“Oh it’ll be so nice this time around.” I thought to myself. “Carlos will be with us, the kids will have fun with their papa, and we’ll get to enjoy Monterey as a family.”
These thoughts filled my head as I planned a second trip to Monterey in two weeks. For our first trip, Carlos couldn’t come, so when he said he wanted to bring his family while they were here from Mexico, I thought “perfect!”
This would be our chance to do it right.
Instead, it turned out to be my lesson in letting go of my husband.
For the first time in over a decade together, I was able to give him up completely, take care of my kids, and trust that I would get him back in a week.
You see, my husband becomes a different person when his family visits. Carlos was born and raised by his mother, his aunt, his grandmother, and his older sisters as a child. He grew up both in a small town a few hours outside of Mexico City and in Mexico City itself. His entire childhood was a world away from my own.
Then, he came here as a 17 year old and has spent the last twenty years becoming American. He is now much more American than he is Mexican. But, he is still, of course, Mexican. So he lives in a constant state of double consciousness, a duality that only really rears its head when he is caught up in both worlds, like when his family visits and he finds one foot in each world.
Every single time his family visits things get tense in our house.
First, I don’t like having people in my space for too long. A weekend? Great! Four days? You’re pushing it. A week? Get out!
And when people visit from another country, they don’t visit for a weekend.
The very first time they visited, Carlos’ mother and aunt stayed with us for an entire month. A month!
I almost killed myself.
Now, anyone who comes from Mexico, comes for a week, and then they head up to Seattle to stay with Carlos’ brother for however much longer they plan to stay in the states.
This time around, knowing what it would be like, I prepared myself.
I have been on this journey to find peace and flow, ease and freedom in life, and this visit is the ultimate test for me.
Triggers abound for me with family visits, with people in my house, with the amount of money we spend on long family visits, with parent child relationships, and so on.
So I was determined to witness my own triggers, face my anxieties, and move through the process instead of letting pressure and stress build inside me until I explode (which is what usually happens).
What I did not realize, but came to terms with very quickly, was that my husband would not be the husband he normally is while we were in Monterey. He would be taking care of three people, his mother, his aunt, and his sister, whom he sees once a year, who are visiting a foreign country, who do not speak English.
And so I let go.
Fortunately, I felt strong in my abilities to just take care of my kids on a road trip by myself after our last girls’ trip just two weeks previous. And of course, it wasn’t like my husband wasn’t there at all. He could help if I needed him to, but his main focus and priorities were on his guests.
While this may all seem a bit strange to you, if you don’t have a family dynamic like mine, let me be clear that my husband is typically an actively involved, highly engaged, interactive husband and father. He bathes kids, feeds kids, plays with kids, and does everything with our kids that I do. I recently wrote a whole essay on just how hands on my husband is.
So it is quite a shock to our family system, and my system as his partner, to have him switch out to this present-but-not-really-present role.
But I went with it.
I rented side by side hotel rooms at a cute little inn, The Sea Breeze Inn and Cottages, in Pacific Grove, I made sure I got my daily runs on the beach that I look forward to when we are in Monterey, I took the girls to the aquarium, and I made sure my immediate needs were taken care of.
In the end, it was one of the most freeing experiences I have had as a wife and mother. I established clear boundaries for what I needed, and I let everything else go.
And since I went into the whole experience not expecting anything from my husband, I was never disappointed, upset, resentful, or stressed. When he went for a long (four hours!) walk on the beach with his sister and failed to make it back in time for the aquarium, I simply packed up my girls and headed down myself.
Celaya and I grabbed Starbucks, the girls played in the kids’ section of the aquarium, and we met Carlos and his family at Bubba Gumps a couple of hours later.
When they all wanted to go to the aquarium the next morning, I made sure to get my run in first, traipsing my way along the rocks on the beach, visiting with fellow rock climbers and beach runners along the way, got a late check out from our rooms, and went back to the aquarium (this is why I got the Ocean Advocate membership: unlimited visits for us and our guests. No stress.)
When I needed to leave the aquarium to get on the road in time for Matilda’s nap, I said goodbye, packed up my girls, and headed out. Carlos and his family could follow behind whenever it was convenient for them.
And the rest of the visit so far has been much of the same.
“Are you okay?” Carlos texts me one afternoon as I’m putting Matilda down for a nap. He was in the living room. Texting me.
I come out after getting Matilda settled.
“I’m fine. Why? What’s up?” I ask him.
“I just want to make sure. You seem tense.”
“I am tense, honey. I am used to my space. I like my space. There are three people living in my space for a week. I’m tense when my mother is here for a weekend. I’m going to be tense. But I’ll be fine. It will pass. They’re leaving on Saturday. Enjoy them while they’re here.”
“Well, I just want to make sure you’re okay.” He says to me, sincerely.
“Carlos,” I begin, reaching my arms out to stroke the sides of this arms, reassuring him. “Stop taking care of me. Stop worrying about me. You have enough to deal with. I’ll take care of me and the kids. You take care of your family members. I will be fine. I’m happy. I have everything I need. I’m fine.”
“Well, can you tell them that? Because they think you’re stressed out or that they’re in your way.”
This, in a nutshell, is my husband. He wants everyone to be happy. He wants everyone to get along. He wants everything to function perfectly and rotate on a perfect axis with no conflict and no problems and no hidden resentments. He will check and double check to accommodate and make sure all is always well.
This is great for me as a wife, and I have to be extra careful not to abuse his kindness, not to take advantage of his eagerness to please the people he loves.
And for a long time I resented having to compete with his mother or his sister or whoever was visiting for that love that usually shines brightest only for me.
But then, this time around, as part of this journey through peace that I’m on, I realized, suddenly, that I don’t have to compete.
That there is no competition.
That these people will come and go, that even our children will come and go, and my husband will always love me most and best, that his love always shines brightest for me, and that that is why I married him in the first place. That he loves me so much that I want to spend my whole life trying to love him the same way, to make him feel the way he makes me feel.
“No.” I answered, calmly but firmly. “That’s not my job. More importantly, that’s not your job. You do not have to make us all sit and visit, to make us talk and enjoy each other, to make us all comfortable. If they ask about me, if they say something, just shrug, honey, and say, ‘eh, that’s just who she is.'”
The words came through me, out of me, and they just felt right.
I knew in that moment that we all just needed to coexist. That I didn’t need to control anything, that he didn’t need to make anything happen, that we just need to “be” for the week.
And so, as corny as it sounds, letting go of my husband actually brought him closer to me, bought us closer to each other, and has made for the most peaceful visit we have ever had with family in our space for such a long time.
As the queen of the castle, as the alpha in charge, the woman who wears the crown and must run everything at all times, this experience has been quite a lesson. It has been quite liberating to take off the crown and place it on a pillow, to give up my kitchen, to let other people clean my house, to just spend the money that must be spent, and to just flow with the process of this week.
My crown is not going anywhere, my throne is not in danger, and my heavy head can use the rest.