My family went to lunch for my mom’s 66th birthday this week. J, The Boy, my brother and his soon-to-be-wife, my aunt, my parents, and me. Party of 8. That’s the regular ‘going out’ crew, and as I’ve written about before, it’s also an ordeal/production every time my family gathers for any reason. More family members just means more loudness and potential arguments. Even though we were at a restaurant, supposedly for a happy occasion, this lunch was no exception.
My aunt innocuously (she thought…I guess) brought up my parents’ possibility of going on a vacation together after my brother’s wedding at the end of the month. The following ‘discussion’ happened between my parents then (loudly) in the center of the table, with occasional interjections from my aunt to say (semi-sincerely?) that she was sorry she brought it up…
Dad: She doesn’t really want to go anywhere. <‘She’ = my mom…who is sitting to his immediate left and clearly in earshot, even with her selective inattention and minor hearing problem. My dad was being the loud one>
Mom: Yes I do!
Dad: Where do you want to go?
Mom: <lists some varied locations…San Diego, San Francisco, Boston, London, England?>
Dad: What do you want to do when we get there?
Mom: … <my mom really doesn’t like doing much other than shopping and eating at chain restaurants and watching television…she doesn’t like history or nature or technology or architecture or art or music or live performance…she’s not even a foodie or an adventurous eater…so…she didn’t have an answer>
Dad: See? You just want to say you went somewhere, but you don’t actually want to go. You don’t want to make flight reservations or hotel reservations or rental car reservations or actually drive or fly anywhere. You’ve never actually made plans to go anywhere and you don’t know what a pain getting there always is. You definitely don’t want to go through the trouble of getting a passport and leaving the country. For what? To do what?
My aunt: <thinking she is being helpful> Do you just not want to drive somewhere, F? Do you not want to fly?
Dad: I don’t want to have to manage a bunch of connections. There aren’t direct flights anywhere anymore. The more connections, the more P doesn’t like it and will complain.
Mom: You’re making me out to be the downer here!
Dad: Well, you do want to just apparate to another place like Harry Potter to just say you’ve been there. You don’t really want to travel. You want to be somewhere else to say that you went somewhere other than here because the kids went somewhere. <the kids = us…plus my brother and his fiance will go on a honeymoon to New Orleans soon>
Mom: We need an RV! <yeah RIGHT! My parents constantly bicker to the point it’s questionable if they even like each other and my dad is anxious when he drives and even more anxious when my mom drives…she smiled here, happy to get my dad all riled up>
My dad then went on about how there were no direct flights anymore and traffic is terrible anywhere and my mom doesn’t really want to go anywhere, and my mom sat there smirking through all of it, pleased with the spectacle they’d made.
But that shit stresses me OUT. A whole childhood of them sniping at each other about every conceivable thing heavily informed the socially anxious person who is afraid to verbally contribute to the world most of the time that I am today. I started wringing my hands at the table and holding onto J. Those are pronounced anxiety presentations for me. He obviously recognized them. He pulled out his phone to start checking airports that he could find direct flights to from the nearest airports to our home and gently jostled his elbow (that I was clutching) making sure I’d look at it too. So we (very quietly…so that no one else could hear us at the table…because that’s how J and I always communicate…quietly and privately or in text…seriously) had this conversation…
Me: Are you looking up stuff to prove my dad wrong?
J: No. I was looking to see if you could get a direct flight to Denver or Los Angeles from here. You can. See?
Me: Ooooookay. ??????
J: If you wanted to go see A in California. Or L in Colorado. You could. No flight changes. There are direct flights. I checked. 🙂
Me: I couldn’t really ever do that.
J: Why not? I go on a bike trip every year alone with my friends. I mean, we’d have to make a plan, but…you could do that sometime. If you wanted to.
So my head and energy looked like those crazy planes right there.
No direct flights. And maybe the pilot is on hallucinogens. Not good.
But J’s subtle redirect to something positive and future oriented; something related, but different enough to get my mind working on thoughts of visiting friends instead of my parents arguing loudly in public *worked like a charm.*
It turned my anxiety off.
He does this so often, and sometimes I don’t think he even realizes he’s doing it. It’s almost as if it’s automatic and unintentional. But by the time we’d driven home, my head and energy looked more like this…
No stops. Clear skies. Going directly where I want to go.
I started working on writing and got pretty far, after thinking while we were there that I honestly wouldn’t be able to calm down enough to accomplish anything productive.
I’m awed and grateful for J’s organic ability to curb my anxiety with subtle redirection. This is a thankful post for that today. And a hopeful post that I hope A and L read sometime. Because it would be pretty cool to take a direct flight and go see them sometime without the pressure of ‘entertainment’ like we normally have on visits.