This weekend, I became the mother of a five year old. We offered to take my daughter to Disneyland on her birthday. She’s never been, so she didn’t know what she was saying ‘no’ to, but she did say no! Instead, she cooked up the idea that she would like to see snow.
We booked a cabin near a local ski resort with snow making capabilities. We planned to go to the children’s snow play area, hoping there’d be some real-deal snow mixed in with the fake stuff, but knowing that our decade-long drought in Southern California doesn’t always mean snow in the mountains.
We were set to leave on a Friday. As the snow predictions came in during the weeks leading up to our trip, it looked like a winter storm was brewing. By Wednesday afternoon, the prediction was a full-scale blizzard. I have a 10-year-old Toyota Prius.
If we had been heading up to a cabin as a couple, we surely would have bailed out. But, we had a five-year-old insistent on snow, so we doubled down. We drove up a day early and packed the car for a snow-in. When we got to our initial cabin, we quickly realized it wouldn’t work. It was up a steep incline my car couldn’t handle on a street that didn’t look like it’d seen a snow plow in the five years of my daughter’s life.
We called around, found an even tinier cabin at the base of the hill, and unpacked.
What followed was entirely unpredictable. We were standing in four-to-five-foot snow drifts by Saturday afternoon. All restaurants closed. The staff at the cabin grounds packed up and left; all the families staying in the cabins had to fend for ourselves. We couldn’t so much as see the Prius under the snow.
And, it was the best weekend we’ve ever spent as a family.
We witnessed the neighbors coming out to rejoice in the snow, play together, slip and fall and laugh and climb out again. We shared snow shovels with the dozen folks nearby, talking to each other as we picked our way out, or at times relying on the kindness of bigger trucks to pull stuck cars out of tricky situations. We watched as snowboarders drifted down the street, snow tubes pulled behind trucks came whipping by, and we stayed cozy by a tiny fireplace in our tiny cabin, cooking up grilled cheese and eggs and breakfast burritos right there in our cast iron pan not 5 feet from our bed.
At the beginning of this year, I attended a special yoga ceremony that led to me finding my “word of the year.” After a few hours of yoga and as much journaling, the word I kept coming back to was “delight.”
And, the phrase I kept coming back to was, “life needs a chance to delight us.”
These past few years, I realized that over-planning anything squeezes out the time life needs to creep in and create delightful surprises. By slowing down, by following what feels good in the moment, we can end up somewhere we never knew to dream of.
If you told me to book a vacation to spend 4 days in a 400 square foot cabin with my family of four – snowed in at that! – I would have said, “no.” If you had shown me the shower I’d be using, I definitely would have said, “I pass.”
But, by following what felt good at the moment, I encountered a delight I didn’t know to ask for.
I wasn’t entirely by the seat of my pants. We were well packed. We had firewood, food enough for days, warm clothing, snow chains and cast iron cookware. We would have suffered if we’d let life take the driver’s seat without at least insisting we provide navigation!
With our preparation, though, we were able to relax into the moment. As a woman who tends to hold tightly to the reigns, I don’t relish the idea of relaxing into the moment. I have to let go piece by piece, giving life a chance to get me there, with no haste or I’ll lose the moment.
Women, I hope you hear this. So often, we are told to “just relax and let go!” when we know damn well our children won’t be fed, clothed or bathed if we do. You don’t have to be extreme about it. I’m not instructing you to simply throw caution to the wind and live as if we don’t have any responsibilities to the world around us. Those instructions often cause even more anxiety than they alleviate.
Just give life a chance. Just sit in the passenger’s seat with a map on your lap and a trunk full of contingency options.*
*I always, ALWAYS, recommend a well-seasoned cast iron pan. Carry one everywhere 😉