Know yourself

Here on Thursday, I’m on the downward slope of this week of rest. I don’t have that panicky feeling I sometimes get late in a vacation “Hurry up and relax already! We’re almost out of time!” This has so far been a gracious, joyful and relaxed week.

Yesterday, with thunderstorms in the forecast, I just spent the entire day in my cabin doing the quiet and contemplative things I never have time to do. OK ok I played Civilization 6 almost all day and barely squeaked past the Congolese empire for my Scythians to win a cultural victory. I also wrote a section of ghost story and read a book cover to cover. This morning I snoozed my alarm, except apparently I actually turned it off. I woke up when my body was ready to arise, which was waaaaaay later than I had planned. But I didn’t, you know, miss anything. It was fine. I’m headed to White Lake today with a chair and a book and I’ll make a campfire and maybe rent a kayak. Tomorrow will be the real closing ceremonies, with a planned ascent of my beloved Mt. Chocorua. I’ll have Saturday, which looks fine, in which to do any things I feel like I should have already done. But honestly, I’m feeling pretty fulfilled.

I’ve also learned a few things about myself, in this quiet and space.

1) I only write in the first person autobiographical
I really love to write. I have been blogging for a very, very long time – almost twenty years (if not all on this platform). In fact, if you go back to my oldest (converted) post on this platform, you can hear the same longing for and love for the mountains I’m still trying to express today. (Although I’ve come around on New England mountains.) But I am like a body builder who has focused on one particular rep – one particular muscle group. I write as me, in the first person. Even when I write fiction, it’s the same voice and the same skills. The same perspective. I usually have such trouble finding time and space to get to a keyboard and get my thoughts down, I haven’t realized it. I’m an unbalanced writer. I’m not sure I *can* even write in the third person, or from a different point of view character. Now, I am fully allowed to leave myself in that state. I write for the joy of it. But noticing this makes me want to tackle it, and as gracious as this week is, I have trouble writing more than 2000 – 3000 words a day. Maybe this will be a fun thing for me to tackle and freshen my writing in the coming year.

2) I am not afraid
I’ve long known that I’m more motivated by hope than by fear. I’ve also generally known that I tend to be less afraid of stuff than our culture expects of women. But I didn’t really realize just how fearless I am. To be clear – I can still be very anxious. When I consider the destruction course our civilization is on, I’m deeply anxious indeed. But I’m not afraid of being alone in a cabin in the woods. I’m not afraid of scrambling up slick stone chimneys. I’m not afraid of falling. I’m not afraid of heights. I’m not afraid of ghosts. I’m not afraid of bears. I’m not afraid of the dark or the quiet. I’m not even nearly as afraid of ticks as I thought I was. I’m not a reckless person. I don’t go after adrenaline hits. I don’t usually take unnecessary risks or do wildly dangerous things. But it’s not because I’m scared – it’s because I’m cautious. Because I am not afraid.

3) I am physically strong
There’s a great line in “The Princess Bride” (ok, they’re all great lines) where Fezzik says as he tosses a boulder “I don’t even work out”. I don’t think of myself as “a fitness person”, and with my 40th birthday a happy memory, I am no longer young. But put me on a hiking trail with a full pack of water, and somehow my legs are indomitable. I felt powerful and euphoric in my body, cresting mountain saddles and breaking into the light. Even after rigorous ten+ mile days, my feet itched for more. I’m not coming to this entirely sedentary – I run 3.5 a few times a week when I can. But I also don’t do any weight training (I know, I should) and am physically best described as, uh, curvaceous. It’s so empowering to discover that under all that curve is muscle, sinew and will.

4) I like the things I thought I liked
My regular life is, by my own design, very busy and full of people. I cook and eat. I gather. I play games. I am with people a lot. Adam and I mused extensively on how I would do in this week of solitude. Would I go crazy? Would I try to fill the quiet spaces with busy-ness, like I do my regular life? Would I be bored and realize I’d misunderstood my own desires? But before I began to live my adult life, I would have described myself as an introvert. I spent most days mostly alone (as a girl I didn’t have many or close friends), with the company of my books and my thoughts and the mountains. I am not lonely in my aloneness. There’s a big caveat here though. I will get to spend two of these hiking days with dear friends, which breaks up the silence. And there is the internet, which for all its flaws is a lovely connection to the people I care about. But I like both things: the people and the quiet.

There’s also some reassurance in what I haven’t discovered. My journey through the week shows me that I am living the life I want, with the people I want. Only I want more hiking. (I’m trying to convince Adam that this week should become a tradition – he’s such a loving guy he’s going along with it.) The course of my life is the right one, and I can hold to it authentically and joyfully. These are all good and welcome discoveries!

Now, to White Lake!

Roller coaster family

One of the great joys – and hardest parts – of becoming a new family by having children is figuring out who they really are. Do they love to read, like you do? Do they love hiking and camping? Are they morning people or night owls? Do they tend to see things as funny or offensive? Is their first reaction one of compassion? Do they work hard for their goals? There are so many things you discover over time about your children. Many of these things you can influence. It’s hard to get a kid who loves to read if they never have any books around, whereas a constant supply of books and time set aside for reading increases the odds dramatically … but not guaranteed.

Some of these identities extend from the individual to the family. We learn who “we” are. “We” go camping together. “We” play board games. “We” play soccer. For this period of twenty some odd years, we’re a team who does a lot of things together, or not at all.

This weekend, Adam and I asked our family a big question.

Do “we” like roller coasters?

Six Flags New England - I didn't take this one!
Six Flags New England – I didn’t take this picture!

There’s a lot riding on this question. If the answer is absolutely not, then I probably never ride the big coasters again. It’s not worth it to go with reluctant kids, and it’s probably not something I’d do after I have no kid responsibilities. I mean, maybe my life would hold one or two more big coasters… but not many more. With Thane at the 52″ mark, this was the first time we’d be able to investigate and really thoroughly address the question. I confess to being a bit nervous – I really like roller coasters and would be sad not to share that with my kids.

I’m happy to report, the kids loved the coasters.

We tried a bunch: the one built in 1941, the one where you bounce up and down from a great height. We went on the Mind Eraser three times, when a gentle rain dissuaded everyone else from riding it. Then the skies opened and there was thunder, which means nothing was going on. We had lunch (totally breaking from the Pantry Challenge for a day), bought ponchos that were apparently spun from the most precious plastic-sheep ever raised and waited for the rain to stop.

Legit downpour
Legit downpour

This was the best possible thing to have happen, since most folks left at that point. We bought too much fudge and waited. Miraculously, the weather cleared and we had fast run of almost all the rides. It was phenomenal.

Bumper cars were first to open
Bumper cars were first to open

Then we hit the big rides, with very very few lines. Our favorite coaster was the Cyclone. It was a perfect coaster – great drops, twists, upside curves… but not so shaky or vertiginous that we felt like barfing. The kids loved it. We loved it. I think we ran it three or four times.

Grey in line for the Cyclone
Grey in line for the Cyclone
Thane in line for the 300 foot swingset
Thane in line for the 300 foot swingset

At the end of the day, Adam wanted to do one of the really big coasters. Thane is 52″, not 56″, so there was a category of coaster out reach for him. So Adam and Grey went to do the big one, while Thane and I tested our courage against 300 feet of elevation. Thane loved it. He was phenomenal. After every roller coaster he’d say “That wasn’t even scary! Let’s go again…”

So. This weekend I discovered, we’re a roller coaster family.

Especially if the roller coasters come with non-stop sugary treats
Especially if the roller coasters come with non-stop sugary treats