I overpacked for our summer vacation.
I realized my excess in accommodating for our annual family lake house vacation when I had to barter with my minimalist kids for some space in their duffle bags. All of my clothing choices were practical, casual and very lightweight to account for the typically oppressive midwest humidity. But the clear breadth of exercise clothes vs. any other category was telling. While I’d like to say it is due to my maniacal dedication to exercise, it was more about stuffing my bag with hope and a passive-aggressive suggestion that I could really use to be about 10 pounds worth of maniacal about exercise.
On this first day of vacation, everyone is settled into our wonderful summer sanctuary, and our clothes are all put away. But in a morning conversation over coffee with our son, I realized that I have even more baggage. Turns out that I packed a big pile of expectations, along with a healthy dose of attitudes and even bias that I’m not even conscious of on a normal work day. I think I depend on my well-worn attitudes and biases to be the filters or guide rails that help me focus, to weed out information, ideas, circumstances and experiences that might sidetrack me from the work, family and friend priorities I’ve developed to enjoy a really wonderful, interesting life.
But with my first day of downtime, it appears that –like my suitcase– I could use to cast off some of my pre-set thinking. Instead of waking up to my typical list of “to do’s” and a pile of personal goals I push off until vacation to stare down, I want to lighten up. Whether it be about the experiences that I will seek out or the way I receive new information, new music, new news, new food, new friends. I want to pull off the filters and fold up the agendas and give my thinking a little reinvigorating skinny dip.
My boss, the mother of two small kids, often says it is helpful to think with a child’s mind. She doesn’t mean to this in a demeaning way, she means to cut the clutter and block out the noise, rules and regimen that ostensibly protect our busy lives from chaos but also dull our receptivity. Instead, she advocates opening up and tuning into the potential of each experience.
I did get out and jog around the lake this morning. But along the way, I picked up on my son’s sense wonder at the real down-home friendliness of midwesterners. And sure enough, with the swelling weekend crowd around our lovely lakeside idyll, came more cars on the small, twisting roads, more walkers, runners, bikers. And I took stock today. Each and every one of them waved and said good morning as they passed. Every one. The buzz I got from my morning run was amplified by the buzz from a slipstream of friendliness.
We feel so fortunate to live in Northern California where diversity, acceptance, intellectual curiosity and tolerance are the norm. For example, I was awed a year ago at the response in my daughter’s high school, after a young man in another city chose to wear a skirt on a public bus, and was beaten. The next day, the majority of kids in her school — boys and girls alike– came to school wearing skirts in a sign of solidarity: be okay with who you are. I didn’t imagine that this type of social statement would be likely in the midwest, where I lived for four years after college and have visited every summer since with my husband, a Hoosier.
But not everyone in our lovely hometown waves and wishes one another a wonderful day either.
Kindness, openness and goodness come in many forms. And they are geographically neutral.
My daughter, who is logging hours toward earning her driver’s license this summer, got her “Hoosier on” by tuning into a country music station in her late Grandpa’s truck before navigating short trips into town for groceries. The stories that emerged from the dashboard crossed from funny honky tonk pick ups (“Rain is a good thing, because rain makes corn and corn makes whisky and whisky makes my baby a little bit frisky”) to soulful ballads. But they were stories that hooked us like the perch on fishing lines off the pier. Later, as we dipped our feet in the rainstorm-swelled lake, she turned up her iPhone and we happily sang along to a now familiar Keith Urban song…”and I learned everything I needed to know from John Cougar, John Deere and John 3:16.” Simple songs, simple shared pleasures. Nice change from the dashboard duel at home between “old people music” and her occasional interest in a genre that truly makes me feel ancient: “screamo.”
As the Indiana weather turns on a dime from sunny, hot and humid to boiling black skies dumping more rain in a hour than we’ve had in California in a month, I feel both sated and energized by the change in the weather. And the change in the pace. And the tiniest little changes in my own receptivity to “just be.”
Okay, I am a little sheepishly happy that I finished 4 loads of laundry and organized our family’s belongs between the clouds, my run, a few games of dominoes on the deck and my nearly-finished blog post… But you can’t undress bad habits all at once, right?
Watch out midnight lake, I’m coming for you.