Today I returned from a five day family vacation in beautiful Inlet Beach, Florida. Although I had wonderful intentions of calling old friends, catching up on some web reading that I needed to do, and beginning an exercise program (laughing isn't polite) during these five days, what I wanted most of all was to avoid the dreaded vacation meltdown.
There are some people who can be with hoards of people for days and are absolutely energized and refreshed from the experience. The more people that are around...the better they like it! The sun, the food, the fun, the relaxation! YES!!
Contrary to popular belief, I am an introvert. Okay, I'm actually on the line in the Myers-Briggs personality thingy between introvert and extrovert...but believe me...after a couple of days...I need a few days of solitude...a strait jacket...medication...or all of the above.
Add father, stepmother, sister, sister, sister, brother, husband, daughter, son, niece, nephew, and other assorted people.
Add sand, salt, sunscreen, sand spurs, sunburn, and approximately 1,300 square feet of living space.
Fold in a heaping helping of political discussion, parenting advice, and every chair that the owner has sent to the "Island of Unwanted Chairs" otherwise known as this beach house. (All of them make that lovely screech sound when moved, too. Yeah...love that [not]).
And if that isn't enough of a perfect storm...add the following LIBERALly (pun intended):
At least eleven agendas...none of them completely complementary with the others and some in direct opposition.
A decor that defies description but includes a palm tree motif, vinyl, burnt orange, fans adhered to the wall, a 1979 Daily Planner, a massive crab taped to the side of the refrigerator, a double bed that is possessed, throw rugs that will send you sailing, and a massive white Naugahyde sectional sofa that looks like Austin Powers was its former owner.
A minimum of one rainy day...generally on someone's only day at the beach. Without wi-fi...everyone is huddled around the 19 inch TV to watch a cinematic classic such as "Spaceballs."
Drama of a mechanical or plumbing nature (this year it was a van steering mechanism locking up, a cell phone that went swimming, and NO flipping wi-fi.)
A couple of inflatable mattresses nobody wants to sleep on but nobody actually wants to deflate when they aren't in use (meaning that we walk around, jump on, or trip over them ad nauseum). The niece and nephew think that it is like their trampoline at home!
Two bathrooms (one designed for pygmies and the other continuously occupied).
Alcohol (enough said).
Unspoken expectations (that unfortunately sometimes get spoken.)
Stress - real or perceived (mostly the latter.)
Generational differences (I was told today by my Gen X, Y, Z, or whatever sisters that my conservative nature is actually me rebelling against the rebelling that my parents' generation did. Well, it is logical...but gee, I just thought I was smart (down, girls...:)).
Diverse parenting styles...meaning...none of us really think that the others know what they are doing. (But we all do in our own way...)
Add this all together...and what you have - in a typical year - is a recipe for a vacation meltdown. And it is about as appetizing as it sounds...
In prior years, vacation meltdowns have occurred (on my part) because I was not asked what I wanted to do (when everyone else was...), being told that I did not need caramel cake (I don't), thinking I had to pay for a meal I had not budgeted for (apparently I missed the "we need to throw in together" part) and watching MSNBC for the third day before I spouted off (I figured if three days in hell was good enough for our Savior before his resurrection...then three days of liberal media hell was enough for me too.)
So, after rearranging their schedules to suit mine, agreeing that I would not have to cook, actually saving money to help with groceries, and pinkie-swearing with my sister, Lara, that I wouldn't bring up politics...I had the first non-meltdown vacation week since something like 1997.
Why is it that we love to visit with people, but we just have to be ourselves in spite of ourselves? What I mean is...I'd love to be a cross between Paula Deen and Carol Brady...but I am just...so...NOT.
My children are almost grown now...and I see the little niece and nephew doing what my children did only a few (okay...14) years ago. I see the desire to want to eat alone in my sister's face, and so I read an Easter book five times and create a game with dominoes to keep the munchkins happy.
I see my Texas siblings growing into twenty somethings and thirty somethings who are asking questions of life that are different from my own...but relevant just the same. I know that this one week a year does not entitle me to meddle, but I try to put a few cents worth in just the same...(while trying not to cause a vacation meltdown for one of them!)
We all seem to be stepping up into new roles...as we get older and take over the feeding and entertainment duties, there is more quiet time for Dad and Irlyn to read, nap, walk on the beach, take pictures, or just pretty much do what they want to do (when they aren't calling for a tow truck or going to Sprint to get a new phone).
So, this year, it was nice. Nice to be able to laugh, see a movie together, wear silly party hats because my niece insisted that we have a garden party at dinner every night, compare pictures, and catch up a little bit. One day, there will be fewer of us making the trips...or maybe there will be more. Who knows?
What I do know is that sometimes the vacation meltdowns are of my own making. I've always had the choice to speak up but not the courage to stand my ground. I've had the voice to ask for clarification, but have tried to read between the lines too much. I've felt unfavored, but have seriously overlooked the favor that I do receive by those who love me in spite of my behavior...
I do know that the time has come for me to find my own space within the area so that we all have the space to breathe. I have to (gasp!) find my own place next year. This has not been financially possible for the past several years...but if I start planning now...it can be. At least I hope so...
I think that sometimes the meltdowns change the composition of how we are perceived...much like leaving crayons in a hot car. Yes, while we find that they are still technically crayons...often it is just easier to throw them away instead of trying to find something to salvage. Not to mention the stain that they leave behind reminding us of the meltdown or our words of frustration (or worse) that may remain hanging in the air.
It is unlikely that I will ever convince any of them to vote for a conservative candidate, like Foo Fighters as much as I do, or get them to agree that I can't lose weight. But we did all enjoy a movie together, laughed at each other, and we survived and actually enjoyed ourselves.
P.S. Thanks to Lara for being the peacemaker. To Linda and Eric for having such beautiful children in Alex and Tara and for making the effort to get them here to the U.S. to know us. To Kathleen for being the comic relief. To Michael for laughing with Jill through "The Transformers". And to Dad and Irlyn for making the annual date so that we can have the vacation time...and for giving us the freedom to be our "unique" selves. Brian...you really are a good driver in spite of the fact that I was screaming at you like a banshee part of the day today...and Jill and David...thanks for coming for the quick trip since your schedules (and the weather) were totally uncooperative this year.
P.P.S. And to Mom and Ralph who I know would like to go to the beach...I have a plan. :)