On Day 100 of the Nowhere To Be Project I found myself on the verge of an emotional meltdown. I’ve been in my hometown for the past couple days to deal with some family stuff. I’m not one of those people who longs for the familiar comfort of their hometown. Quite the contrary actually. For me, my hometown is more comparable to a haunted graveyard than a welcoming respite. As a result, I came here very, very reluctantly after receiving some news that left me feeling compelled to leave my husband and dog midway through a RV road trip. In short, a sense of obligation led me back here again. Truth be told, I usually avoid being here at all costs because the ghosts of my dysfunctional childhood seem to lurk around every corner, both literally and figuratively. Every street holds a memory. The faces seem to stare with a sad and familiar knowing. This place nearly stole my spirit and that is why I left. I knew that happy people existed and I eventually found them. I also found my own happiness along the way and I protect it fiercely.
Many say that running away is never the answer. As a retired mental health professional, I can tell you that sometimes running is an effective survival mechanism. This is especially true if what you’re running from is incapable of change. Flight can provide sweet relief when you’ve exhausted every ounce of fight within you. My personal beasts only show their fangs in Central Florida so I generally stay away.
The good news about today is that I self-medicated with a joyful lunch with my happy, healthy, fang-free adult son. I followed this up with a trip to the mall (another perfectly acceptable coping mechanism, within reason of course:-). First, I devoured a scoop of Häagen Dazs dairy-free chocolate salted fudge truffle ice cream, each lick bringing a bit of calm and composure. Then I bought a luscious cruelty-free tarte lip gloss at Sephora in the cheeriest color I could find. Surely it will help me shine my way through the rest of my time here. Self-care comes in so many forms, doesn’t it? Maybe, just maybe, these small indulgences will keep the ghosts at bay until my impending escape.
On Day 96 of the Nowhere To Be Project I made my way to Mackinac Island, Michigan. It is a picturesque island in the upper peninsula of the state. There are no cars on the island, but bicycles and horses provide transportation around its quaint streets. While I’d never visited the island prior to today, it lived in my memory from the stories my mom told me about her visits here as a child. She and her family would drive up in the summer for a day or two for their “vacation”. Both of my parents came from meager means and according to their shared memories, Mackinac Island was a retreat for the wealthy. I remember my mom describing The Grand Hotel, an historic hotel on the island, as a palace. She recalled peeking in the windows as a little girl, awed by the grandeur of the elegantly dressed guests. Of course, The Grand Hotel was my goal today and I enjoyed lunch there in honor of my mom. The stately building is teeming with people and history. The sprawling front porch is a great place to rock away the hours to the sound of the surrounding water and the perfect spot for remembering those we’ve lost. The only thing missing today was my mom and I certainly felt her spirit with me. To that end, I’m pretty sure she forced me into her favorite fudge before boarding the ferry back to St. Ignace, haha.
On Day 85 of the Nowhere To Be Project we started the day at the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. After such a nice time last night and this morning, we decided that we needed a vacation from our vacation. We’ve been moving from place to place each day, packing it all up each morning and unfurling it later each night. For those who’ve never RVed, the lifestyle requires a surprising amount of work and physical labor. As a result, we’ve been feeling a bit worn out and decided that we needed to find a spot to park and pamper ourselves for a few days. We lucked into a place with a RV Park called Turning Stone Resort and Casino. It is located in Verona, a beautiful area of New York with rolling hills and wide stretches of nature. The park itself is about a mile from the main resort and casino, but a free on-call shuttle service makes that a nonissue. Our goals for this get-away from life on the road are to relax at the spa and pool, and to live it up at the casino, restaurants and night clubs that are on-site. We’d also like to take showers that are longer than 30 seconds for a few days, haha.
We had an RV when our kids were small and always felt so exhausted after those trips. Back then, we were working around the kids’ busy school and activities schedules as well as our crazy work hours. These limitations made us feel like we had to cram everything the kids were interested in seeing into one trip. Now, we have nothing but time, yet we still find ourselves spinning like crazed tops. The bottom line is that we literally have Nowhere To Be (hence “the Project”) and it is about time we start enjoying it! I think a massage will be a good place to start tomorrow, don’t you?
