You know, if I had visited a few months ago, I’d be feeling differently.
This month, I finally made it back to the place where I began…in utero, that is.
When my parents immigrated to the United States, they started out in Arlington, Virginia when my dad was a family practice resident at Howard University. It didn’t last long since I ended up being born in Oklahoma City.
But that’s another story. I had never been to D.C., which seems strange and frankly unAmerican. So when a Facebook friend (whom I knew from this spiritual retreat/event I attended two years ago) asked if someone wanted to drive her car from Miami to D.C., I jumped at the chance. I thought I’d be seeing a lot of friends, see some sights, get some time to clear my head.
What I got was: a clearer head, saw some sights, saw two friends. The best laid plans, right?
Sunrise at Sunny Isles Beach, Florida
I made my way by Greyhound to Miami and stayed at a hotel on the beach, the Thunderbird. It’s old and not that fancy–BUT THE BEACH. That’s where that sunrise picture came from. Later that day, my friend and her daughter packed up a utility van with two dogs and a cat, as well as my friend’s hatchback I was driving, and we headed north on I-95.
My friend was a bit…um…neurotic? Of course she was. It’s a cross-country move. We barely knew each other, and she’s in her 60s. But at the same time, being more spiritually attuned, I knew we were going to be fine, that we could trust each other. Still, I tried not to be bothered by the frustration and worry (I’m just here to help!). I tried to use my Cancer moon and soothe her while letting her daughter take care of her, which she did. It wasn’t the best planned trip, but for the most part I was well taken care of.
My biggest concern, besides not driving too fast on this fast interstate, was if I was going to be triggered by a healthy mother-daughter relationship. Having had these realization about my narcissistic mother a couple of week prior, I partly didn’t want to see a healthy relationship in front of me, but at the same time, I wanted to observe what it was like to really like your mom and to have your mom really like you.
I got the best taste of it before we left Miami when we went out to dinner. It was so…normal and balanced, but it was a foreign feeling. In many ways, I will never know what it’s like to have that. But how can you miss what you’ve never had?
Besides taking forever to figure out how to sync my phone to the car (because music on a road trip is life), the driving itself was pretty uneventful. (OK, there was this one time I was kinda racing a VW bug in North Carolina, but whatever!) I talked to a friend in South Carolina as I drove through her state, realizing all too late that I could have possibly seen her.
It’s Pedro from the kinda eerily almost deserted South of the Border at the NC/SC border.
When we got to Fayetteville, North Carolina, later that evening, I had a little pang of jealousy when the daughter had a college friend drive down from Raleigh to hang out. It made me wonder: do I have friends in my life like that now? I’m not so sure. But as I was jealous, at least I felt a little less weird about following that same sort of impulse–“oh, you’re in town; let’s hang out.” Granted, younger millennials have less adulting to do, but still…
This brings me to arriving in D.C. and how bittersweet it was for me. For one thing, I didn’t tell my mom I was traveling, although she had kindly sent some money to help me out earlier. I just had decided that this emotional homecoming of sorts wasn’t something she’d really care about or care to hear about.
The other thing was that I had tried to 1) stay longer in D.C. because I erroneously assumed that with enough time, I could arrange staying for a few days and 2) see people. One friend was out of town, but friends I had known for years couldn’t accommodate and it kind of floored me. I know I’m not in a place to do the reverse, to host someone, but if I was, I would. My trip was rather abbreviated because I had made what I thought were some safe assumptions. I honestly wanted to go to D.C. to hang out with friends, and that’s why my friend picked me to come.
Before we even started our trip, we talked about this very phenomenon over dinner–of friends visiting town–and my friend knew how I felt. We talked about how we both would get offended if someone came to visit our respective towns and didn’t even mention it. I have cut ties with people for this–not because I’m a diva, but because I give an actual shit about them (i.e., it hurts).
So while I drove down Rock Creek Parkway, seeing the Pentagon, the National Mall, etc–basically the nickel tour of Washington D.C. and all the unexpected lush greenery, I felt a little sad, even as I blasted D.C. native Thievery Corporation’s “Lebanese Blonde.” It was great, but it was not what I had planned.
We made it to my hotel (the Omni Shoreham which is AMAZING) where I handed off the car and settled into my digs for a bit before I walked (over a mile) to 14th Street for dinner with a Twitter friend that I had known for a little bit. I’m so glad she came out and we got to see each other face to face. It was a pleasant surprise with yummy food and astro convo.
The next day, I went to have breakfast with a dear friend and got to catch up with her a bit. It was nice to finally see her face to face, too, and there was no weird online/offline switch. It was seamless, like we had been talking for a long time (which we had been). This was what I was craving, like how it had been for me in my early 20s.
It was nice to be back in a city, too, to be able to walk (albeit with a heavy backpack), to go to my bank, to see city people doing city things. D.C. is not as big as Chicago or New York City, and it has a different vibe, like a “we’re doing big governmental things that can change the world” vibe. It was my kind of nerdy. It also wasn’t that noisy.
I walked from Dupont Circle to the White House, which was strange to view for the first time. It was definitely thrilling but it reminded me of seeing Rockefeller Center’s ice rink in New York City for the first time: it was much smaller than what I thought it would be. There were some protesters and tourists milling about, taking selfies in front of the fence. Some young white woman was loudly singing the National Anthem in a minor key (more like off-key). So my little I, too, am America moment got ruined by a wannabe protest moment.
A view of the Washington Monument from the Lincoln Memorial
I’ll skip the rest of about National Mall and how I didn’t walk up the Washington Monument (although I did walk up the Bunker Hill Memorial), or how my jeans chafed me so bad I had sores, or how moving it was to go to the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, or how I wished I had taken a picture of Union Station because it was so beautiful, it looked like a museum. I was just glad that I was able to have some Bojangles fried chicken at the train station, that I got on the right train to get to BWI, and that I was able to fly home and have my roommate pick me up and taken my bone-tired butt home. I had done my good deed, seen a couple of friends, and racked up over 1000 miles on Waze.
The friend stuff? Well, vacations, even if they are working ones like the one I had, can be proving ground for relationships. This trip to D.C. made me re-think about my friendships and why I had made these horrible assumptions about certain ones.
I just didn’t feel the same afterward. I felt the weight of the imbalance and have moved on from a few friendships, ones that I knew were already gone, or ones that proved themselves to be not worth the time and effort I put into them. And it sucks.
I care too much, period. And as I’ve been re-learning who I am and what I value, it’s been tough to see how overextended I am in relationships. It’s probably penance for when I felt like I was being too much or demanded too much in friendships. Either way, it’s been unhealthy, and I wasn’t expecting to let go as I’ve done recently. But, I feel better, so that means it was for the best.
This is one of my adulting flaws: I’m not good at demoting friends, or making them less of a priority. It’s like trying to be friends with exes–I just don’t do it. Either we’re friends or we’re not.
I am not the perfect friend, but I want to be a good friend–a better friend, even. I definitely am not the perfect daughter, but I tried to be and failed. And that’s OK–pleasing mothers, narcissistic or not, is an impossible task.
Driving over a thousand miles, I came back home and was feeling not as connected, to my mom or to a few people I called friends. I wasn’t expecting that.
But that’s what was true. It’s not pretty, and I’m not that elegant when it comes to the nuances of human relationships. Maybe I’m as elegant as a butter knife sawing through a steak. But I do want to get better, so I don’t have to cut and run so often–or at all.
Instead of seeing the world as black and white, a point of view that a a sun opposition moon aspect in astrology can create, I can better perceive those shades of grey, these subtler gradations of where most of us live, just trying to do our best.