Bug Turns 15: The Road Trip to Nowhere, Part 1

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I labored about whether to write this post for a long time. While only a few days have gone by, I’ve sat and worried about it endlessly, the hamster wheel in my head spinning like the hamster is a crack addict.  I really wanted to share this big-deal-trip but I felt like it was also an embarrassing mistake. I am deeply ashamed. I was afraid to talk about it for fear of being lambasted for naively ignoring the governor’s travel ban. It was stupid. We shouldn’t have gone. We were incredibly careful and incredibly lucky but at the end of the day I don’t want to traipse around with my white privilege like people are not dying from a horrible disease.

But then I talked to my therapist (I have a therapist now!) (more white privilege that I’m ashamed of) and she said, it’s my story. This is where I tell my stories. If I lose friends or future business contacts because of some dirt that can be dug up on this blog then maybe I don’t want those friends or business contacts anyway. I am fully going to own my mistake and write about why we shouldn’t have gone. But I also want to share the special parts. It was an amazing trip with my daughter. It was her birthday party that she couldn’t have and you know how I always go over the top with birthdays. So it’s a bittersweet story but it’s my story. I am ashamed that I acted irresponsibly and I will pay the consequences. I will also try maybe unsuccessfully to defend my bad choice. But I made it and we made it back and I think we are going to be okay. Hopefully wiser for our mistakes. So please don’t let the pretty pictures glamorize a bad decision. This was irresponsible of me and I regret it. I am also incredibly grateful that we were able to be safe.

There. That’s it. A huge heavy weight on my conscience.

When we left for our trip we never intended to go more than 200 miles. That was the point: a road trip to nowhere. Our plan was to get in the car and head up the coast and stop at every little silly thing we could find that wouldn’t be infested with people. That meant nature and funny photo opportunities that nobody else would be looking at. Bug is her own person now with her own instagram account and she creates her own content just like her mama. I can’t say I’m not proud of her creativity. Social media has it’s many faults but creativity is not one of them.

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Our first stop was a farmer’s market on the way to the coast. Back when we used to live at the beach, Bug and I would visit the Farmer’s Market every Saturday. It’s such a strong memory for both of us. I’d buy a three-pack box of raspberries and Bug would eat them before we even left the market. She loved the Farmer’s Market. From riding in the front-facing Bjorn to stroller days to riding her own tricycle…the market holds a super soft spot in our hearts. It’s really sad that we don’t go anymore but where we live now we don’t even think about it. We live in a super boring suburbia that has no central gathering places like a farmer’s market. Of course we can drive to a few that are actually nearby but we don’t because we don’t even think of it. Out of sight out of mind I guess. This is something I intend to change. Farmer’s Markets are great. They support the local farmers, there’s fresh healthy food and it’s just a good family outing. Of course we haven’t been going anywhere since Covid started but now that farmer’s markets seem to still be open with precautions maybe we’ll put them back in our schedule. Note to self: go to Farmer’s Market.

We bought some hummus and pita chips, a three pack of berries (of course!) and some snap peas and carrots for snacks. We didn’t have a way to wash them so we just hid them in our cooler for later. Then we headed off to find our favorite breakfast: Zinc!

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Yes, we are those basic beetches. I mean, how can we not be? Do you see that work of art that is avocado toast up there? Everyone should eat avocado toast! I told Bug that we are really spoiled. When I was a kid we got cereal or toast but never gourmet avocado toast on the regular. This is definitely the good life. Bug had an iced green matcha latte and of course I had a regular latte. Basic Beeches through and through.

After that we hit up another favorite spot for Bug’s favorite sandwiches and sparkling cider for the road.

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Then we drove. Basically we sat in traffic all through Malibu and Santa Monica. We took the long route and didn’t mind. We had no schedule and no place to be. Of course I was a little worried about where we’d stay that night without any reservations but Bug forced me to be optimistic. What could go wrong? Worst case we sleep in the car. Um, we could get murdered? said my usual over-operating worry brain. We did pack sleeping bags and my back windows are pretty darkly tinted so it could be work. I do know a few campgrounds that are usually open so we could get by. I was just worried. Like I always am. But I didn’t need to be. There are a lot of hotels open and they are super happy for customers because business is slow and they are hurting. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Next stop: lunch in Zuma. I had planned on stopping in Santa Monica and maybe swinging on those really big swings on the beach near the boardwalk but it was way too crowded. If there was no parking then we weren’t stopping because crowds are NOT for us. Even before the pandemic I hate crowds so it was a no-brainer that we’d avoid them now.