Day 67 of the Nowhere To Be Project marked Mother’s Day. I spent it with one of my children, my husband, my brother-in-law along with his daughter, and my 87 year old mother-in-law. We enjoyed a lovely lunch and hours of conversation focused on days gone by. My mother-in-law has lived an amazing life filled with love, travel, adventure and loss. We love hearing the stories of her life and learn something new about her each time we visit. As we were leaving, she teared up as she thanked us for her best Mother’s Day yet. Her joy was not the result of a gift. It didn’t come from the meal either. It blossomed from the rare time of togetherness that we shared as a family. As a mother myself, I knew exactly what she was feeling. I always tell my kids that I do not need or want presents from them. I just want to be with them. I love nothing more than to see their perfect faces, hear their stories and hug them with the fierceness that only other mothers seem to find normal. I know that I could never possibly get my fill of them and certainly won’t stop trying. Happy Mother’s Day!
Day 65 of the Nowhere To Be Project was spent wholly on Disney grounds. I was born and raised in Central Florida, so Walt Disney World has been a staple for my entire existence. I was born the very year the Magic Kingdom opened and cannot even begin to count my visits over the years. As a child, I loved the wonder of a Disney day. As a parent though, Disney truly came alive. It was so magical to watch my kids light up at the sight of their favorite characters. I liked Lady and the Tramp as a kid. I even had a Lady stuffed pooch that accompanied me to bed most nights. It was different with my children though because the influence of Disney became so pervasive for kids of the 90s (much more that the Sunday evening Wonderful World of Walt Disney programming we had in the 1970s). My daughter had a full wardrobe of Disney princess gowns, tiara and slippers that encompassed her daily wardrobe. My son’s toys were 70% Disney-centric (think Buzz Lightyear and Woody, Aladar, Mighty Jo Young, Simba and on and on). It was ALL Disney ALL THE TIME.
Today, my husband and I visited Epcot. As we monorailed over to the park, I caught a glimpse of the face of a little boy who was sitting on his mother’s lap. His wide eyes were fixed on the window beside their seat, filled with views of the vast and rolling landscape of Disney. He was listening intently to the conductor who briskly announced the upcoming stops, making sure not to miss a thing. He was adorned with Disney gear…hat, shirt, action figure, sneakers. He was obviously over the moon to be in this place. As I watched him, I secretly hoped that his experience would far exceed the expectations he had amassed for it. More than that though, I hoped that his mother’s heart would forever warm at the memory of her delighted baby in the “happiest place on Earth”. I know mine does.
Day 14 of the Nowhere To Be Project was spent helping my daughter look for an apartment. This is a discouraging process because she’s searching in one of the highest rent districts in the country. Needless to say, everything seems out of reach for her meager budget. She and her boyfriend think that moving in together is the solution as they’d be able to split the exorbitant fee in half. In my mind, this would be a mistake of epic proportions.
My first apartment was similar to those she’s been considering. It was small, a bit run down and was not really situated in the best part of town. Despite being informed of these issues by my parents, I couldn’t have cared less. I was so thrilled to have my own space that I didn’t see any of the flaws. I drenched that space all in pink, my signature color, and filled it with all of my favorite books. Within those walls I taught myself how to cook, clean, study and sew a button. I learned how to plunge a toilet and replace an air-conditioning filter as well, certainly basic life skills. Above all that though, I discovered myself apart from anyone else and I want that for my daughter.
My resistance to my daughter’s desire to live with her boyfriend is not based on the antiquated standards you might expect. It isn’t about sex or marriage or money. I want her to experience the joy of solitude. When she was little, she used to build a wall to keep her baby brother out of her room. He’d scream and cry, but I allowed the wall because I knew that she needed her own space to grow and establish her place in the world. The issue of cohabitation is similar in my mind. I want her to learn, as I did, that she is capable of caring for herself and managing anything on her own. The gift of privacy is one that fades fast as we mature and blend our lives with others, so I hope she’ll give it a chance in her own space for now. I’ll even forgive her if she doesn’t coat it in shades of bubble gum and strawberry pop.