Last week, I took my first vacation in several years. A weeklong trip with my family to celebrate my dad’s 60th birthday. We stayed in a cabin on a lake in New Hampshire for a week. Together. Barely any mobile coverage (we almost all have AT&T, so…) There were bugs. Lots.
It was kind of amazing. Breathtaking views (the one below is my morning view from the porch where I’d do yoga.) Went kayaking, did yoga each morning, baked fruit pies, bbq’d. It felt like we were in the lazy summer vacation I’ve only ever seen in those Country Time lemonade commercials, with the kid jumping in the lake. (I did not jump in the lake after my first day. Dark water = scary.)
My sister’s boyfriend Nick schooled my brother’s new fiance (and the rest of us) on what he called the Netherby Rule Book, which is freaky accurate!
Rule No. 1: Dogs are people, too. (Seeing as my dog came on the trip, I have no argument here.)
Rule No. 2: Doubt anything anyone tells you. Example immediately provided at lunch when Nick said his family’s L.A. house was made out of adobe. My dad: “That would be pretty unusual. Not impossible.” (Leaving himself an out so he couldn’t be wrong was apparently Netherby Rule No. 3.)
So, yes, we’re dog lovers and critical thinkers, and sometimes just critical. We’re also storytoppers. Perfectionists. Gadget addicts (we spent evenings seated on the couches, facing each other while each reading or playing a game on our own personal device), unconventionalists (when my brother announced he and his girlfriend were engaged, they were immediately described as traditional and viewed with confusion. “That’s surprising. For this family, at least” were my dad’s words about it.) We’re also supportive, thoughtful (we created a scavenger hunt with clues written in riddles for my dad’s birthday), generous (everyone was trying to pay for meals for the whole group of 7).
I saw myself mirrored in their habits. My brother not able to step away from his game to help out with dinner was me absorbed in my Kindle rather than helping with dishes: kind of jerky. My dad making up a game out of hitting the Angry Bird pinata with a canoe ore was my brothers, sister and me planning the scavenger hunt with the imagination of little kids pretending their tree is a spaceship about to blastoff (as my sis and I used to do.)
I watched my sister, who’s always mistaken for being older than me, and who often acts more like a big sister to me with words of encouragement and advice, even if it’s just for which clothes to try on. I was wondering why she seemed so much more adult, or in charge of her life, than I feel in mine. She had been the one to set up the vacation, to make the car rental, to choose the food we got at the store, to make coffee for us all each morning (though the latter only because the rest of us refuse to learn, knowing it only leads to having to make coffee each morning.)
I kept wondering what her secret was. Then it hit me: for no reason other than she decided to do these things rather than wait to be given permission. For so many things, I’ve been waiting for permission or approval, from who I don’t even know.
So I left something behind in New Hampshire. Walked out from under an invisible cape of shoulds and shouldn’ts that was weighing me down. Sometimes it’s that easy.