I single-handedly ruined my birthday. And I was only upset with one person. Me.
We had arrived in Maui the evening before my birthday and things weren’t going smoothly. We had planned the trip really last minute (which is typical for us), done no research, and it showed. Between the mixed-up hotel reservations, Sloan throwing up all over himself and our luggage, the kids and I all being over tired and hungry. Our trip was not off to a great start.
I could feel myself tensing up right away on that first day. My inner chatter growing louder and louder, “I knew I should have planned better. This is my fault. We’re always moving so fast. There’s never enough time. And this is what happens….”
As I sat on the beach that night, watching the kids swim in the Ocean, staring at what was supposed to be paradise, I could feel my anxiety swell. I tried my hardest to put a smile on my face. Go through the motions. Repeating to myself… “just relax. It’s fine. You’ll figure out the hotel situation. We’ll get organized tonight when the kids go to bed. It will all be fine.”
But I didn’t feel fine.Read more: How I ruined my birthday
By the time my birthday rolled around the next day, I couldn’t shake the tense feeling. I went and meditated alone on the beach before the sun came up, something that usually brings me so much peace, but it felt off. My mind never settled.
When I returned to our room (which felt like chaos with 6 people’s stuff thrown everywhere ) I made a quick decision reactively (which is never a good idea) and announced to the group to pack up their stuff because we were going to rent a car and hike to the top of Haleakala, and that I didn’t want to hear anyone complain.
Before coming on this trip I literally knew nothing about Maui, other than the fact that there’s a volcano called Haleakala that’s supposedly pretty spectacular. I had done zero research on it but had heard rumblings that it was considered to be the Earth’s heart chakra
So of course I had to go. And today was going to be THE day. It was going to turn our trip around. I pictured our whole family, all six of us, on the top of this mountain above the clouds in meditation, together. It was going to be magical. How could it not be? It’s the Earth’s heart chakra for God’s sake and it was my birthday.
See, you’re fixing it. You’re turning things around.
But as we began making our 3-hour trek up to the summit of Haleakala I had a gut feeling that maybe it was a bad idea. I kept thinking to myself “is this really what you want to be doing? This seems like an awfully far drive for something we know nothing about. Maybe today’s not the day. Just tell them you made a mistake. We can still turn around.”
But I couldn’t.
It was as if I was watching myself in a movie, yelling at the person on the screen to just stop. But I couldn’t. I was too stubborn. Set in my ways. Too proud to admit that I had messed up.
To admit that maybe the trip wasn’t feeling off because of our hotel, the kids, or any external issues.
That maybe the trip was feeling off…because of me.
I wasn’t ready to say it. So instead I pushed us forward to the top of this mountain while everything in me knew it was a bad idea.
The drive-up was actually ironically beautiful considering the state we were all in. We passed through the clouds and literally felt like we were on top of the world. But no one could take it in. The car was too tense, nauseous, and I’m pretty sure afraid of me (although they all sweetly acted like they were fine).
JP, in his sweet way of trying to ease the tension, found a hiking trail we could take the kids for a short hike around the summit. But when we got to the trailhead and opened the door we were literally blown over. The wind and the cold were so intense (clearly winning travel planner of the year), you couldn’t even walk away from the car without being blown over.
As the kids all rushed to climb back into the car, I stood out in the wind with JP and just started crying. There would be no hike. No magical mountain meditation as a family. We spent the first day of our vacation driving 6 hours for absolutely no reason.
I was so upset with myself. For doing what I always do.
For trying to force and control things on the outside because I feel out of control on the inside.
I thought I was past this. Knew better. Changed. I thought I had outgrown this behavior.
Our vacation wasn’t off to a bad start because of anything on the outside, it was off to a bad start because of me. It was my energy affecting everyone and everything. The kids could feel it. JP could feel it. And they were all responding to one thing, me.
As I stood there in the blistering wind, next to our vomit-covered rented minivan, in tears, I apologized to JP for all of it. For forcing us to drive up here. For being tense and impatient with everyone. For letting my old habits get in the way of our current life. I took full ownership of all of it. And more importantly, realized that I needed to change for anything else to change.
The next 3 hours as we drove back down Haleakala to our hotel, I’m pretty sure I cried the whole time. Letting go of the guilt and shame and disappointment that always seems to come after moments like this. Forgiving myself. Starting over.
I share this story with you now not because of what happened on our trip, but because no matter where we are on our personal growth journey, we are still the same person.
We like to believe that because we do the work (whatever that even means). Because we meditate, journal, or go on yoga retreats. Because we do somatic therapy or some special breathwork somehow we’ll become someone different. Better. A shinier version of ourselves.
One who doesn’t yell at our spouses on the top of a mountain. Or at our kids before school drop off as we’re running late out the door. Someone who is calm and patient, gets up early before sunrise, and drinks green juice every day.
But the thing is. We don’t really change. We are who we ARE.
Instead, we do the work simply for the ability to SEE ourselves.
To become aware. To witness. And if we’re lucky, to know ourselves a little better.
To have moments where we can catch ourselves a little faster. Moments of, “ah, I know this feeling. This is where I ruin our family vacation”. And the ability to CHOOSE a new path.
To find that small gap between seeing ourselves, in any given moment, and the moment we respond.
That small window between us, our thoughts, and our reactions. That is where our FREEDOM lies. Where our power lives. And why we keep coming back home to ourselves day after day and doing the work.
I wasn’t a different mom in Maui because I sit and meditate every day. I was the same me as I’ve always been. With the same anxieties and flaws. I just now have the gift of being able to see myself. To catch my patterns. And the gift to choose a different thought. A different mindset. A different action.
We don’t have to be perfect to be on the path of growth and self-discovery. I don’t know if being buddha sitting on top of a mountain has ever been the goal. We are imperfect beings, living in an imperfect world. But we can learn along the way.
We can choose to pay attention. To live awake. To notice our patterns and our thoughts and choose a new thought.
At any given point we have the opportunity to see ourselves and choose again. Even standing on top of a mountain in Maui.