I’ve taken long weekends the past two and have traveled first to Mammoth Lakes with running friends and teammates of mine, then camping up the coast with J and friends of his (ours, but first his). Both were totally different trips, and yet I came home from both feeling very much like myself and wishing I could bottle up that feeling as it tries to escape me when I return to “real life.”
How could two different weekends create the same feeling? In fact, when I think back to other trips I’ve taken, long or short, I realize it happens any time I take myself out of my usual surroundings and routine. I may put myself into another familiar location, with familiar people, or be somewhere foreign; I may be surrounded by deep conversation or silly antics; I may be away for two days or twenty. So what is the common thread, why do I feel this connection to myself, this craving to stay wherever it is that I am and not return?
It’s not about staying in the physical place. It’s not about dropping everything and moving, or extending a plane ticket, or calling in sick for just one more day.
I think it’s about staying in the mental space.
It’s about being in a place where I’m not overthinking, where I’m caught up in the now, where I’m not concerned with cause and effect, where I can let go of control.
A place where I can do what I want each day, where those things can still line up over time to lead me closer to goals, but I’m less tied to outcome and more focused on process. Nine miles or eleven?—I am dancing along trails through beautiful forests, it doesn’t matter. Five hundred words or six hundred?—I’m writing on a picnic table under redwoods and that is infusing through my words, so write as many as I wish. It’s dinner time but I’m not hungry; or, it’s 3:00pm and I’m starving—don’t eat; eat. Something is supposed to happen at a certain time and doesn’t—more time to read or wander or put my feet in the water and just be.
When I realized that it is this mental space I most want to stay in, of course it was easy for me to start analyzing that: why is it that it’s hard for me to maintain that space in “real life”? How can I arrange “real life” so that I can have that space more often? What tricks can I play with my brain to keep it in that space for longer? It is one of life’s great jokes that I am wired to want to overthink how to not overthink.
Of course, being away means my normal triggers aren’t as prevalent, stresses are different, responsibilities less pressing. There is more space to just be.
Or is there?
No matter what is swirling around me, calling me to distraction, convincing me that it is important enough to stop everything and pay attention, there is nothing I (or any of us) can ever do but just be.
Even when decisions seem impossible to make or obstacles seem insurmountable, when life seems crazy and stressful, when nothing seems right and everything seems wrong. I can always find a place to just be, because that place is internal, it is with me. If I can block out the external stimuli, the external chatter, then I can just be. It is easier to do in a beautiful location away from home, but that mental place is not far away. It can get buried and it may be hard to remember it’s there, but hopefully it is just one journal entry or run or walk on the beach or smile from a baby or wag of a dog’s tail away.
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