Stepping out of my comfort zone

I'm a bit of a control freak. This isn't a big startling admission, because it's not like I hide it well. I can let my husband load the dishwasher the way he wants to, or pick out clothes for the kids. I can let my kids pick out their own clothes. I can watch someone else make a stir-fry. I can do all these things, but it murders a little piece of my soul, because those other people always do it just a little bit wrong. It's worse in matters of my body and environment. This is where I'm an anxiety wrapped in a neurosis inside an obsessive compulsive disorder. I have to wash my face and hands several times a day. I have to brush my teeth right after eating something. I shower more than once a day. I hate it when it's too hot. I need access to a wide range of clothing because I never know what I'm going to have to drape over my considerable bulk in order to make facing the world bearable. I love my bed, in my room, attached to my bathroom.

So maybe you can see why 'going to the cottage' is something different for me than the blissful, idyllic retreat it is for many other people. Especially because we don't own a cottage, so when we go to the cottage it is ALWAYS someone else's cottage. There is never a my bed or my room, and forget about the attached bathroom -- it's an undreamed-of luxury if you're not sharing one bathroom with six other people.

We used to go to my husband's grandparents' place, which is about an hour away, for Canada Day. A good number of his family would come, we'd have a great day, set off fireworks when it got dark, then jump into the car by ourselves or, when they came along, with the kids and drive home. It was perfect. But they're older now, and it was too much for them to have everyone at the house (which is sad, but I'll save that sad for later). For the last three years, my mother-in-law and her husband have rented a cottage around the same area for everyone to come and stay. And, reasonably enough, my husband and my kids have thought that it would be a good idea to, well, stay.

I actually managed to avoid sleeping at the cottage until this year -- it just always worked out for me to get home at night, and the one time we might have stayed there were too many people so we got a hotel room not far away. Eve snored like a lumberjack all night and I barely slept, but there was an attached bathroom that I didn't have to worry about bumping into anyone not directly related to me when I got up to use. Angus and Matt stayed over a couple of nights to go golfing early with everyone the next morning, but I don't golf. This year, I still thought maybe I would go home for the night, but I packed so I would be able to stay if I wanted to. And once I got there with Eve a few days ago (Matt and Angus had gone out the night before after baseball practice) as I was walking up the steps, I suddenly thought maybe this would be the year.

It was! It was totally the year. And I was way out of my comfort zone, and I wasn't always totally comfortable, but it was kind of a rush to realize that I could do it. Things with my family always tend to be pretty well organized -- we know what we're doing and when, and what we're feeding people and when. Things with my husband's family are... not. People come and go in a dizzying whirl, things get planned and executed and cancelled and rescheduled and re-planned on the fly. This sometimes makes me a little crazy -- but only when I'm not with them. Once I'm in there I remember how much I adore them all, even though they make me do quizzes and share personal anecdotes in turn out loud and wear funny hats.

Here's what was difficult (I hope I don't make anyone weep for me):

-I'm kind of big. I worry constantly about what I'm wearing, I have a hard time believing that people aren't thinking about how big I am and whether what I'm wearing is appropriate and it makes me self-conscious, which can really interfere with having a good time.
-My hair looks stupid when it's wet.
-I forgot my Dove. I can't wash my face without my Dove. I think I mentioned that I NEED to wash my face several times a day, or something terrible might happen. Like breaking out or contracting a deadly facial infection or a terrorist attack.
-the bathroom on the main floor didn't have a lock. I mean, seriously, this cottage was on the market for 1.2 mil, and NO LOCK on the BATHROOM DOOR?
-DUDE : I slept on the COUCH.

Here's how I coped:

-I stopped looking in the mirror, and drank heavily.

I tried to remember that these people all love me and, frankly, have more important things on their mind than whether I'm a little heavy and my hair is flat. Plus, I totally distracted them with my sparkling witty banter. And my fruit plate with chocolate dip. And when my husband kept waking me up to make me stop snoring and I was both humiliated and annoyed because first it took me two hours to fall asleep and then he kept waking me up, I thought oh well, I'll sleep when I get home. And lying on the lumpy couch, a little too warm to be comfortable, with my unsatisfactorily-cleaned face (I borrowed my mother-in-law's Oil of Olay something-or-other), looking up into the high-ceilinged woody darkness, listening to the breathing of a lot of people I really really like, I was pretty sure I'd make the right decision. So I'd like to thank my children and my in-laws for reminding me:

not to be self-conscious about what you're wearing at the cottage;

to enjoy yourself without holding back;

and not to worry

about looking silly.

(You weren't expecting a picture of ME, were you? Look, I'm all about the personal growth, but let's not get crazy here.)


Mary Lynn said…
Cheers to stepping outside our comfort zones every now and then. Amazing how many of our limitations are set by our own fears and idiosyncrasies, not by other people imposing them on us.

