The Brenners Invade The White House

by Bill Brenner on May 17, 2010

The author on returning from a journey that would have been impossible a few years ago.

It’s 5:30 a.m. and I’m running on less than four hours of sleep, so excuse any typos that follow…

I’m back in my “sunrise chair” the morning after returning from one hell of a road trip that included a private tour of the White House West Wing, a stay at buddy Alex Howard’s place and a stay with our wonderful Maryland relatives, Charron, Steve, Stevie and Maggie.

There’s a lot about the trip I’m still stunned about. I’m still in awe of the fact that I got to poke my head in the Oval Office and Cabinet Room and that I got a quick peek inside the Situation Room when a staffer was leaving the main room (the Situation Room is actually made up of several rooms).

I’m very thankful for Howard Schmidt for giving us the tour and for Alex for letting the whole family stay in his cramped but very cool townhouse on Capitol Hill.

I’m also thankful for the level of recovery I’ve achieved, because without it I never could have done the trip, especially with the whole family on an 8-hour drive down and a longer, 12-hour drive home Sunday (lots of traffic).
I’ll be honest and tell you I wasn’t perfect this trip. Friday morning we got a late start to the day and I found myself in an OCD-enhanced mood dive. It was a classic control freak out: I wanted to show Erin and the boys EVERYTHING. But with two small kids with shorter legs than their Dad, you can’t do that. And for a few hours Friday afternoon, as we walked from the Lincoln monument to the Museum of Natural History, I was in that brain-clouding mood I used to live with 24 hours a day.
But it was still a good day, and an even better night. Being in the West Wing of The White House, where every president of the last century has toiled away (some for the good, others for the not-so-good), was just magical for a history nerd like me. And I’m grateful my wife and children got to see it all.
It was a joy the next day to spend time with our Corthell cousins on the Maryland coast: Charron, Maggie, Steve and Stevie. Such a wonderful family. Charron took us to a maritime habitat that included time out on the water and inside a really cool lighthouse.
I especially enjoyed watching Maggie and Duncan bond during the boat ride.
So why wouldn’t this trip have been possible a few years ago? For starters, driving ANYWHERE outside the comfortable confines of the north-of-Boston area used to send me into panic. My fear and anxiety extended to a terror over getting lost. Even getting lost in Boston was cause for fear.
This trip, I did the whole drive down and back with none of that. I even enjoyed the journey.
I also wouldn’t have had the guts a few years ago to inquire about a White House tour. Too much work and I’d have to actually talk to someone with a big title. That would have been too intimidating.
I also would have been afraid to take the time off from work, since being a people pleaser was more important than living back then.
My 12-Step recovery program helped a lot. It kept me from wasting time and energy on binge eating and so I got to experience more from the journey. My Faith also helped, because I know now that the key to everything is to Let Go and Let God. I worked my tools, and everything was fine.
Not perfect. I feel like an idiot for taking that mood swing Friday afternoon. I also realize now more than ever that I’m addicted to computer screens. Erin decreed that we leave the laptops behind and I’m glad we did. But man was it hard to not run to a computer and upload those White House pics right after taking them. That’s something I still have to work on.
But then I knew I was still a work in progress. I always will be.
But I’m a grateful, lucky work in progress.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Ann Ball May 17, 2010 at 4:50 pm

It was great to see you! I wish we had more time!

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