We camp because we want to.
We camp because we have to.
“You like to camp because it’s good for your mental health,” my counselor said this winter as we discussed my weather-related sadness in full effect.
Huh, I thought. I never made that connection before.
This is why I pay for counseling, so someone smarter than me, someone with a better view of my life can help me make sense of it.
As we rolled into the state park a few weeks ago, I watched the bars on my cell phone signal slowly go down. I’d been working on the two-hour drive in, but as we made our way back to the campground, my connection to the internet, my work, and my stress slowly lessened its hold on me.
I could feel the untangling as we drove.
I could feel the deeper breaths I was finally able to take, the tension in my shoulders releasing, the endless to-do list in my head quieting.
I am made to go, strive, make lists, check off tasks, do things efficiently, think about what’s next, what we should be doing instead of stopping. This helped me balance a full-time job with grad school and a newborn. It helped me survive teaching and coaching and two small kids. It allowed me to work 50+ hours a week in the classroom, take on freelance writing jobs, and still find time to sleep enough.
But it does not make turning my brain or my hands off easy.
Stopping only happens when I have no other option. Stopping only happens when I cannot work around my exhaustion, my family, or my lack of internet.
And so we camp.
We camp to rest.
We camp to stop running.
We camp to slow down.
At 37, I understand the only way I stop is when I can’t figure out a way to keep working. It is what it is.
So here we are, spending our summer camping as much as possible. Camping so I can take a break. Camping so Chris doesn’t have to do more projects. Camping so I’ll have nothing to do but read a book or take a walk with my kids as they race around the campground on their bikes.
I do this on purpose as a way to survive.
Lessons come slow sometimes. I wish I had understood this sooner, understood that I have to trick myself into not working. It might have made my twenties easier. It might have made the last few years less stressful.
But I’m thankful for the lesson now. For the camper we can tow to a campsite in the middle of a no-cell-phone-reception forest. For a bed with no plug nearby so I can’t look at my phone before I drift off to sleep.
We’re heading out again soon. Heading to another place to rest. The moments before we pull out of the driveway are busy–is everyone packed? Can I get one more hour of work done really quick? Please pick up this mess. Let’s just make one stop on the way out of town. Wait, I need to grab one more thing.
I literally can’t stop wanting to cram one more thing, idea, or task into my day. I’m annoying even to myself.
I camp to get away from my own brain.
I don’t know if it’s like this for you too. Maybe you’re better at turning the world and lists and things off? Maybe not. Maybe camping sounds like the opposite of enjoyable and relaxing. But what are you doing to rest? Where do you go to stop your brain and your schedule?
I didn’t know I needed to be asking these questions. I’m glad my counselor pushed me to.
I camp because I want to.
I camp because I have to.
(Pictures from a weekend at Clifty Falls State Park in Madison, Indiana.)