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Zuma was beautiful. There were people out but no crowds. The breeze was also pretty strong so it felt like if there were any germs around, they weren’t sticking around long. They were blowing far out into the sea to be cleaned. So we sat and we ate our sandwiches and talked about turning fifteen. I’m so proud of this big kid.

She’s tall now. She often stands next to me and says things like, “Mom, you are so small!” It’s refreshing. I like being small. She’s still a few inches shorter than me but she is definitely adult-sized now. It’s a funny thing that happens. I often tell her that I wish I could keep a version of her at every size. I miss that wobbly three year old who would tear down the sidewalk and throw herself into my arms for a hug. I miss the floppy pigtails and songs about hotdogs. I even miss the scared years when she’s talk about her worries incessantly and hated going to school. I’m so proud of her and how she overcame. She’s strong and independent and opinionated and smart. She’s everything I ever dreamed of and so much more. I knew I’d get a quirky kid but I never dreamed she’d be this perfect.

Next up: Santa Barbara and the horrible, no-good, terrible business of finding a bathroom in a town full of covid-partying morons. I know that’s harsh. Not all anti-maskers are morons in fact many of them are doctors and seem pretty smart. But for someone who has anxiety and has become a germaphobe because of the pandemic, you can kind of understand what it’s like for a worrier like me to see a crowd of drunk people NOT social distancing. Anyway, more on that tomorrow!

Kindness Goeth Before Pride

Today and the last few days I’ve been trying to be especially nice to myself. This is a little tricky for me because I was raised to be unselfish. That is not a brag. It’s the best way I can describe my puritanistic Quakerish upbringing. The rules for being a god-fearing meeting girl were that Pride goeth before a fall and those rules still really ring loud in my head. I was taught it and real life experiences reinforced it. It’s been sort of a self-inflicted commandment for as long as I can remember. Every time I was proud I got slapped in the face with some kind of humiliating life experience that sucked. So keep your head down and let good things pleasantly surprise you. That was my motto for most of my life. I don’t believe that anymore but it still kind of haunts me. I walk around waiting for bad things to happen if too many good things happen in a row. Does that make sense?

When I was a kid my parents were always broke. My clothes were handmade or birthday presents from relatives. Sometimes my parents would come across extra money and we’d splurge.Those were the best days. I’m sure my parents were just like me and most people who have experienced poverty. When you finally get money you usually spend it twice over on the things you’ve wished you could have for so long and then you end up worse off. It’s taken me a long time to reprogram that way of living out of my head. But that’s not the story I want to tell.

I was always one of those girls who always cared about how I looked. I was shallow that way. Or you could say I was creative and I liked to express myself visually. It depends on how you look at it. Anyway, I loved fashion and being forced to wear clothes that I thought were “dorky” was incredibly painful. One day, when my parents were going through a stage of letting me wear pants (they went through stages where I could only wear dresses) they bought me some Guess Jeans at PriceClub. Remember PriceClub? We would go on these amazing shopping sprees and my parents would fill up a cart with $400 worth of merchandise. Most of it was for their business but sometimes fun things for me would jump into the cart.

I dreamt about having Guess Jeans for so long. Getting them affordably at PriceClub was life-changing! I could finally be like the other cool kids. And they looked so good on me too! Those little zippers at the ankles?!!! I loved those jeans like I have never loved anything before. I wore them as often as I could. I was proud of them. I was proud of how I looked in them. It was the BEST.

Then one day I forgot to lock my locker during P.E. and they were stolen. I had to wear my baggy sweatpants to the rest of my classes that day. Green baggy sweatpants with my regular shirt. I was crushed. I cried. I loved those jeans so much and they were just ripped away from me by some other poor kid who wanted expensive jeans too. I had to get over it. It just was the way it was. So I moped and learned not to get too attached to any material object because you never know when it’s going to be taken from you.

A few years later my parents bought me another pair of Guess Jeans. My parents were so nice. They really wanted to make me happy even though these kinds of clothes were frowned upon by the elders of our religious gathering. These jeans were white and they had zippers up the back. I loved them sooooo much. Not as much as the original blue ones but they were much more appreciated because I knew they could be taken from me at any moment.

