External fun vs. internal struggle (Mount Rainier, WA)

Our time spent camping just outside of Mount Rainier National Park covered the full range of emotions for me. It was a fantastic time with family, but was also when some of my internal struggles began to crop up unexpectedly.

Our two day drive from Danville, CA to Mount Rainier in WA, was a rough one. Surprisingly, it was NOT because of our two year old hanging out in the back seat for twenty-two hours.

Over her entire lifetime we’ve developed a pretty good travel rhythm with her and she’s adapted to the long car days even better than I have.

Those jewels are the result of car activities I’d forgotten remained on my face.

Rather, the hardest part of our long drive was when we’d thought we’d finished it, only to find that the out of date campground website promising water for the carhouse, instead delivered a water pump so old that even Laura Ingells Wilder would’ve rolled her eyes at it. After five EXTRA hours in the car, broken water pipes at our second stop, several near RV side scraping moments, and an exhausted toddler screaming in Scottie’s ear as he made a twelve point RV turn… we eventually arrived back at our campsite with full tanks.

The next morning we awoke to find that the scary raging river that was too close for toddler parent comfort, was filled with 100 gold prospectors who were there to search along the shores of our campsite specifically. Neither the river danger or the stranger danger turned out to matter much because the wind was so strong, it took my entire body weight to open the carhouse door. So even if we’d wanted to spend time outside, the weather was more treacherous than either of the other two discouraging factors.

Though there was just enough calm weather to squeeze in a bit of daddy/daughter shirtless stick hunting time.

So our hero Scottie, went out and found us a new campsite that was PERFECT and eliminated all the previous struggles, including the wind. By the time our visitors arrived, we were all settled into a beautiful private valley, where the water was much further away from this paranoid parent.

My cousin Jeff, his wife Laura, and their two young kids were visiting the mainland from Hawaii for a family reunion that they decided to RV trip to. We just so happened to be in the same place at the same time and got to camp together for a night! We were all very excited about it because we’re pretty close to them at heart, but very far from them geographically.

Our single night spent with Jeff and Laura was a trip highlight for me. There isn’t much to say about why it was so wonderful, other than that we simply love spending time with them. It was fun to watch our kids play together, and our conversation around the campfire that night is one I’ll always remember.

Unfortunately, that time was short lived and they had to move on towards their family reunion the next day. The good news is that the day they left, was the same day Scottie’s Seattle-based family came to join us for a good old fashioned Chanson camping experience!

It made me so happy to watch Celia playing with cousins from both sides of the family, who both live so far away from us, all in the same camp site!

There was enough hammocking, rock painting, river rock throwing, and marshmallow roasting to create some lovely lasting memories for us all!

Despite enjoying the visitor time so much, this is also when I started to struggle with some crazy things.

Over the course of our trip, we’ve had a hard time finding the balance between enjoying all the special experiences with people we rarely see, and maintaining some semblance of the normal life and routine that keeps us sane. It’s easy to brush past things we know are best for us for the sake of “oh, but it’s just this one special time”. Only that doesn’t work when we have seven months straight of “special times”.

Despite the “special times” we’re loaded up on, where the new norm is nothing normal, we still have to find time to do those every day life things like email, laundry, cooking, sleeping, and making money. We also have to remember that despite our numerous “special circumstances” this year, our parenting philosophies still apply.

It’s after spending two full days in the car, only to find we can’t stay in the spot we’ve finally arrived at, that we long to pacify her emotions (or ours!) with technology, food, threats, and bribes. Which I think would be fine if these special circumstances were in fact special, rather than everyday occurrences. If we don’t resist the lure of these easy solutions, pretty soon it will just become how we parent.

And I can already see us slipping down that unwanted slope. Since the trip began, her inconsistent bedtime has thrown her off so much that we’re all sleeping less, fighting more, and struggling to fully enjoy the “special times” we’re keeping her awake for in the first place.

Now, after a month of being on the road and repeatedly neglecting so much of our self care and healthy habits, we’re starting to feel it hard. So I decided to try to get us back where we need to be.

Only I had NO idea how hard I was going to have to fight for that… and how hard I’d fail anyways. Which was when things got really challenging for me.
 I’ve spent the past nine years fighting my fearful nature that tells me I need to control everything (and everyone) around me to prevent bad things from happening. I’ve definitely seen improvement in this area since I recognized it, but on this trip I’ve been feeling very out of control of my body, my circumstances, and those around me, and my anxiety has been increasing at each stop because of that… increasing to levels I’ve never dealt with before.
In my normal life, order and structure are the coping mechanisms I use to keep much of my anxiety at bay. I don’t think you’ll be surprised to hear that those are hard to come by when we’re waking up in a new state each week.
The truth is, almost every aspect of this trip has taken something I really struggle with in life and dug the knife in deeper. Like facing the moment we ran out of water in our RV tanks at the exact same time that two toddlers were freezing in a suddenly dry shower, and another kid threw up everywhere. Prior to my emetophobia (vomit phobia) therapy, this situation alone would’ve sent me over the edge all by itself. But I kept it together for the poor sick kid who’s parents weren’t even there, as my husband and brother-in-law carried up one jug at a time of unsafe river water to fill the carhouse with (also triggering my phobia since that water could make us all sick).
Later that night after everyone was finally asleep, Celia woke up teething at 4am and couldn’t go back to sleep. She also woke up everyone else, and it happened to be on a travel day, when we all had lots of work to do that inevitably went awry.
So it was NOT a good moment for me, let’s just say that. Yes, I DID make it through (whatever that means), but rather than finding comfort in that, my anxiety was intensely heightened as I felt things around me could fall apart like that again at any moment and I had no control over it or anyway to insulate myself from it.

I’ve found that when life gets too fast or intense for me, I need space and alone time to cope. Scottie nicely says I’m a “deep thinker and need time to get my brain into sorts when things get chaotic”. I’d say I’m an introvert who sees the value of relationships, but who needs alone time to fuel my intense participation in them.

However you say it, the bottom line is that especially after our busier stops and travel days, I desperately need that recharging time on this trip. I was already deficient in it when we arrived at Mount Rainer, where I wasn’t able to refuel, and I knew we were heading to Seattle to spend some really special time with family we rarely get to see. Being on the edge of a breakdown was not at all how I’d hoped to arrive at the family stop we’d been looking forward to.

So I guess I’ll leave you in old-school TV show suspense… Does Breanna lose her mind in Seattle? Find out next time on Rare Existence!

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