Glad you were able to stay at the cottage. Certainly looks like the kids had a blast.

I hope those dogs were also drinking heavily. That would at least explain their outfits.
Average Girl said…
Nice post, and a good reminder for everyone that...drinking heavily really does help. AND, that it's OK to go with the flow around the people who love you no matter what.
The Mayor! said…
Yep, I so relate to the control freak thing, (everyone does everything wrong but me, just step away from (fill in the blank) & let me do it please!), my in-laws are now too elderly to host my clan, but I was almost glad for the excuse to come home to MY bed, & MY comfort zone & thankfully said cottage is only half an hour away...I am VERY attached to my comfort zone...& I NEVER get my hair wet, I look like a tard when it dries flat to my head & begs for an hour with a curling iron to look halfway human again. I think too Allison, given the birthdays we both recently celebrated, it's safe to say we become more & more set in our ways as we get older...but I'm ok with long as I'm in my comfort zone!!

No lock on the bathroom door?! That would surely cause me to suffer from shy bladder syndrome.
Julie said…
yeah you! no seriously, that was a huge step for you and you totally rocked it. i'm glad you made it through the night and lived to tell the tale that it wasn't so bad after all.

see you wednesday!!
Mary Lynn said…
Oh gosh, I could have sworn I left a comment on your post last night before I headed off to bed, but it ain't here. I'm sure it was quite pithy, but I totally can't recall now what exactly it was I wrote.

Anyway, good for you stepping outside your comfort zone.

Were the dogs perhaps drinking heavily, too?
Anonymous said…
That is it I am coming to Ottawa and giving you a hug. I drive a silver Echo, be looking for me. As someone who is familiar with self-consciousness (I had a bad perm in grade 8 which forever makes me self-conscious despite the fact that I now have lovely hair) I have found that pretty much everyone else is also self-conscious and could give a shit what you look like or what you are wearing. Having discovered this my life is now awesome. However forgetting the Dove that is grounds for going crazy!
Anonymous said…
Yay for personal growth! And boo for no lock on the bathroom. What were they thinking?

I have to admit I hate sleeping at other people's houses. And camping. And B&Bs (because really, it's just sleeping at another person's house with nicer linens). I am not as big on the face-washing, but I am big on not having to see other people if I don't want to, outside of my immediate family. I need my space, people.
Well done you! :) It's always good to push yourself - and I'm sure no-one else even noticed you were outside your comfort zone!
SuziCate said…
Awesome you for stepping out of your box! I'm glad you had fun. I often am anxious about spending time in a house cooped up with family and for the most part it usually turns out ok.I'm sure you created wonderful memories with your hubby and kids. Sometimes, drinking heavily during those occasions helps...unless I drink too heavily! And to let you know, I think you look fabulous just the way you are...we are who we are inside, and anyone who judges us by our outward appearances aren't worth our time, so there!!! I think you rock!
Amber said…
I hate sleeping at other people's houses. Hotels? Fine. Houses, no. No lock on the bathroom? Evil. Good for your for stepping out of your comfort zone and having a good time.
Pamela said…
Wow, I really admire your ability to let go in this situation. I too hate sleeping somewhere other than in my own bed - it's hard enough to fall asleep there - never mind somewhere else!
I totally hear you on the control freak thing as well - just ask my husband about that!!
Anonymous said…
Oh my goodness - you're me! A little bit of a control freak, horribly self conscious about what I'm wearing or how I look out in public. Why do you think I sport such a tiny picture of myself on my blog? ;)
Sandra said…
You're so funny, see, I would have put a picture of me! lmao! Great post...honestly though, it's not you, it's cottages, it's the wilderness, it's peeing in the woods. I'm all about my own bed with the bathroom three feet away, so don't feel self-conscious, but know you are in good company, there are others out there like you. We're kind of like our own band of vampires...only we eat chocolate and drink vodka. I'm following you back!
Kitty Deschanel said…
Yes, I was expecting a photo of you! Snuggle up with those cute doggies and put up another post immediately ;)
Ninja Mom said…
Bibliomomma, you're my hero. Seriously.

We met last night at BOLO and my first thought was: this woman has the most amazing smile and I hope she wants to be my friend (can you figure out my neurosis?).

I love this post, especially when you wrote about lying on the couch listening to the breathing of your loved ones. I can relate to those moments when things feel crazy and then you just zone in one on thing that makes everything feel ok (or at least bearable).

Great post, and I will keep reading!
The Mayor! said…
Soooooo??!! How was it?? Did you save me a seat?! Hope you guys had much fun, stil so bummed I couldn't be there!

Kelly Miller said…
I'm glad you stepped out of your comfort zone enough to have a good time. Those pictures are pretty awesome.

I've learned that the only person judging/staring at me is me. No one else really cares unless my boobs are hanging out or I walk around without pants. Keep your boobs put up and your pants on and you should be a-ok!

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