“This has been the best day," my mom said, beaming. We were sitting on the veranda of a golf course, the tropical breeze surrounding us with the scent of plumeria and hibiscus. It had been a great girls' day with my sister and niece, shoe shopping, followed by a stop at the resort spa for mom's first experience in a luxurious hot tub. It was fun seeing her so happy.
In 2015, when my parents said they wanted to take, Marc, the boys and I, along with my sister’s family, on an all-expense-paid family trip to Hawaii over the Christmas holiday to celebrate their fiftieth anniversary, I was torn. I loved Hawaii, I loved my parents, and I loved all-expenses-paid, but for me there was a cost. I was not a group traveler.
While I was in my disease, traveling with people other than Marc and the boys, who were used to my very deliberate routine, was difficult. Having to give up the safety of my structured life and being flexible enough to participate in the activity preferences of others was impossible for me to do. Even when it included things and people I loved, I found some excuse to say "No." The annual beach trip with the "core four," where we drank too much wine and ate chips and salsa for dinner fell by the wayside. Trips with teammates to play tennis in my favorite resort in Central Oregon, I repeatedly refused. The number of invitations I turned down to participate Hood to Coast, a running relay with a group of women stuck in a van for twenty-four hours is too many to count and loud, structureless, weekend getaways with our neighborhood became something I endured only because it was important to my kids to be a part of it. The idea of sleeping in, doing brunch, endless happy hours, laying by the pool, or anything that included a long car ride caused my heart rate to speed up like I was in a burning building, and desperately needed to find an exit. Like at home, when I traveled, I had to have my own routine; my workouts and my meals specifically timed and to my preference and I didn’t want the judgement that might come from doing my own thing. I feared letting down my guard and relaxing even for a day might cause my whole world to crumble.
But that family trip to Hawaii meant so much to my parents, my mom, especially. We had made a similar trip eleven years earlier, shortly after my cancer surgery, and the happiness it brought my parents, to be surrounded by their kids and grandkids, was undeniable. I wanted them to have that again for their big 5-0. It was the first thing in ten years that was important enough for me to push through the panic of my anorexic world. I was not going to allow my disease to prevent me from being a part of it. I packed my running shoes and as much of my own food as I could, and off we went.
"You were a pain to travel with on that trip," my sister Lisa shared with me several months ago, in response to another of my blog post's on travel, “we had to do whatever made you happy, and it pissed me off."
I wasn’t trying to be difficult. In fact just the opposite. I spent many hours on that trip fighting. With myself. My anorexic brain begging me to maintain the structure and the rigid schedule that kept me feeling safe and my Sherri brain, louder than ever, urging me to let go and enjoy the moments with my family; the shopping, the spa, the meals out, and the game nights. I told myself I would regret missing out, that those moments were precious and may never happen again.