Long before we met, my husband and his brothers bought a small cottage on an inland lake in Michigan.
“The Cottage” as we call it, has been my husband’s pride and joy; a retreat from the city and a reminder of the fun-filled days he spent as a child at his Nana’s lake cottage.
For the past 12 years, Mike has
pushed encouraged me to enjoy the cottage and see it through his eyes.
Here’s how he sees it.
Here’s how I see it.
For 12 years, I’ve hated the place: the bugs, the slimy lake, the remote location, the old furniture, the lack of cable or internet connections. .. my list of grievances is long and justified (by me). And I’ve always felt that being at the cottage is a lot more work than I want to do on vacation.
The cottage has been a big thorn in our marriage from day one – a convenient place to stash our varied resentments with each other. We’ve talked about the cottage ad nauseam – with each other, with friends, with couples’ counselors – and though we’ve learned to compromise over the years, we’ve never been able to truly resolve our fundamental differences about the place.
Before we had kids, I would join Mike at the cottage for a day or two at most and he would spend time there alone. When our kids were babies and toddlers, I used my terror of being so close to the water to justify not wanting to spend much time there.
For the last several years, our compromise has been to rent out the cottage to others for the entire summer, save for a day or two when we celebrate Ava’s August birthday there with our Michigan family members.
Now that our girls are older, they ADORE the cottage; LOVE everything about it: the lake, the boating, the nearby ice cream shop and mostly, being close to family (their many cousins live in an adorable neighboring town). My kids love the place, my husband loves it, what’s wrong with me?
This year, Mike decided he wanted our family to spend a week at the cottage – one of my worst nightmares. (Okay, fine. I can think of many worse things and I’m aware I’m coming across as a spoiled brat, but hey, I warned you I am high maintenance!)
dreading nervous about this week all summer. However, being the giver trooper that I am, I bravely headed to the cottage last week for Ava’s ninth birthday party. Mike handled everything for the party – from food to drinks to water fun for all of us.
I relaxed and enjoyed his mom and siblings’ company and found myself de-stressing from the moment I arrived.
What was different this year? Yes, Mike was in charge, but this doesn’t account for my sudden
insanity change of heart.
My secret: we brought one of Ava’s school friends from home with us for the weekend. N is a darling, kind, funny little girl, one whom my daughter loves and connects with well.
From the moment we walked into the cottage, N commented on what it lacked:
One bathroom? Ewww!
Small beds? Bummmmer!
Boggy lake bottom? Groooossss!
Spiders and bugs? Disgustttttinnnggg!
I saw myself so clearly in little N.
Instead of taking in the beauty of the lake, the picturesque surrounding area and our cottage’s desirable position on the water, she focused on its flaws.
Rather than admit she was nervous about being out of her comfort zone, she criticized her surroundings.
Um, could I relate? Hell yes!
And suddenly, for the first time ever, I felt utterly willing to take advantage of all the cottage has to offer. I put on my bathing suit, lubed myself with sunscreen and perched a billowy hat on my head (to protect my delicate sensibilities).
Properly attired, I offered my hand to N.
I was going to face my fears and jump in that lake. Would she join me?
The first few steps of boggy, mushy, slimy lake bottom did nothing to entice us farther. We traded “ewwws” and joked about turning around. We had a choice.
I chose “yes!” I was going to join my daughters and husband, already out frolicking in the lake. Was N coming with me?
Yes, yes she was! We jumped!
And had the most fun I’ve had in a long time.
We laughed and giggled and tubed and boated our way through the day. And this mom (me!) even went for a solo swim, up and down the lakefront. Ava was shocked, shouting, “I never thought I’d see my mom swimming in this lake. Never.”
I’m grateful I got to surprise my kids and show them a new side of me. I surprised myself, too — old dog, new tricks and all that.
In that moment, I felt like an Olympic athlete, facing my fears and confronting my old attitudes. I was bursting with hope – hope that with a little support, I could change many old beliefs and self-limitations and open myself up to joy and new adventures. That’s the life I want to live and the model I want to provide for our girls.
And here’s a huge shoutout to N – once she jumped, she never looked back! And that girl knows how to have fun!
She’s a brave young girl, and I’m grateful for her loving guidance. I couldn’t have done it without her!
We had a wonderful visit to the cottage this year. Of course, this could have been a momentary lapse of sanity on my part. I’ll let you know next year.
When was the last time you took a risk and tried something you’ve been avoiding? How did it work out for you?
Here are the instructions:
Step 1: Write a blog post about hope & publish it on your blog.
Step 2: Invite one (or more!) bloggers to do the same.
Step 3: Link to the person who recruited you (me, in this case) at the top of the post, and the people you’re recruiting at the bottom of the post.
Melanie Crutchfield will be holding “Closing Ceremonies” around August 10 and will gather up little snippets from people who wrote about hope, so make sure you link back to her as the originator of the relay.
Thanks for reading!