After spending a great week in Colorado with my Mom I returned home to change suitcases and pack for the family beach trip that we’ve had planned for months. This would be the first trip to the Outer Banks that we’ve done with friends, versus the extended Webb family, and I was excited to be on an actual vacation opposed to the week in Colorado that was a mixed bag.
This was going to be 7 days of relaxing, playing, eating and socializing with friends at our favorite place, the beach. We went with two amazing families from our old neighborhood. The Litz’s have been some of our best friends for almost 15 years now and even though we moved away almost 5 years ago we manage to make time to connect and support each other still. The Morgan’s have been in our lives mainly because of Madison but we have grown to love and appreciate them as a family. Ella, their middle daughter, is Madison’s best friend. Ella’s Mom, Missy, has been their Girl Scout Troop leader since they were around 4 years old. Missy has been like another mother to Madison and I’ve enjoyed having another woman in her life that cares for her so deeply. We were excited about the week ahead!
It’s been 4 years since we got a house on the beach in the Outer Banks because it’s so pricey in the summer but I was determined to get us back there knowing it’s one of my kiddos favorite places on the planet and happens to be where my life long best friend lives. They were over the moon excited to leave on Saturday morning and I was doing my best to pack and prepare in the 20 hours I had after returning home from Colorado. As usual Greg did all the heavy lifting to get our “stuff” in, or on top of, our car while I was gone. He packed all the beach essentials and his seven fishing rods, which he seemed to think was not that many….hmmm. Anyway, the car was, for the most part, packed and I just had to get some of the basics, check the kid’s suitcases, and get my own stuff together. Greg made this really easy and we pulled out of our driveway only 40 minutes later than I’d hoped. Huge win for us!
In the beginning of a road trip the anticipation is typically contagious and the kids are super nice to each other as we make the 6-7 hour drive to NC. We’re agreeing on movies and snacks and even bathroom breaks. Okay….time out. This is when I think I should reset my expectations because it’s all too good to be true. The excitement of what’s to come is so overwhelming that we care less about irritating each other or getting “our” way than normal. It’s a beautiful thing, but it also makes me sit back and think….this is probably about as good as it’s going to get all week. Don’t get me wrong, I’m caught up in it as much as they are and I’m imagining days on the beach in the sun and surf. Drinking yummy drinks and eating anything I want. We are all in this euphoric place and it feels great.
We’re the second family to arrive with the Litz crew close behind us. It immediately hits me that I hope everyone is happy with their room situation. I know how this goes, there are more ideal rooms than others and someone often gets the crappy end of that deal. In general the rooms all seem nice but it’s the anxiety, since I made the final decision on the house, that everyone might not be as content with their arrangements. If that was the case everyone kept it to themselves and made the best of it. Greg and I always take the top master that’s close to the kitchen so he doesn’t have to ride the elevator as much due to his MS. For those that don’t know my husband, Greg, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2007 and has been fighting the battle ever since. He is winning in mindset but losing physically every day.
With Greg’s challenges I know that the kids and I need to do the heavy lifting to unpack and get things in the house. We are not there 15 minutes and Chris, Ella’s Dad, essentially unpacks our entire car. I’m floored. Greg hasn’t even come up to see the house and Chris has all of our belongings in the right rooms. What a relief to have so much help upon arriving. I’m thinking if this is an indicator of the week we are good to go. Dan and Marnie arrive soon after and decide to order subs for everyone, another to do off my list. Marnie and I head to the grocery to stock up for the week. It’s pretty much chaos but we are trying not to buy all the same stuff and be smart about it. We succeeded for the most part, outside of bananas, there were a lot of bananas….hahahaha! First night was a success and I was feeling surrounded by some amazing people that were willing to make decisions and help out, feeling thankful and excited.
When you vacation with people that you know relatively well but have never lived with it’s a bit of a dance on how to co-habitat with them. For instance, do they want to chat in the morning? Do they like to make the coffee a certain way or prefer it to be ready? Who needs to own the remote? It’s just silly stuff, but you try to figure it out real quick. And I think we did. This group was so easy to be with for a week and I was amazed almost every day that everyone was willing to help out and make things simple. I’m a late sleeper on vacation and I’d wake up and look out on the beach to check things out. The gang would have already set everything up including a cooler full of drinks. Things were going well and I felt like I could just relax.
