Don't Pack Your Baggage
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I avoid vacation. I don’t like the inconvenience of packing up and relocating to a place where I can do the same thing I can do from home. It drives my family crazy but honestly, it’s not my fault. Living in Philadelphia with its vast options for entertainment and recreation makes it easy for me to be a homebody. Quite frankly, I’m justified.
So in August when I was invited to go on the rodeo “trail” with a friend of mine who’s a professional bull rider to help with his 20-month-old son, I had no way to refuse, no leg to stand on, no excuses. I definitely couldn’t do that in the ‘burbs.
The option didn’t come out of left field. Knowing previously that his intent was to make this run, most importantly, with his son, I had earlier offered my help.
Be careful what you wish, for you shall get it.
I have a habit of putting things out there. I create visions and then do the easy part—I let go of any attachment to it. In other words, how or when it happens isn’t my concern. This particular vision was relatively easy. I didn’t have to fish a subtle opportunity from a fascinating situation. He made a statement. I simply offered.
In planning the trip, my involvement was minuscule. All I had to do was find two flights—one from his departure town and one from mine—that would arrive in Denver at relatively the same time so we could embark. Oh, and pack light.
He didn’t ask me to ponder where we’d stay, plan the best route, make a list of possible places to eat or even give blood. Fretting wasn’t a requirement. I wasn’t quizzed or cross-examined on my needs, habits or preferences. I didn’t Google anything. Personally, I looked at this trip as the ultimate opportunity to practice presence; to live completely in the moment for an extended period of time.
If you think this is crazy, you should know I’ve been called much worse.
Recently my son walked into my office. When I say “office” I should qualify that I can touch my bed from my desk. The delineation between my “office” and my “bedroom" is contingent on where I’m currently sitting.
In any case, my son walked in. At the time, he was 15 years old and his mouth watered for the autonomy of a driver’s license. At 3 pm on a Sunday, I could feel the anticipation of freedom in his voice when he said, “Can we go to the shore?”
We live just over an hour from the beaches of New Jersey so it might seem like a worthy request. But it was on the cusp of a Sunday afternoon where wrapping up a task was preferable to starting one, and let’s face it, I’m not a beach person. I’m sure I looked at him like I’d just smelled shit.
He countered like a teenager should. “Why?”
“Because I’m not going to stop everything I’m doing and drive to the shore. It’s three in the afternoon. You should have thought of that sooner.” Or something like that. I was definitely snarky.
He replied, “I would go with Zach.”
Now, I could analyze the whys and why nots of his statement. I could ponder appreciable ways to present Zach that would make this trip feasible in the eyes of a parent. I could extrapolate my conclusion using his age, social standing, family history, past experience with my child as well as his perceived successes and attributes.
I could rationalize why two teenagers in a leased car could or would not navigate to the shore and back and add to that an extended line of questioning as to what route they would take and how long they would stay. Finally, I could have confronted them with whether they had entertained how to secure that one thing, along with air and shelter, that’s the essence of human existence: food.
I’ve seen my son eat. Dessert often become another meal. But I’ve never answered a phone call from him with a quivering inquiry about what to do about his hunger.
I didn’t attempt to solve for x in the parental algorithm. If parenting is Rome, I didn’t want to do what the Romans do. I didn’t want to walk like an Egyptian. I didn’t want to investigate the usual suspects:
Did he have his debit card?
Did they know cash is sometimes the only form of exchange accepted?
Were they aware that running through a field to steal a watermelon was punishable by law?
Did they know lifeguards clock out at some point?
Did they know they could drown?!
From our house, in just over an hour with normal traffic, you can watch the sun set over the Atlantic. Zach is Philly born and bred so navigating to the shore is second nature.
In the flash following my son’s question, I took a breath, blew away all sources of concern and said, “Sure.” What’s the worst that could happen? They’d sleep in the car?
In the week prior to my rodeo road trip, my husband asked about my plans. Specifically, he wanted to know where we’d be staying so I could get an adjoining room.
