Hmmm… Aren’t I supposed to be excited?
People have been amazingly supportive of our decision to take our kids travelling for a couple of years, and I’m grateful for that. Ninety percent of the time, the first thing that people say when they find out is “You must be so EXCITED!”. There are a lot of emotions that I’ve gone through during this planning and preparation stage, but to be perfectly honest – “excitement” is probably the one that I’ve experienced the least. When I have experienced excitement, it has been fleeting… a few brief seconds of transport into a future possibility before I am returned to the reality of the logistics and all that needs to be done and cared for in the present.
I wasn’t prepared for the deluge of negative emotions that I experienced through this planning and preparation process. What I was going through, did not occur to me as consistent with what I thought I “should” be feeling, and it left me questioning “What the heck is wrong with me? I should be over the MOON – and I’m NOT!” About six months ago, I hit a point where I realized – “If I don’t get some help in working through this – this trip is not going to happen.” If I hadn’t started working with a counselor at that time, this adventure might not be happening. I’m writing the post today that I wish I would have found six months ago when I was hitting the worst of the negative emotions – before I forget (like with the pain of childbirth…) that they can be a part of the experience.
What is already not working in your life, will start to REALLY not work
It never ceases to amaze me how many things human beings can get used to living with. When we first started working on our house, the chaos and mess of construction bothered me a great deal. Over time, I learned to live with it – and it bothered me less, and less. I got used to living in chaos, dust and mess.
There are a lot of things that I had gotten used to in the way that my family functioned as well, that came to the surface as we got closer to departure. It is as though the eminent trip served as a big magnifying glass over my life to show me what was not working. One thing in particular was that my family did not function as a team. It functioned by “Mom doing 90% of everything – and everyone else doing what they wanted”. I’d lived with that for many years… but it wasn’t going to work with the additional demands that were on me preparing to travel – and it sure as hell wasn’t going to work while we were on the road. That had to change… and it did. Not magically, not immediately, and not without a few meltdowns … but it did change. Now everyone in our family has their own accountabilities and we are all clear that for this adventure to work – we need to work as a team.
There may be moments where you feel like you are going through a 'Bad Divorce'
13 years ago, I bought the second worst house in one of the worst neighbourhoods in town. I could see great potential in both the house – and the community – and I was willing to do the work that it took to bring out the best in both of them. When I made that decision, someone said to me “You are making a mistake. You should have looked for the worst house in the best neighbourhood because you can always change a house, but you can’t do anything about a community.” My (naive and arrogant…) response to this was “But wouldn’t it be much more worthwhile to work to transform a community?” I set to work on transforming both of them.
Bringing out the best in the house took a lot of blood, sweat, tears – and money – but it was doable and we achieved what we set out to do… and frankly – it was a piece of cake compared to trying to bring out the best in the community. A lot more blood, sweat, tears, work, sleepless night and money went into the community than into our house… and well… I’m not sure we made any difference at all… and that was hard to be with.
I’m not good at picking up and leaving things unfinished and incomplete. As I would watch incredibly hateful displays occur between community members on facebook – even though none of them were directed at me – they still felt like daggers… reminding me of how far the community still had to go to reach it’s potential. I found myself deeply conflicted about leaving a community that was struggling when I had committed to working to improve it, even though I knew the effect that living in this community was having on my own children. I’ve never gone through a divorce, but I expect that a lot of the feelings are similar. Guilt, frustration, bitterness and failure doing a tug-of-war against the desire to provide another type of life for myself and my family. There was a lot I had to come to peace with to get myself to the place where I knew I was “running towards” an adventure, vs. “running away” from a failure.
The terror... oh the terror...
Yes… the gut wrenching, stop breathing, curl into fetal position and crawl under my bed kind of terror has been there. It hasn’t been global events or major things that have triggered it either. Those I can take a deep breath and get through like a boss. It has happened when my kids started to literally tear each other apart over the last iogo in the fridge and I think “What the heck am I going to do on a 15 hour international flight with these kids killing each other – if I can’t manage them in my own kitchen?” It has happened when I have misplaced an important document, looked at the list of things that we still need “to do” before we leave, re-painted (for the 15th time…) the wall by my kitchen table where my son feels the need to put his dirty feet… It is all the little things that I struggle with “now” when life is relatively “easy” that I am not sure I can handle while we are travelling.
I’m not going into this with any illusions that it is going to be a constant, stress-free “holiday”. We aren’t taking a vacation – we are choosing to live for a period of time, in a nomadic way so that we can share the experience of seeing the world with our kids. The reality is, we may discover that this way of life does NOT work for our family – and that we simply can’t handle it. There is a lot that I can’t predict, a lot that I can’t prepare and plan for – because I simply don’t know how things will work out. That is not easy for a “planner” like me… but because it is not easy – that is exactly why it is important for me to do it. It is important for me that my kids learn that we grow and become better human beings by doing things that scare us, and we don’t feel ready for. It is important for me that my kids learn that they have it within them to handle whatever life throws their way. And yes, there are a lot of moments where I have to stop myself and breath… and remember that I have it within me to handle whatever comes our way.
And... when I can't handle it...
I need to remember to ask for help. I need to remember that the world is full of wonderful, supportive people who will help me and my family out when we need it.
About the Author
Professionally, I am an e-learning instructional designer who breaks down the barriers of space and time in learning. Personally, I'm the Mom in the Little-Green Family, and co-planner in our adventures.