Have you ever had one of those moments where you feel like someone has just thrown a rock at the mirror you were standing in front of, and you suddenly realize the mirror was blocking a door you didn’t know existed?
About a month ago, the Fourth of July to be exact, our little family took a step outside our comfort zone and joined in some small town Americana at its finest. Our local state park puts on an old fashioned patriotic event, complete with banjos, a man on stilts, a “find a needle in a haystack” contest, and, among a great many other things, a parade that literally anyone can enter up to half an hour before it starts. In my entire life of living in this county, that was the first time I have ever been to this particular event, and it almost didn’t happen this year either.
My husband and I, though I humbly think we are super fantastic (totally kidding), are not so great at pushing each other outside our comfort zones. If anything I think we tend to enable each other to play it safe. Even the morning of the parade, less than an hour before we were supposed to leave, we stood there in our kitchen giving each other as many outs as we could seem to think of. “If you don’t want to go that’s fine. We don’t have to.” “No I’ll go, I just don’t want you to feel overwhelmed.” “I won’t be overwhelmed. I know you get nervous in crowds though.” “I’ll be alright. It’s getting hot though, I don’t want the kids to be miserable.” This ridiculousness went on for way longer than I care to admit, but to be honest, we usually don’t even make it that far before one of us just decides we are staying home. This time it was different. It was like we were equally drawn to, and fearful of breaking out of our normal.
The boys were ecstatic when we told them we were going. A good sign. Ok, we were doing this thing. Can’t back out now. We loaded up the car with minimal arguing, or whining, and were on our way.
We got to our destination and immediately joined the confused line of cars looking for a parking spot. As per usual, the adults were tense as soon as it became complicated. When your husband is a professional driver for a living though, he can park your behemoth of a car pretty much anywhere with ease. First hurdle jumped. Car parked, children unloaded, so far so good.
Our little band of mischief makers stared in awe at all the people dressed up around them, taking it all in as they trailed along holding hands. We somehow managed to come in on just the right side street and immediately found my parents and sisters who had saved us a spot right in the front on Main Street. It was miraculous. Children settled in, chairs set up, I started to relax a little. This was going well so far. The kids were happy, nobody was fighting, or crying. I took some pictures as proof we were having a good time.After a brief discussion about what we would do for lunch after the parade, my parents offered to watch the kids so Franz and I could go order some pizzas to go from our friends’ restaurant just down the street. Everyone is happy, AND I get some alone time with my husband?? This day just kept getting better!
As I walked along holding hands with my man, merging with the crowd of people, feeling the festive spirit permeating everything, I felt this euphoria slowly start to work its way through me. My fingers were tingling, my step bounced a little higher, and I just couldn’t stop smiling. We ran into several friends, and I probably sounded intoxicated in how energetically I greeted them. I was happy. This feeling that had lain dormant somewhere inside of me for so long was suddenly waking up and was apparently ready to be alive again. It was LIVING. Really living. Not sticking to where I felt safe or comfortable, but taking my family out into the world and experiencing life together.
After the twins were born we went into survival mode, and we didn’t really start to come out of that until they were three. Probably right about the same time they were potty trained and were starting to be a little more independent…and then we had an unexpected little blessing. Without meaning to, we reverted to our old ways of life. I don’t even think we realized we had gone back to that until that Independence Day to be honest. How ironically appropriate. So often it’s easy for us to justify why we don’t go somewhere. There are a long list of valid reasons why we don’t do things even around our town. To the lake? Too crowded. To mini golf? It’ll take forever and they’ll fight (most likely with their clubs) the whole time. Out to dinner? Are you kidding me?! Four kids in a restaurant??
That night when the kids were in bed passed out from the fun of the day, Franz and I talked about how great it had been for all of us, and other things we’d like to do as a family. Camping, going to the beach, road trips. Suddenly a whole other way of life was presenting itself, and it kind of took my breath away in excitement. We don’t have to live in this boring little bubble for fear of it being too hard. News flash, it’s hard to be a parent whether you go out or stay in. Over the last few years, I have learned how to be comfortable speaking in front of a crowd, putting myself out there with blogging, and being ok with my own person. But I am still learning how to be comfortable as a parent. Or rather, comfortable in the uncomfortableness that is often a part of being a parent.
We recently survived- I mean took a trip to Monterey with the kids, and it was draining and fantastic all at the same time. We checked out every exhibit at the aquarium, and chased waves at the beach. Ironically the free things are usually the things my kids love the most. They could have spent hours on the beach if we had had the time. We are already planning to go back soon, possibly even for just the day, something that we never would have considered before. Too much of a drive, too hard on the kids (aka us), too much work. Basically we would have convinced ourselves it wasn’t worth it. But it is. It is so worth it. That one day of stepping outside of the tightly reigned in guidelines of how we lived our life completely blurred those lines and made us look up from the path we were so bent on staying on. Once that part of me woke up, there was no lulling it back to sleep, and truth be told I didn’t even want to try. It feels too good to breathe freely.
George Strait was right. There’s a difference in living and living well.