, happy one. But, it will never be perfect. No one’s history is perfect. She too will have bumps in the road.
I just hope they’re small and don’t leave her one day, when she’s a grown up, wanting to hide in a hotel room.
But, if they do… I sure hope it’s a damn nice hotel room like this one.
And here’s the rub. Ready?
I hear them right now coming down the hallway as I type this last line. They all just got back from dinner. The door just flew open and they are all piling in.
And wouldn’t you know it… I missed them.