Thursday, May 24, 2007


We're off to Utah to visit family for the next several day. I'm not terribly excited about the 15 hour car drive each way. But I am looking forward to getting out of Dodge, and seeing some kin that matter to me.

I used to DREAD trips to my husband's hometown. We did not go often during the first 15 yrs or so of our marriage since we lived in the Midwest back then. But after moving to the west we started making the trek to Utah once or twice a year. Some of those trips were excruciating. Nearly every one had me in tears at some point. But those days are long gone.

As I look back at why it was so uncomfortable for me in years past, and why it is not now, I am amazed by how subtle shifts of perception can make a world of difference.

When I was younger, I wanted so very much to be accepted and approved of by my husband's family. But that felt impossible. I do not quilt. I do not bake bread. I do not ride horses. And except on a few, rare occasion, I do not vote Republican. There seemed to be nothing about me that they would ever value or appreciate. Hungry for their esteem I would try my best to "fit in", but would inevitably stumble. All too often there would be hurt feelings over some remark that make it woefully obvious I would never be the kind of woman, wife, or mother, that fit the cookie cutter mold that tiny Mormon town deemed suitable. Everyone was nice enough toward me. But in far too many cases, I felt tolerated and humored rather than fully welcomed and embraced. I suspect much of that was more in my own head than theirs, but it was how I experienced those visits all the same.

What a difference a few years make.

I still do not quilt or ride horses or bake break. If anything my political views are now MORE different than theirs and my life experiences have taken me far afield from the things that are a part of life in Millard County, Utah. But the differences no longer chafe.

As I've grown up and grown older I've eased into a stronger confidence in my own values and strengths. As I became more comfortable in my own skin, it mattered less whether they liked me or not. Once I let go of hungering so much for their approval, I quit being so over-sensitive over any indication they might not. Now when I go to Utah I no longer try to be anything different from who I am. These days I feel no need to defend or justify my own life choices. I merely go and do the best I can to be open to the experience. Letting go of the old dance of striving to fit in has been incredibly liberating.

In-law relationships are interesting... I love my man. They love my man. He loves all of us. But that does not mean we are going to automatically be comfortable with one another. I've learned over the years to respect and truly appreciate this clan of folks who helped mold my beloved into the kind of guy he is. Some of them I genuinely enjoy being around. Others I am more guarded with. But overall, I honestly can look forward to these visits now.

In many ways I will always be an outsider when we go back there. I remain utterly oblivious to the social nuances in more ways than I can count. Sometimes going to that place brings with it a cultural shift that feels almost like the times I've spent in other countries. But like those times when I've traveled to Fiji, Costa Rica or Egypt, I now have learned to savor the differences and appreciate my time there. So I am excited we get to go and expect we'll have a wonderful time.


The Rev. Dr. Kate said...

How wise of you to have learned to be at peace with yourself and with your in-laws and embrace the difference. I think the greatest gift that comes to women in mid-life is an established sense of who we are. As I make the turn to 46, I find myself comfortable with who I am. I no longer apologize for myself and try to make myself fit. And now that I am not judging every move I make, I find myself more accepting of others. There is something to be said for the wisdom that comes with age.

Mimi said...

Travel safely, and enjoy. You are awesome, and very comfortable in your self, and it's a very good thing.

gledwood said...

Hi I found you via a comment you left in one of those selfhelp blogs that I found pressing the Random blog button ... this is a v. absorbing page u got here... Utah! Whatever associations it brings up for you, to me it's about the most exotic place in the world. Bear in mind I'm writing from right across the pond..! I keep blogs too. If you like you're welcome to drop by. My main one's called gledwood2.blogspot - that's my online journal where people come to read my daily "confessions"/whatever. The main reason I'm writing is that I used to be well into selfhelp stuff. Not just reading the books, but actually helping myself, seeing my life as a project. All that kinda let slide when various problems took hold a few years ago. Those are mostly what I blog about now. But I'm grateful for the book tip you left. It was something to do with not setting any goals anymore but altering your attitude to life - Steven Shapiro or something. I copied down the link. Will have a look at it properly later. Might buy that book ... Anyway, take care, take it easy and all ... Have a nice trip as well!
Gledwood "vol 2" ...

booklogged said...

My trips have always been the other way around - driving from Utah to the Northwest. I'm in love with that area of the world and traveled there 3 years in a row for vacation. When it was time to come home, I cried. Any way you make that trip from the Northwest to Utah you leave beautiful lush vistas for dry, deserty scenery. But Utah is my home and I had to eventually return. I hope your trip to small town Utah goes well.

Lei said...

What a healthy attitude. It's a good feeling when you are able to "let it all hang out". Hope your trip is as enjoyable as you anticipate!

Amy said...

I love road trips, even when my kids are 17, 13, 12 and is always fun making those road trips, catching up on different things in life.

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