I spent my weekend camping in Big Sur with Trail Mavens, and it was one of my favorite weekends ever. I was raised by parents who did not believe in camping — my mom fondly refers to hotels without room service as camping, and that, coupled with my chubby body and dislike of sweating meant that I was a decidedly indoor kid. That said, I’ve always been fascinated with people who sneak off for weekends under huge redwoods or spent their summers eating foil-packed meals around campfires. So when I had a chance to go on a trip designed for women who want to learn to pitch tents and build fires and grow their outdoor skills, I jumped at it. If this sounds like you, than you should totally go. Best experience!
While I could easily write a blog post all about my love for the weekend, I had a deeper realization as I hiked along the Ewoldsen Trail in Big Sur. There I was, having successfully survived an evening in a tent, eaten a breakfast cooked over a stove, hiking along a trail…I was DOING IT. I thought back to the irony of the fact that I started this year by eagerly swearing off any new adventures. No more races, cleanses, self-help books. No more trying so hard to go do things, but rather a year of finding contentment at home.
Those of you who know me are surely laughing because I’m sure you knew that particular way of living wouldn’t last long. And, in true, prime Amy fashion, the rest of my 2016 consists of a variety of awesome adventures: running three races, climbing Half Dome and a solo trip to Paris.
Congrats to whichever of my best friends won the pool on just how long my ban on doing things would last.
That said, I don’t think that I’ve “failed” at my resolution of swearing off self-improvement — except in one kind of huge regard. I signed up for the highly-lauded Jess Lively’s Life With Intention Online course. After months of listening to her podcast, I decided that I wanted to explore more about values-based intentions, or basically, getting out of the rat race of constantly checking things off of a list of accomplishments and learning to move from a more intentional place.
I honestly thought that the process might be sort of hokey, or repetitive in terms of things I’d explored before through my many forays into “fixing myself.” Instead, what I found was that it totally shifted my way of thinking and behaving. Rather than continuing to try new activities because I think it will “fix” something in me, I’m trying to ask myself why or how or what I’m hoping to get from my actions, and if it lines up with my values. For example, with my health issues, I’m having to dramatically change the way I eat (to an admittedly healthier way of consuming food). But rather than doing it because I feel like I must lose weight, I’m focused on eating in a way that will help my body feel its best. I am running again, not because I’m focused on an outward physical goal, but because I like who I am when I’m focused on running. It inspires discipline, confidence and strength in my own body.
As it turns out, for me, doing things isn’t what burns me out. I genuinely ENJOY doing stuff. I get burned out and frustrated when I do things with an attitude that I’m going to fix something in me, rather than doing things from a place of joy or genuine curiosity.
I’ve always thought that Rumi quote, “Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray…” to be sort of a weird timewaster? I’ve wanted to learn French since I was young, but it always seemed like a useless pursuit as a Californian — shouldn’t I be learning Spanish? But, as I’ve started learning French just because, I’ve found such immense joy because I am passionate about it. I’m reading books I find interesting, trying watercolor painting, and spending time outside, and while my schedule is busy, my heart is so full.
As I hiked along this weekend, I realized that I had finally found the thing inside that I’d been looking for: the pure joy of doing things just because you want to. Going camping isn’t exactly an “accomplishment” but it’s something I always thought that I would love — and I was right. So while I am still seeking, chasing and growing, it is no longer about a constant quest to be better: it’s a quest to do the things I love, to feel the best I can, and to learn, grow and change simply because I want to.