"It's kind of a long story..."
This has been my most uttered response the last week. Why did I go to Portland? Yeah, that.
I wanted to touch on this just a little bit, though.
The other week I saw a good friend of mine post about a weekend trip she made alone. She, like me, is a wife and mom of four. She posted briefly about this trip, and previous ones, where she checks herself into a hotel room and takes time to herself to do...whatever she wants. Read. Write. Hike. Eat good food. Spend. Time. Alone.
I couldn't possibly think of something more that I wanted than a weekend to myself at that moment when I read her post. It was almost painful how bad I wanted it. Not because I am overwhelmed or too burdened by mom/home life. I am sometimes, but not all the time, it's manageable. Not because I had some grand thing to get done that required little distractions. Because I'm more and more discovering, reading about, and accepting the fact that nothing fuels me better than being alone, and I'm sort of sick of feeling like that makes me a selfish person. Who does that? Who WANTS to get away from everyone they love? Who wants to visit beautiful places with no one to share it with? Who wants to sit in a room with nothing, NOTHING going on, no TV, no music, no computer, no phone, no entertainment, just me. And maybe a chair. And maybe a window. And maybe a book. Maybe. Me. I do. I DO!
I had tickets I got a month or two previous to a Tribute to Ursula K. Le Guin that my husband and I were thinking about going to in Portland, OR. He would be tagging along to the event not because of his love for this quirky, strong, brilliant, and hilarious woman who stole my science fiction/fantasy writing heart, but because he lived in Portland (on a church mission) almost 15 years ago and hadn't been back since- and truly the both of us would have enjoyed the weekend together away from it all. But when push came to shove, it really wasn't the best time for him to leave work for a number of reasons. And I had a choice that was eating me alive.
I wanted to go anyway. I wanted to go to the event, yes, but I wanted to be alone somewhere else for a little while. How on earth was I going to ask my husband, busy as ever and also in a boot from a bad sprained ankle, to take over for a few days and let me go to a place he learned to love in many ways without him?
I kept bringing it up with him, "Are you sure you can't go? Are you SUUUUURE you can't go?" and when the answer kept coming back, "no", I resigned that must be my answer too, the timing wasn't ideal, it would be too much. The day came where I was going to need to call the event center and give back my tickets, and on a whim I double checked plane tickets just to see, I told myself. And of course Frontier had a special going on almost cutting a plane ticket price in half, and I just knew this meant I was going. There wasn't anything that was going to stop me, it was going to happen.
The day or two before I was set to leave, the sour feeling in the pit of my stomach was bubbling up to a slow boil. I was packing for just me. I was picking outfits I don't usually wear just around the house. I was booking little Airbnb bungalows that would not be suitable for a family of six, but that had a view or an interesting vibe because it was just me. And I'd be doing all this without anyone, knowing somehow that I had convinced myself through the years that I wasn't adventurous enough to be doing all this, but that I knew it would all work out and I'd be fine. I messaged my dear friend to tell her that she inspired me with her own solo trip to take my own, and couldn't stop myself from admitting it was hard to shake the guilt as I was packing. Her advice to me was exactly what I needed to hear, and doused that slow boil in an instant.
"Guilt did not get an invitation to go to Portland."
And she was so right. So I took it out of my bag and tossed it in the trash.
I don't know if a solo trip is for everyone. But I do know that finding a way to connect with yourself is definitely for everyone, dare I say especially for moms. It bothers me sometimes how much we mothers make motherhood our most important identity.
Yep. I'm gonna say that again. This time read it a little slower.
It bothers me sometimes how much we mothers make motherhood our most important identity.
How many, I think well-intentioned, women out there use motherhood to define their professions? I'm not a blogger, I'm a mom-blogger. I'm not a photographer, I'm a mom-tographer. And all those businesses and hobbies and blogs about those businesses and hobbies are named after our children. Do you know any guys out there at social gatherings who extend their hand in greeting and say, "Hi, I'm Jerry, I run Dad-Accounting through Brenton-Addy Accounting Inc., nice to meet you, do you have kids? I'm the best Dad-accountant out there, let me help you juggle your financial needs and parenthood all in one!" I'm not saying any of those things are bad, the definitely aren't, and I recognize that there are moms out there who absolutely love that what they are passionate about is being a mother, and I am in love with mothers who are that.
But I'm not a mom-tographer. I'm a photographer who is also a mom. I'm a writer who has kids. I'm an artist who uses her passions and talents to enrich her kids lives sometimes. But mostly so I can enrich myself. There is absolutely no way I'd have any juice to be a good mother if I wasn't a good ME first.
So I went. And I want to share one story real fast that taught me everything I needed to know about why this trip was so essential in an instant.
It was the morning of my last full day in Oregon and I had spent the night in Arch Cape, just south of Canon Beach. I had taken a short but absolutely soul-nourishing hike from the highway to Short-Sand Beach in Oswald West State Park. When I got to the beach, I realized I wanted to get to the rocks on the south side of the cove, but there was a creek separating most of the beach from those rocks. I had opted to wear my tennis-shoes on the hike instead of my chacos because the straps had given me some blisters after getting wet walking on the beach the day before. This meant that I'd have to find a way to cross the creek without getting my shoes wet (I don't think there's much I like less than wearing wet shoes/socks...it just wasn't an ideal option for me...). I found a narrower section of the creek that had a few stepping stones and short logs that if I was careful, I might get across without getting wet.
Let me just say first, that the endeavor was successful, I made it across without slipping, falling, or getting my feet even the slightest bit wet even while carrying my water bottle in one hand and my camera equipped with my largest lens hanging off my shoulder. Let me say second I felt victorious afterward. I'm usually clumsy. I'm ill-balanced physically and I am near-sighted in one eye and far-sighted in the other, making depth-of-field and judging distances a constant issue for me. But there wasn't anyone there waiting for me to cross or watching me. It was just me and my feet and my own judgment and I made it across without any problems without thinking too much about it.
This was something I could accomplish alone that I couldn't have accomplished with someone else. This whole trip was that for me, and I've taken some photos that I don't know I ever would have gotten in the same way in any other fashion than being on my own. There was a piece of me, way down deep, that was squished and crowded with everything else I'd stacked on top of it that I was able to find, clean up, dust off, and shine for a few days. Oh, there I am. Hi. Welcome back.
And that's why it matters to be alone sometimes.