Fly-over States

farm squares midwest

I grew up in these fly-over states.

So cliche, but they made me who I am.

I grew up in a town (yes, a town, not a city) of less than 1000 people. I graduated with 56 other seniors nearly 20 years ago. I drove 4 hours across the state to go to university. I stayed there for 7 years. When you’re not ready to be a grownup in the big world, stick around for a graduate degree. 

One of my mom’s friends asked her (I was told later): When is Sandy coming back? 
MyMom: To live? She’s not. 
Mom’s Friend: What?!?!
MyMom: No! There’s nothing for her here. 

I was in the midst of getting my graduate degree and taking around the country with my nannying job. But, she was right. And honestly, it never occurred to me to move back home. Even growing up, I knew I wouldn’t stay in my hometown. There was none if that “oh my God! I can’t wait until I get out of here” or “I’m too good for this place.” I just knew there was too much of a world out there to stay in that tiny corner. 
*as a disclaimer: I moved away first, but neither my parents nor my brother and his family are still in that state. 

Now, I’ve reached the age where the only time I go back home (strange to call it that as my parents and brother aren’t “home” there either) is for funerals. My cousins are all married and their kids are, at most, junior high age. 

That’s where I am now – flying over and to a fly-over state. Flying alone to a loved-one’s funeral. 

There is grief and acceptance. Pain and peace. It’s strange how both dichotomies exist at the same time. Our family celebrates the life of our loved one. As MyGrandma was nearing the end of her life, she even referred to it as “My Party.”

But, this time, there is also tension, guilt, stress, and frustration. One aunt is disappointed in me that I’m not making the 18-hour drive with her. My sister-in-law is disappointed I’m not bringing MyChild to play with her cousins (MySIL’s kids). My cousins are disappointed in me just generally. 

You are not required to set yourself on fire to keep other people warm.

I want to scream. This is not a family vacation! The literal expense we’re spending is ridiculous considering I will be in town less than 24 hours. The use of time off hours affects other plans we have. The sheer fact that I won’t be home with MyFamily is burdensome to all three of us. Of course, MyHusband will be just fine – he’s got this – but it is hard on me, too. MyChild starts a new camp this week, but I won’t be there for her on her first day. 

So, here I am. On a plane flying to a city I don’t belong to anymore alone. It was not worth the stress and expense of all three of us going. Again, not a family vacation.

I find myself stealing myself for this experience. Like suiting up in armor and preparing for battle. Don’t get me wrong, I love my whole [extended] family. We are strong, loud, huggers who speak our minds and are generally sure the other is wrong and we’ll let you know. It’s intimidating, I’m not going to lie.

I am also an introvert. An INFJ. An Enneagram 6 (wing 5, if you were wondering). I am a people pleaser to a fault and to the detriment of myself.

I had intended to spend at least part of this weekend having along time to refill my own cup, bucket, whatever vessel you want to call it. I need that space to fully recharge. Most often, I get this time after the rest of my house is asleep. Unfortunately, that impacts my own sleep schedule. There is no winning. On a strict technicality, I am getting alone time, just mixed in with several other hours of stress and intense interactions.

Buck up. Be strong. Do what needs to be done. 

I learned that from my family and from growing up in my fly-over state.

What I’ve learned from getting a grasp on my own personality type(s) and mental health is that there is no shame in showing weakness; there is nothing wrong with saying, “I need some time to myself”; this conversation is not something I want to participate in; I am taking the faster path, because the slower one is not good for me.

Own oxygen mask first