A room? I was relatively certain staying in a hotel wasn’t in the forecast. He’s a rodeo guy. With the average riding percentage in the lower third of the scale, that’s a lucrative business for very few. Plus, I was independently funding my part of the trip. Was charging hotel rooms really the way to build character?
My answer was simple. “We haven’t talked about it.”
In the mind of my particular spouse, that was obviously preposterous. Perhaps distrust at a 52-year-old woman traveling in close quarters with an athlete half her age actually found a way to surface. Even though “Eww” is the emoji I attach to that as a romantic pairing, I wasn’t going to broach the issue unless my husband did because “fucking shit up” wasn’t on my radar. Period.
This was a story about an amazing individual and I was simply there to witness it as the co-pilot.
Going on this trip was something I “put out there.” As I said before, I dream of ways to create a great big vision and then do the easy part—I let go of any attachment to it. But the next step is the hardest. It’s the difference between a dream finding form or drying up on the page of a diary:
I stopped thinking about it.
Sweating the details sucks all the magic out of dreaming. Thinking you know how it should happen is actually a ridiculous consideration. Twenty years ago I had no idea I'd be writing a blog on a computer so small I would be sitting on my bed (in my office) because it ran on battery. Twenty years ago I didn’t know that the thought form I’m writing about right now even existed; that I could control my future simply by embracing possibility and letting go of how it happened.
If you define it, you limit it.
There are multiple ways a dream can come true, all of them equally as viable. I had never entertained traveling with a professional bull rider until I met this one. And when I made the offer to travel with him, I didn’t obsess about whether it would actually be him.
In other words, how or when it happened or if that specific dream happened at all wasn’t my concern. Sometimes embracing the possibility of one dream only leads to a bigger dream or a parallel one.
Besides what’s the worst thing that could happen? We'd sleep in the car?
The first night we slept in the car. I had put it out there and that’s what happened. I had thought about the worst thing that could happen and it did.
See how this works?
The next morning we woke up to the sunrise over Butte, Montana. It was a postcard personified. Then I slept on the floor of the home of a former world champion bronc rider, the couch of a national champion rodeo bullfighter, the living room of a popular rodeo entertainer, laid in an actual bed in the bunkhouse of the saddle maker who developed the current day bronc saddle, got a private tour of the Pendleton Round-Up rodeo grounds, skipped around wildfires, slept in a tent next to the cattle pens at a rodeo I can’t recall, witnessed the world famous Suicide Race in Omak, Washington, played for hours on a small unoccupied beach on the Columbia River Gorge, enjoyed the astounding accommodations at the home of a bronc rider in scenic Buhl, Idaho and finished the trip ten days after I'd first landed, at a Holiday Inn in Boise to catch my flight out the next morning.
Not one moment of it did I wonder what would come next. I was simply along to help. It wasn’t my trip, it wasn’t my car, it wasn’t my concern.
Besides, how can I show my son how to embrace opportunity if I question it?
If me, questioning him regarding a brief trip to a familiar destination was so invasive that he saw through to my distrust, is that what he would feel in himself?
What excursions in life would he subsequently consider? What possibilities would he embrace?
If potential presented itself, would he be able to fish the subtle opportunity from a fascinating situation knowing his mother questioned his ability to stay afloat when he was a gifted swimmer?
What if that solo trip to the shore was his way of asking me if I was comfortable with his debut decision for a maiden voyage? A precursor to him asking permission to embrace opportunity? You have to crawl before you walk, right?
I could feel the thirst for freedom in his voice when he said, "Can we go to the shore?"
Freedom isn’t a circumstance but a feeling.
On my vacation I truly felt free. I experienced it for so long that it became my native language. I want my son to speak it too.
Thoughts become things. Share the good ones.
Photo by Gabe Pinto.
Back to blog.
For more of Cindy's writing, follow seventeen-year-old Charlotte Smith through a full life revolution in the novel The Revolution of Charlotte Smith. This young woman's coming-of-age journey starts when she decides to spite her rich parents by staging her disappearance. Then a good Samaritan saves her from the consequences of a criminal offense by letting her hitch a ride with four bull riders on their way to professional event.
Charlotte knows what she wants. But is he worth the cost?
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