Month: March 2014

Reclamation

Every time I take my daughter to dance class I go running.  Her class is short, just 45 minutes, but more and more that time feels like 45 of the most crucial minutes of my week.  So, I take those 45 minutes that my daughter spends twirling and leaping in dance class to run.  Sometimes it’s cold and snowy and I take it easy, try not to suffer too much.  Now the weather is changing and on the exceptional early spring days we occasionally enjoy here at 7200 feet I can push myself, find that intoxicating mixture of nausea and adrenaline that only the right kind of physical activity can produce.  I relish that feeling.  I savor the sweat, wobbly legs and swimming head.

Just because I enjoy the run and the way I am left afterwards doesn’t mean I always want to do it.  On Monday afternoons and Saturday mornings sometimes it sounds far more appealing to post up at the coffee shop to unwind after working with junior high students all day or to take a long, slow morning at the start of the weekend.  It’s easy to decide to go for a run on days when I have the whole afternoon or morning to myself.  I can take my time getting ready, hit the snooze button one more time, or eat a sandwich while I check Facebook before I head out.  It’s different during my dance class runs.  On those days I have just enough time go running, just enough time to make the right decision, because even though I would love to sit at the coffee shop and read or chat with the baristas, I know deep down in my guts that there is no better way to spend those 45 minutes than with my legs and heart pounding.

When I decide to lace up my shoes and make it happen in that barely adequate window of time, I’m deciding to start the week off on the right foot, or trying to erase the stress of working, raising a kid, taking care of a house, and trying to be a person.  The fact of the matter is that while I take pride and satisfaction in the physical aspect of running, what I stand to gain and why I depend so heavily on this stolen time to run is almost entirely mental.  Whatever biological or chemical devices are at work, I know taking that time to move and to breathe gives me the best possible shot at keeping my head on straight.  What I’m really reclaiming during those dance class runs is more than just time.  By deciding to use that time for myself, time that I could so easily spend being idle and passive about life, I am salvaging more than just time.  In those 45 minutes in between dropping my daughter off and picking her up in a room crowded with other wiggly kids and busy parents, what I am truly reclaiming is my mind and my self.

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Remember How to Have Fun

Taking kids outside is important.  It fosters a sense of adventure and independence, helps develop a relationship with the outdoors, and insures that there will be future generations that give enough of a shit to take care of the wild places we love.  I toss these ideas down as facts because I believe them to be so, but what I have realized is that taking kids out to experience the mountains is important for a different and somewhat more selfish reason: Kids know how to have fun, and if we pay attention we might be able to learn how to have fun too.

I recently had the chance to go skiing with a group of junior high age students at our local ski hill.  Conditions that day were, perhaps not surprisingly, very windy and the snow was mostly icy hard-pack.  The student that I was spending the day with informed the ski instructor that he was “intermediate” and that he had skied before.  I found this highly unlikely as I spent the day watching him struggle to hold a snowplow, tip over while standing still, completely loose control on numerous occasions, and take a number spectacular, yard sale inducing diggers.  Without a single trace of hyperbole I would say that during the first half of the day this kid spent just as much time flopped down in the snow or tumbling ass-over-teakettle as he did on his skis.

In short, the conditions were less than ideal and this dude was struggling.  What was truly remarkable was that while I’m all but certain I would have quickly devolved into a foul mouthed and fouler tempered recreationalist if I were in his position, the kid picked himself up (with difficulty, and to be honest I usually had to help him), dusted himself off, and kept going with the same absurd grin as he started with.  Despite the conditions on the mountain and his own complete lack of skill, he was having fun.

Riding back to town on the bus, I found myself thinking about how much fun this student had, in spite of sub optimal conditions and somewhat grim performance on the slopes.  He salvaged a day that I could have easily lost to frustration or disappointment.  Following this train of thought, I remembered a day I spent bouldering with my daughter the summer before.  I didn’t have a climbing partner for the day and thought that we could head out together so that I could do an easy bouldering circuit and she could play in the dirt.  It was a simple enough plan in conception.  However, what I failed to take into consideration when making this plan is that I typically neither enjoy nor excel in any way at bouldering.  I remembered this in short order, and after only a few poorly attempted boulder problems I was making excuses to myself for my lack-luster performance and becoming increasingly negative.  At this point I apologized to my daughter for dragging her along on my misadventure and asked if she was bored and ready to go home.  To my surprise she responded that she was having fun throwing pinecones and showed me “a very, very pretty flower!”  While I was loosing myself in goals, ideas, and self-judgment — completely missing the point of spending a day outside, my five-year-old life coach was having a total blast just existing in nature.

I promptly bailed on my bouldering plans for the day, and we spent the rest of our time not even really hiking, but meandering around in the brush.  We followed a deer for about fifteen minutes; something that she later told me was “sooooo fun,” and talked about it for days.  Again, a kid’s outlook salvaged a day that would have all too easily been chalked up as failure by my adult point of view.

In the end I think the lesson that I took away from both these experiences is a simple one.  Simple enough that it feels a little ridiculous to say it: don’t forget to have fun.  Instead of getting wrapped up in performance and conditions, setting a new PR time on a loop, sending a project or mastering a tele-turn, relish in the simple fun of being outside.  Pick flowers, jump off logs, be psyched that you are skiing, even if you’re no good.  Watch kids play outside and try to be more like them, they know how to have fun.

Have fun like a kid.

Have fun like a kid.