I got up early Saturday morning, before 7:00 a.m., so excited to see the mountain scenery that surrounded me. I had arrived at the cabin in the woods late the night before and wasn’t sure of what beauty awaited me when the sun came up the next morning. I jumped out of bed, grabbed my camera, and bounded down the custom-made spiral wooden staircase. I approached the sliding glass doors with anticipation, and lo and behold (cue the angels singing) there was a beautiful mountain range in the not-too-far distance! It took my breath away! I couldn’t wait to make a cup of coffee, wrap myself up in my favorite sweater, and sit on the deck just taking it all in.
As I sat there, warm coffee cup in hand, I saw spring green leaves budding on the trees. I saw the rising sunlight and moving clouds playing in shadows on the mountains. I heard a bubbling brook gurgling steadily somewhere below where I sat on the deck. I heard birds chirping their morning songs in greeting to each other. I felt the breeze caressing my face. I thought about how beautiful it was around me, and how fortunate I was to be able to experience that moment in time. I thought about all of the things I was there to get away from. And then I thought about all of the things I hadn’t gotten done before I left for this getaway. And then I thought about all of the things I had to do when I got back. And then I thought about the next couple of weeks and how busy they were going to be. And how I still had to figure out a way to shorten my robe for my upcoming doctoral graduation in two weeks (yay me!), and how I needed to clean the bathrooms before family comes to visit next weekend, and the laundry, and that wedding present I still haven’t bought, and . . . You see where this is going?
But I didn’t have any of my work with me to do, and I couldn’t clean my house from 200 miles away, so I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and tried to re-center my thinking. Ah, there were those birds chirping again, the gentle cool breeze on my face, the babbling brook somewhere in the woods, they were all back. And then, like a dark shadow that slowly creeps up on you before you know it, there was another thought. Not about the stuff that I needed to do, but about me; my life; my self-worth, or lack thereof; my relationships with the people I love; my shortfalls; my dashed dreams; that tight feeling in my gut that appears on the rare occasion when I have time to get away from it all and have time to think about my life. Yep, there it was, unmistakable and looming.
Having a personal mental struggle was not what I anticipated on this lovely, relaxing mountain getaway. But there it was. When my mind and body finally had time to relax after so much consistent stress, that’s where it went. So here’s what I learned.
When given time away to de-stress, renew, re-center, your mind will wander into the depths of your soul.
And it can be scary. All of the things that your mind hasn’t been given time to think about may surface just when you’re trying to have a moment with nature. If you’re anything like me and you live a life of constant movement, going somewhere and sitting still for a while is difficult because it’s hard to silence your mind. I found that even though it was hard to sit there and endure the thoughts rushing through my mind, and sometimes a little painful, letting myself think freely was also somewhat therapeutic. It allowed me to think about things I hadn’t given my mind space to think about for a very long time.
Have something to write down thoughts, notes, and inspiration.
Because there are going to be so many thoughts, at some point you may actually want to write some of it down. It can be a journal where you free-write entire entries, a piece of paper where you just jot down some notes or ideas, or even your cell phone or ipad where you can type some quick notes. I prefer to stay away from the electronics in moments like that because it’s too easy to check an email or send a text while you’re switching apps to write something down. But having something to be able to document any ideas, thoughts, or inspiration may be helpful in the processing of what is going through your head.
You won’t solve all of your problems in one sitting; maybe you won’t even solve one.
By the time I saw the bottom of my coffee cup that morning, I had a pout on my face and a furrow on my brow. I had so many things going through my head, so many feelings, so many emotions, I wasn’t sure I was really grateful for that particular moment in time. But then I took another deep breath and told myself that I had to accept that none of my problems were going to be solved that day, that hour, that moment. That is why it was good to write some things down. I could come back to them later and address them one at a time, in time, when I felt ready. Once I accepted that, it was easier to move on with my day.
Have something around that will distract you.
Eventually, the thoughts and feelings could get to be too much to take all at once. At that point, I would recommend having something to distract you from your thoughts. But I thought you said this was supposed to be a weekend away from it all, you ask? Yes, yes it was. But getting away from it all can also mean doing something different from the norm. Reading a book you’ve been meaning to read for a while; leafing through a magazine you’ve been wanting to read; catching up on a favorite TV show; something that is relaxing, that you haven’t had time to do, and that you enjoy. Sometimes renewal comes in the form of doing something different rather than simply being alone with your thoughts.
The weekend getaway was really wonderful. I did enjoy sitting and looking at the mountains and enjoying nature (until that gnat flew in my ear, ugh!). Coming from a city girl who thinks camping is a Holiday Inn complete with bathrobes and blow dryers, that is saying a lot. But I also learned that being alone with my thoughts can be challenging and frustrating. That uneasy feeling was not something I anticipated. But I did learn that perhaps I need to spend more time that way to be able to work through some things in my mind, and perhaps as I spend more time in my thoughts, they will become easier to accept, work with, and eventually work out.
Will spending time investing in ourselves, our thoughts, and our dreams lead to a better life and put us on the road to happiness? I have to believe that yes, that is the case. As we work toward resolving issues in our minds and in our own little worlds, we can strive toward better balanced lives that can lead to happiness for us, as well as those around us.