We recently returned from a trip to Oregon. We spent 5 nights on a river. We normally car camp maybe once or twice a year, so 5 nights of camping and paddling and kayaking on a big river was way outside my comfort zone. So why would I agree to spend our vacation being outdoorsy if it's not my thing? Simple. I want to be the type of woman who can kayak, camp outside, and go 5 days without a phone. Here are some things I learned about myself from this trip:
1)Time away is a means of escaping from yourself: When I look up the definition of vacation, in addition to the traditional definition of taking time off work, it also said vacation is the act of leaving something one previously occupied. A vacation like this was definitely an act of leaving one Hope behind and getting introduced to a new Hope. It taught me a lot about myself. The beauty of stepping away from your life and your routine is that you can get away from yourself. You can reconnect with your Essence.
One of the main life lessons in Earth School is to know yourself. We, especially as women, conform ourselves to society's expectations: "I have to be a responsible mother, I have to be a dutiful wife. I have to be safe and reliable. I have to eat gluten-free, sugar-free, and exercise 5 days a week." Instead of drinking the recommended amount of water a day, I drank it when I was thirsty. I went to bed when I was sleepy and let my body wake up when it wanted to.
2) I grew beyond my self-imposed limits by doing things outside my comfort zone. I may think of myself as the type of person who doesn't take risks like kayaking in class 4 rapids or the type of person who wouldn't jump from a really tall rock outcropping into the river below. I didn't think of myself as the type of person who would sleep without a sleeping bag under the stars, nor did I ever think I'd be okay cutting communication off from the world. But I showed up in new ways when confronted with these new situations.
Being on the river for 5 days had an effect on me. It didn't change me as it pulled me back to myself. The river reminded me of my own ability to change. I heard our guides tell us how the river moves over and around obstacles. It's persistent, over millions of years it creates change. It also changes based on how high the water level is. A few years ago there was a flood and when asked if the river was harder to navigate during that time, the guide responded that it was easier in many ways because the rocks they normally had to navigate around and look out for became a non-issue.
3) Freedom: I felt free for those 5 days. Not only free from social media, work emails, and texts, I felt freedom from my roles and obligations. I didn't have to be Hope the supper club coordinator, or Hope the PA or Hope the mom who makes the kids eat healthily and go to bed on time. Eli and I threw caution to the wind and slept under the stars. I ate bread and dessert. I went to bed at 10 and woke up at 6. I didn't exercise except for yoga stretches in the morning, done only because they felt good, not because I felt guilty about not exercising. I overcame my fear of leaping off high places by jumping off a rock as tall as my house. I swam in the same creek as pencil-thin gray snakes despite a fear of snakes.
4) I reimagined myself: When you get away from yourself, you can more easily imagine the person you'd like to be. Would that person be a rule follower, or would she go with the flow? What would she dress like? How would she handle obstacles and setbacks? What would she do when her buttons were pushed?
Have you ever tried on a new outfit in a store and thought that it didn't look like you, but you wished it did? I did this recently, I tried on a sleek egg-plant colored dress and was immediately transformed into a different version of Hope. In fact, I didn't even feel like Hope. I was like, "Wow, this Hope would be confident, she'd throw her shoulders back, straighten her spine, and own the room. I bought it.
My mother-in-law took my daughter to get her nails done a few wks ago. Ollie is a nail picker and usually sports a dirty t-shirt and shorts. She isn't really the nail polish type. But, after she had her nails done, she was so proud of having pretty hands and feet that she stopped picking.
I used to be very unbendable, as in rigid and intense. I can still be that way, but I decided about 5 years ago that I wanted to be more zen, more laid back. It was about the time I started a new job. I decided this Hope wasn't so type A. She rolled with it. I knew a lady who was on a committee with my husband and she looked so cool. I met her a couple of times before deciding she was the kind of laid-back cool I wanted to be. At the time, headbands were all the rage. I bought one that looked like her and wore it. The first time I felt like an imposter. Who do I think I am? I felt like a kindergarten teacher coming to school in lingerie. I kept wearing it once a week or so. When I wore it I was Zen Hope. Weeks later I was no longer wearing the headband, but as I chatted with my sister-in-law. She remarked, "You're like a new person, you're laid back." Somewhere in the last 5 years at my job, I also became known as a laid-back provider, not a slacker, but someone who doesn't get frazzled or easily upset about patients or my schedule. I'm not perfect, and I still think of myself as Type A, but by wearing a different headband, I realized I could reinvent myself however I wanted.
5) I got to examine our pointy rocks and my damaged areas. Andy the guide also told us about a time recently when the water level went down. There was a new pointed rock, almost like a dagger poking out from the rock wall. It punctured 11 rafts in 48 hours. Here's the other thing. It was invisible, just below the water, so no one could see it coming. Life often has hidden obstacles and many times we go through many punctures before we figure out there's a problem. This might be like the woman who keeps dating different guys in hopes that she'll find the father she never had, it might be the woman who keeps playing small because that's what her parents expected and demanded of her. Your pointed rock might be a victim mentality instead of showing up in your life. By identifying the jagged rock in your life, maybe you see your story is no longer serving you and decide it's time to rewrite the upcoming chapter.
So what can you do to let go of your old ways, your old beliefs, and move forward as the new version of you? Look for someone in your life you're a tad envious of. Maybe it's someone you barely know, but you look at them and think, "Man, I could never pull that off, she's so cool." How could you take a baby step towards being more like the person you'd like to be?