They weren’t taken from me but they did end up being a painful memory.

I don’t remember all the details but I was wearing them on a camping trip with extended family. Why was I wearing white jeans on a camping trip!? That’s pretty weird in itself. I have no idea. Probably because I wore them all the time and I wanted to look cute ALL the time. Just ask my parents about how they bought me a butane curling iron so I could have curled hair when we went camping. I’ve always been a vain one even though they tried desperately to teach me not to be. Anyway, I digress.

So I’m wearing my cute jeans and my uncle mistakes me for his wife. They were recently married and my Aunt and I do look similar from the back. She’s a bit taller than me but we both had the same brown hair and we both were thin. AND I wore her old jacket that she gave me. So I can see why he might mistake me for her. Don’t worry, nothing bad like him accidentally pinching my butt or anything happened.

But what did happen is that my mom took me aside in our tent and told me I couldn’t wear my white jeans anymore. I was shocked. Why???!!! Why couldn’t I wear my favorite jeans? They were like a security blanket for me at this point. How could someone take them away from me after I had lost my last pair and these new ones meant so much to me? Were jeans not allowed anymore, I asked? Do we have to go back to only wearing dresses? No, she said. It’s not that. It just that you look too good in them. What?!

That took a while to sink in. I look too good in my jeans? To who? To your uncle. What?!!! My uncle that I looked up to as a godly man was lusting after me? He was old in my eyes (like 30-something to my young 16) and really cool. He was smart and intellectual and I loved listening to him talk at meeting (church) because he made the hard concepts more understandable. He was humble too. I really looked up to him. How could he possibly have evil lustful thoughts? It was so confusing. And scary.

My Uncle never did anything that made me uncomfortable. But I definitely gave him a wide berth after that. I always walked around afraid of men—which might have been good protection for me. I never was abused. I was never raped. The worst me-too moment I ever had was a boss harassing me over the phone. So I’m lucky. Lucky and scared. Or scared lucky.

Wow. This is not where I was going when I started this post. I was talking about being nice to myself when it feels counter-intuitive but somehow it turned into a post about having material things taken from me and sexism.  While losing material things is a valuable lesson (one I learned again when my brother’s bicycle was stolen right off the porch while I practiced the piano a mere feet away, and then again when I was in college when his bike was stolen right out of my garage and then when my laptop, camera and new $200 backpack were stolen in Italy…) these things happen and I’ve come to expect them. I’ve come to be okay with it and to look for the bigger lesson.

What I wanted to share is that we need to be kinder to ourselves if we are going through hard stuff. This rings so wrong to me because I was always raised to be against self-love. It was the very opposite of what I was taught. I was taught that self-love is hedonism and you might as well be partying with the devil. I was taught that we are born with wickedness in our hearts that only Jesus can take away. I don’t know that I believe that anymore. I know this could be controversial and I don’t really want to argue. I just want to be kinder to myself so I can heal and get better.

The practical way I am applying this is not trying to be so perfect when I’m going through something hard. Quitting drinking is hard. Being mentally fragile is hard. Quitting and being mentally fragile during a pandemic and a civil rights movement is exponentially hard.  Maybe the last time when I tried to quit and I got grumpy and then super sad it was a side effect of how hard it is to quit something your brain has used to cope for a very long time. I didn’t even know I was using alcohol for that. Maybe I wasn’t. I have no idea. I don’t feel like I was but I can be kinder to myself if it’s going to help me get through this.

Going forward I am going to quiet my inner lectures and let myself chill with my thoughts. I can stop beating myself up for failing on so many fronts. I don’t have to be perky and happy. I don’t have to be the perfect mother or a touchy-feeling partner (I’m not a cuddler) or domestic goddess when I’m quitting something that is addictive. Maybe it’s okay to eat a little more or have a little sugar or just be a bit stand-offish. I can put ice cream in my coffee because we ran out of milk. I can take an Advil for that arthritis that’s flaring up. It’s okay. I’ve stopped watching the news. I’ve stopped reading Facebook. I’m writing my thoughts to my beloved lurkers again. I’m doing some self care. Not hedonism. Just quiet self care.

And I’m trying to be nice to other people too. Everyone seems a little down these days. Even my kids.

How are YOU?