Friday, June 25, 2010

Packing - Gotta Love It

All of my boys and I will soon be embarking on a two week camping/ road trip.  It is going to be wonderful!  We will travel between 4 and 6 hours a day over a three day period, finally arriving at Hunting Island South Carolina - where we will tent camp on the oceanfront for ten days.  During our return trip, we plan to visit an old friend (which will take care of letter V on my things to do list), and then we will stop to see Mammoth Cave National Park.

It sounds so absolutely perfect, and I can't wait to get going - but it also requires quite a bit of preparation and packing, which I definitely despise.  I have been working for days on making sure we have enough stuff to make our trip comfortable and enjoyable - but not so much that we will be surrounded by unnecessary clutter.  I have been trying to remember every single necessary item so that we will not have to buy things during the trip, but keep the amount of luggage small so it can easily fit into our van.  I have worked and worked on packing in a way that is complete without being overwhelming.

So I made, remade and revised my list of absolute necessities - then crossed off items that were not essential (such as Marko's Barrel Full Of Monkeys).  This list making is what started my negative packing mood. Thinking about the potential need for each item on my list, and then prioritizing each object based on the possible number of times it would be used was making my brain hurt.
Packing list for trip
 I then pulled out all of our camping gear so that I could inventory what we had, what still worked, and what needed to be replaced.  Upon opening a bin that holds camping gear from past excursions, I quickly realized that things had been put away while still damp last year.  The musty smell gave me a headache, and the extra work involved definitely increased my bad temper.

I then decided that I would need to fit everything into a certain number of bags and bins to make this whole loading the car thing go smoothly.  This ended up causing additional problems because the final 'absolutely necessary' items on my list did not fit into my self imposed number of vessels - and it was back to the drawing board.
In retrospect, I admit that this next part may have been partially my fault.  I was sick of packing and sick of thinking about packing.  I was experiencing a general state of ill humor.  I was replaying in my mind an 'anti-preparing for this trip' sentiment.  My brain was pushing against my skull, my eyelids and forehead were sore from the furrowed, squinting expression on my face - my composure and patience were gone. Then, unfortunately for him, in walked my husband.

I came at him with both barrels loaded.  I began listing all of the things I had packed - and he, sensing the danger of the situation, quietly nodded as I spoke.  I, however, was already too far gone.  I was looking for a fight - any fight - and that husband of mine is always the perfect target.  Had he made a suggestion about some important item I was overlooking, I would have gone crazy on him - I would have accused him of being insensitive to all of the hard work I had done, and I would have told him that maybe next time he should do it all himself.  But, he didn't make any suggestions - he kept his lips tightly sealed.  Because of that, I went crazy on him.  I said that I was simply trying to get some input about what important items I may have overlooked, and accused him of being insensitive to the fact that I was looking for some small bit of assistance.  I told him that I had hoped for just an inkling of insight into his vast camping experience.  I shook my head while complaining under my breath (but loud enough to be heard) that I would be better off taking this trip on my own.

Then something important happened.  It was like an out of body experience - I saw myself yapping away,  finding anything to whine about so that I could unload all of my packing related anger and frustration.  I saw my husband standing there taking whatever I was dishing out because he has been through this before, and knows from experience that there is nothing to do but ride out the storm.

At that point I made a conscious decision to stop being a  packing hater, and that decision changed everything.  I halted my attacking and complaining, took a deep breath, and adjusted my view.  Instead of seeing this trip preparation as annoying, pesky, bothersome, hateful work, I resolved to view it as an exciting challenge - as a gift to myself and my family while looking forward to a wonderful time together.  I modified my attitude, smiled, and tossed Marko's Barrel Full Of Monkeys into the camping bin.

My husband was still looking worried and skittish for a while, waiting for me to blow my top again, but after some time of working side by side, he began to appear comfortable with the validity of my new attitude - and before I knew it we were smiling, laughing, packing, anticipating and planning together.  Now, with the happy preparations coming to a close, I am feeling a close partnership and a familial joy at the beginning of this journey.

I'm not making any promises, but when I start feeling overcome by annoyance - I am going to try to remember to focus on working towards a wished-for goal, and approaching that work as a positive, desirable, enjoyable means for achieving my objective.  I will also work on setting targets that will bring heightened happiness and peace into my life.  It's all about attitude.
Our BIG happy family

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