So this is where it takes a slight turn. On Tuesday Greg was becoming increasing agitated that he could not move around on the beach the way he wanted. Even worse he couldn’t even get to the beach because the stairs that led to the beach didn’t have a rail on the pool side. So Greg would do his best to scoot up and down the stairs but it was frustrating to say the least. Then once he got on the beach he couldn’t manage walking on the sand. He also couldn’t get close enough in the surf to cast his rods into the water. He would spend hours setting himself up to try and fish just to fail or tangle a line or fall. I knew he was becoming more and more frustrated but Greg tends to manage himself well and make the most of it so I kept my distance and offered help when it made since. We hit a tipping point when he couldn’t get up the stairs on Tuesday. He let me know that I had rented the “worst possible house” for him because of the rail situation and I was very hurt and angry. I went to the beach and left him to manage himself. He considered finding a way home and leaving us to enjoy the beach without him; which felt like a terrible and selfish solution from my perspective. But if that’s what he wanted than I guess I couldn’t stop him. This is the “real” vacation. It’s all the things that happen when Facebook isn’t looking and it can be painful and hard and sends me into an emotional spiral. I post a lot of pictures and I continued to show the world the fun we were having, and there was a lot of fun. But then you go hide in your room and cry because nothing quite works out the way you hope it will. This picture, the one I captured of Greg struggling to get back on his feet from the surf is what we watch all day long. You catch the awesome moments too but these are the more frequent moments that make up the reality in our life. It’s painful and hard and thankfully we were surrounded by extremely caring people to help.
But in the end Greg didn’t leave. He stayed and on Wednesday the guy that can’t get on the beach or up the stairs is the one that built a temporary railing so that he could. This also helped Missy’s Mom who was struggling with the same issue. He bought PVC pipe and rope and erected a full blown railing (you can see it on the right side of this picture). Took him almost all day and Chris did his best to help but Greg was determined to solve this problem, and he did. How is this possible? I watch him overcome extraordinary circumstances every day and I’m still not sure how he does it. This is my husband. He is unstoppable. There are people that are fully capable physically that can’t hold a candle to Greg. Once he let go of the anger and moved into how he could fix it, he was an entirely new man again. So then we got drunk and had an amazing evening on the beach with our friends:-) He did need four of us to carry him off the beach, due to a slight buzz, but no one cared and willingly lifted him up and towards the house. After this evening of celebration things were not perfect. Greg continued to show signs of frustration as he struggled to enjoy his time at the beach. He did go to the pier one day to try and catch fish but still had no luck. At least he got to fish and wasn’t struggling to manage the sand.
Now for me, I struggled throughout the week. Like most, I feel tired of having to make it all work and on vacation I was feeling especially selfish. I wanted to enjoy my time too. I don’t get but a few weeks of the year to just relax and enjoy the family without the interruption of work and other demands. But it just doesn’t work that way. Life keeps coming, there’s no pause button. If I thought I could get a full week of bliss I was delusional. I realized that I have to take the moments just as they are, moments.
Maybe that’s the amazing picture you capture of your kids laughing and playing and then you put down the camera and jump in the ocean with them. Because it’s all just moments and they aren’t set up to be strung together so beautifully, like a string of pearls, but probably broken up by real life because it’s hard and complicated. On the day Greg blamed me for the terrible decision on the house that I picked I was given the gift of connection and acceptance. I was sulking after his words and went to drift in the ocean and think. Missy could tell I was down and comforted me with kind words of affirmation that assured me that I was doing the best I could and that the situation was impossibly hard. I felt seen and heard and I’m grateful for that moment as well. She saw me and that was all I needed at the time.
The crazy thing with all this adult stuff going on behind the scenes is that I’m pretty sure my kids had no clue what was going on. You see, they are used to seeing their Dad struggle every day and they didn’t even bat an eye when he spent one of his vacation days building a railing to solve his issue. That’s just what their Dad does. They were preoccupied with friends and waves and kites and sunsets on the beach and thank God for that. I want my kids to enjoy those moments for as long as they can because one day they will come to understand that the “real” vacation can be messy and emotional and hard. But it’s seeing them laugh and play and enjoy themselves that makes it all worth it. There were a lot of rainbows while we were at the beach and every time I see one I’m in pure wonder and amazement. It helps me stop and appreciate something so magical that you can forget, even for just a moment, that “real” life is not always magical but it is what we decide to make it. So now if you blend this with what I share on Facebook you can see the “real” vacation for what it is, beautiful and hard all in the same moment.