Feb. 18, 2017

Packing the Car

Living in Sacramento, with family in Nevada, guarantees mountain travel for visits.  Because you can’t just hop off the freeway and use alternate roads to get where you are going, you can find yourself trapped on the road for hours waiting for an accident to be cleared.  A massive mudslide and the road can be closed for days.  The only way around is often backward to a two-lane road that connects the only two major highways that go over the mountains and a circular route to your destination. Holiday travel is guaranteed to be even more complicated.  It once took me seven hours to get from Carson City to Sacramento—a trip that should take less than three. 

Butch was a master packer.  No matter where we were going, you could be sure that everything you might need would be available.  Due to conflicting work schedules, I often made the trip through the mountains alone.  His concern for my well-being and his outdoorsman hobbies enabled him to strategically pack the truck.  By the time he was finished, I could comfortably survive even if it took three days instead of three hours. I had a sleeping bag, lights, tons of food, batteries, you name it.  I felt so well tended.

Yesterday, I made the trip in the face of a formidable storm to babysit my niece and nephew so their parents could attend a conference.  I reminded myself several times to think like Butch­ and be more mindful in my packing.  Last week’s travelers faced mudslides, road closures, and long detours.  I especially wanted to grab a sleeping bag just in case.  Years of being spoiled by him, combined with my laissez faire and overly optimistic attitude in general, resulted in my hitting the road with very little to show in terms of preparation.  As I cleared Sacramento and started up into the foothills I realized I had my suitcase, a few protein bars and shakes, three fig bars, three large water bottles, a comforter that was in the car before I packed, and the ingredients for rice crispy treats to make with my niece and nephew.  Given the pouring down rain, the snow falling in the mountains, and the potential for heavy traffic on this three-day weekend, I was not impressed with my ability to take good care of myself.

I have been amazed by how much I absorbed living with him over the years.  I’ve figured out how to do things that seemed outside my reach when he was alive by asking myself what he would have done.  I’ve also succeeded in doing things that would have gone much better with help, just to prove that I could--which I also learned from him.

Part of successfully becoming us without them will be selfcare. Did we only deserve to be pampered because they thought we were worth the trouble? What does it say about our awareness of and appreciation for their love and care if we drop the ball as soon as they are gone?  Has our value really diminished because they are no longer here?  Yet where is the line between passive victimhood and destructive self-reliance?    

An important part of selfcare is accepting our limitations and asking for help. We will be most proud of having learned to allow others to love us through service.  Family and friends were our lifeline the first year.  In this second year, they will be the vitamins and minerals that will keep our lives emotionally healthy and balanced.  Almost more as a commitment to them, we can try to be at least mindful of what they would have done to take care of us in various situations and do as well on our own. 

And all this while fighting the sadness that comes each time we find ourselves on the threshold of a new adventure merely because they are gone……………