The Yin and Yang of the Road

As disconcerting as a disruption of routine can be, it shakes us up in ways sorely needed, if not desired.

Relaxation takes a lot of preparation.

Drinking copious amounts of water cleanses the body; emptying the bladder repeatedly is a pain in the back side.

The Police made a lot of ska-infused upbeat rhythms with lyrics about a lot of messed up stuff.

The road is alluring but lonely.

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Jennifer Butler Basile

Junk food satisfies the soul but not the blood sugar.

Craft superstores, while offering everything a crafter might need, can cause panic attacks.

When the radio dial spins through all other numbers unsuccessfully, a country music station will still tune in.

A handful of Twizzlers is worth a bagful of oranges.

Twenty-nine hours of time with a beloved friend is worth all the trouble and travel.

Torn

I felt like a thief, stealing away in the gloom before the house’s inhabitants awoke from their slumbers.  My voice caught in my throat when I called to my husband, “Give them kisses for me when they wake up.”  It felt so wrong to be leaving, especially when they didn’t have the chance to protest.  They’d been prepared well in advance, but somehow, it still felt covert.

I looked at the house as I drove away and waved at the closed curtains, the locked doors, the house already closed to me mere minutes after my leaving.  In my mind’s eye, I saw my youngest’s eyes peeking over the windowsill to wave another time I recently left.  I missed them already.

It took me awhile to settle into the drive, but eventually I pulled out the CDs I’d packed for the trip.  (Yes, CDs – apparently, my technology is at pace with the frequency of solo road trips).  I’d packed selections to fire me up for a marathon drive and a fun reunion at the end with a friend I don’t get to see nearly enough.  I’d also picked stuff I can’t listen to when driving the kids around.  I listened to the entire Beastie Boys’ Sounds of Science anthology and then switched to The Clash.  While I was having a grand old time car-dancing and singing along, it was about this time that I realized, I must be angry.  Punk rock, rap, ska with a driving back beat, songs with titles like, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” and “We’re on the Road to Nowhere”.

Was/is my subconscious trying to tell me something?  Is some part of me totally repressed by my current state of affairs?  Am I really unhappy with the way life is?  Am I speeding down the highway chasing after the ‘me’ I lost somewhere along the line?  Am I doing such a sucky job at getting respite time that I’m about to blow?  Or did I really just need a road trip?

Somewhere around hour four of the six-hour trip, the soothing effects of the road took over.  I got used to the hum of the motor around 2800 rpms, the feel of my hands on the steering wheel, the crick in the back of the heel from my foot’s constant 45 degree angle on the gas pedal, the dull ache of the full bladder that I’d chosen to ignore till the final destination.  The traffic thinned, the sun came out, and my mind cleared.  I thought about everything and nothing.

I realized that one freeing thing about being totally overwhelmed and screwing up postpartum was that my heretofore-crippling bent toward perfectionism was thrown out the window.  Now, if not ever before, it was blindingly clear that it just wasn’t gonna happen.  And that theory was thrown out the window, when later that night, I confided to my friend that I felt like I couldn’t possibly do everything for my children.  She said that feeling came from me worrying so much about doing such a good job (i.e. perfectionism).

The whole weekend was a study in contradictions, me being torn in different directions.

Fear gripped me when we headed to the restaurant at 3 PM for lunch.  What about dinner?  Used to following a schedule acceptable for little bodies needing balanced meals, it took me awhile to adjust to eating whatever, whenever I wanted.  I ate so much at “lunch”, I had chips and Twizzlers for “dinner” at some point in the evening – I lost track.  I ate granola and yogurt for breakfast the next morning, but then gorged on a short stack with all the sides for “lupper” (we messed with meals so much this weekend, my friend started giving them her own names).

I wistfully noticed the babies in the arms or on the hips of nearly every person we passed.  Were there really that many small children in the state of Maine or was I missing my own babies that much it just seemed like it?  Though my husband does say all there is to do in Maine during winter is drink and have sex, so maybe there really are that many kids – and maybe that’s why he’s always wanted to move there ☺

Yet, I relished in looking at every single item on every single aisle of every single store if I felt like it – with no one to whine at me.  I loved chatting with my friend with no screeching interruptions – though we had so much to catch up on, we interrupted each other plenty of times.  I loved not waking up in the middle of night!!!!!!

I think what I liked most of all was being able to operate on the basest of levels.  Basic functions: eat, sleep, pee, laugh, breathe, be.  The weight of responsibility was lifted from my shoulders – if only for 36 hours.  And that’s what I meant when in my last post, “that which I was trying to escape had stowed away in the backseat”.  I don’t want to escape my children at all.  I love them and will always – even if it’s the death of me.

It was just really nice to get away.  Though, the squeezes I got when I walked in the door Sunday night were more powerful that any pressure I’ve ever felt in this trip called motherhood.

A Weekend Away

This past summer, my husband and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary.  While other couples planned international trips to celebrate theirs, we were thrilled to steal away for two nights to Brattleboro, Vermont.  In fact, I told everyone that we were so excited you’d have thought we were headed to Tahiti.  Might as well have been.  Getaways for parents of three are few and far between – so that even a couple of nights two states away felt exotic.

So did uninterrupted conversations, gourmet meals, and a bottle of champagne.  Wandering in and out of little shops without fear of little hands ripping items off shelves.  Sitting and staring into space because there was no immediate need to which to attend.

Our last morning, as we sat on the bluestone patio overlooking the grounds eating breakfast, we chatted with a couple seated next to us.  Their teenaged daughter was attending a nearby summer camp.  When they found out the young ages of our children, they realized the special nature of our getaway.

“But you must be looking forward to getting home, right?” asked the man.

My husband nodded.  “Yes, it’ll be good to see them.”

When I failed to respond, his gaze landed on me.  “I could do with another day away,” I finally said.

Maybe I was paranoid that I would be judged as a bad mother, but I watched for a grimace on his face.  Instead, I noticed the nod from his wife.  Her face affirmed everything I felt.  Her daughter may have been well past the toddler phase, but she seemed to remember all too well the strain of care giving as a twenty-four hour job.

And later that day, we were back to our twenty-four hour a day job.  And yes, I was glad to see my children.  But a few months later, when we received the save-the-date card for a friend’s wedding – in Vermont – we were excited to once again be able to plan a weekend away.

Certainly, we wouldn’t have been going on another weekend so soon without the valid excuse of celebrating our friends’ plunge into marital bliss.  Nor would we have been going if it weren’t for my in-laws’ gracious offer to take the kids for two nights.  But things seemed to be shaping up in our favor for a fun and ‘adult’ weekend.

We stayed at the inn where all the festivities of the wedding weekend were to be held and where all the other wedding guests were staying.  We caught up with friends we hadn’t seen in months or years.  We ate.  We drank.

We still woke up at 7:45 each morning.

As excited as I was to get away, I still felt guilty when in an icebreaker game of bingo used to introduce guests by their attributes, I identified myself by ‘left kids at home to come to this wedding’.

I felt like a curiosity when single guests at the wedding identified us as the couple the bride and groom were so excited could come since we never get out.

And by no means, was the irony lost on me that as the wedding party moved outside for nightcaps and sledding down the hill behind the inn, my husband and I watched through the window, warm and comfortable on cozy chairs with another couple, discussing our children and home improvements.

A weekend away is difficult for many reasons, I guess.  Finances.  Finding babysitters.  Saying goodbye to the kids.  Forgetting your responsibilities.  Remembering how to relax and reconnect.

Someday, it’ll be easier.  Someday, we may even get to Tahiti (which, by the way, is where the newlyweds went on their honeymoon).

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