Random Realness

Into the Woods!

“In every walk in nature, one receives far more than he seeks” – John Muir

How often do you have a day where the only time you get to spend outside is walking to and from your car on your way to and from work, school, the store, or an appointment? For many of us in today’s world, this happens much more frequently than we would like to admit.  Although I love being outdoors and happen to live in one of the most beautiful states in the U.S., it’s all too easy to just go through the daily motions and spend most of my time in front of a screen instead of in fresh air.  That kayak in my parents’ shed hasn’t hit water in two years, my hiking shoes have barely left the shelf, and I feel pretty accomplished if I take Rocky on a walk every night.  It was a big wake-up call on my recent California trip for how much time I don’t spend doing things I already know I love to do, especially when talking to people I met from other states and cities who don’t have the luxury of nature in their backyard.  Plus, there’s the peace and quiet of being away from modern life and the stressors we all have, even if just for a few minutes, that can have intangible benefits physically and mentally (and if you happen to be able to meet a 1,200 year old redwood tree, I highly recommend it).

I decided to make more of an effort to spend time in nature, which some days has been as simple as eating a meal on the deck instead of parked in front of the TV.  However, I also wanted to go on more hikes and quick trips to some of our amazing state parks (with a national park on my official goals list!).  With my birthday coming up, my boyfriend Brian planned on us going on our first hike at Milton Town Forest, a 350-acre woodland park which includes 6 miles of trails and a large central pond, all within a few miles of our home.  I had wanted to check out the park since I moved to town 6 months ago, but was one of those “when we get around to it” things.  Additionally, I had been wanting to take our dog Rocky on some hikes seeing as he loves the outdoors, but his reactivity with other dogs has held me back.  Well, Brian decided we would take the day off and give it a go, Rocky included.

Not going to lie – I was nervous.  With images of Rocky barking at other dogs while I desperately cling to his leash and trying to get him away from the dog/owner who I’m trying not to feel ashamed by in my head, we packed up and headed out.  Thankfully, the parking lot only had 2 other cars and given the time (Friday at 11:30 am), the trail was pretty much deserted. As it turns out, we didn’t meet a single dog and Rocky is a woodsman!

Dog standing on walking path He had the greatest time climbing over tree roots and rocks, plus his beagle-blood was getting a major workout with all the smells. The humans were having a fun hike as well and I really appreciated that we were spending time together outdoors instead of binging a show on Netflix or simultaneously scrolling through our phones. Our phones were only around to capture pictures and I’m really glad that I did – as much as I hate to think about it, I’ll really treasure the pictures of Rocky having a blast someday when he isn’t here anymore. I mean, look at his face! I also reflected on my tendency to be hesitant and cautious about things, even when there’s a pretty low risk associated with it. For example, we had been curious about whether Rocky likes water or swimming. While I didn’t get him close enough to the pond to find out, Brian casually took his leash and led him down a small bank toward the water’s edge. After a couple seconds of “what if” thinking, I realized that Rocky was stepping right into the pond and taking a big drink. He managed to do a few swim strokes before heading to the shore and looked super happy with himself – so we had our answer!

A bit later, we came upon a Tupperware container underneath a tree stump that I instantly thought was 1) dangerous or 2) something illegal, so just wanted to move on as quick as possible. On the other hand, Brian’s educated curiosity led him to think it was intentionally placed and picked it right up. It turns out he was right and a new interest was formed – geocaching! If you’re unfamiliar with what that means, geocaching is basically a worldwide treasure hunt whereby you use GPS to find hidden containers that contain a log book for finders to sign and personal tokens you can optionally leave behind for your geocachers. Apparently it’s incredibly popular and there are geocaches hidden all over the place – there’s probably one near your backyard! It sounded like a fun way to get outside and explore, so I decided to add geocaching to my goals list for the year; a bonus is it’s a goal and activity that Brian and I can do together. We’re already one geocache deep!

All in all, we had a GREAT afternoon of exploring in nature (for almost 3.5 miles!) and didn’t need to go outside of town to do it. Coincidentally, I had also just read about the 7 parks within town in the most recent parks and recreation flyer, so also decided to add visiting each park to my goals list. I knew I wanted to add more time outside to my life this year and this list gives me a tangible way to plan and progress. Plus, it’s a place where Brian and I can spend quality time together without a screen AND we can continue working on Rocky’s social skills. Sounds like a win-win-win to me!

So get outside and play – maybe after you read the latest Thirty by 30 blog post? 😊

As always, thank you for reading and be sure to follow the blog for updates!

Random Realness

A Should-y Situation

Stop Should-ingOnYourself

So as it turns out, it’s really not that difficult to write your first good blog post – what comes next is way harder.  I fully expected that I would be writing at LEAST 2 posts a week delving into the next goal I was tackling (or at least starting) and that seeing as the topics were more or less laid out in the GOALS LIST, it wouldn’t be too hard to find things to write about. Ohhh how optimistic!

In truth, I wasn’t really sure where to go after making such a big declaration out of my upcoming solo trip.  Most of the remaining goals on the list are going to a) take the entire year to complete or b) require me to REALLY get my ass in gear.  In other words…not going to happen in the 9 days since my last post.  But I felt like I SHOULD be actively working towards those goals EVERY day/week, so therefore HOW didn’t I have something to write about?

Thankfully, I had some wise words originally attributed to Dr. Albert Ellis and recently stated by my yoga teacher in my head:   “Stop should-ing on yourself!” 

Honestly, how many times a day do most of us use the word “SHOULD” when thinking about the actions, decisions, emotions, etc. of ourselves and others?

“I really SHOULD go to the gym…”

“You really SHOULD have kids soon, you’re not getting any younger!”

“I SHOULD like this movie/book/TV show, everyone else does…”

“I SHOULD be able to get better/lose weight/find a better job without any help”

“Why SHOULD he/she be depressed, they have a ton of money?”

“I SHOULD be able to do this without being scared”

This is a very short list of examples which only gets longer when we add in the “MUSTS” and “OUGHTS” – the Trifecta!

Psychologists and behavioral researches call these “should statements” and have known for years that making these statements to and about yourself is related to increased incidence of depression, anxiety, and panic attacks.  Now, having a little pressure to get things done isn’t bad inherently – I would be lying if I said I never waited until the last minute to finish a school assignment that I knew about for an entire semester beforehand.  The problem with “should statements” is it easily becomes a SHAMING statement – we feel like there’s something wrong with us because we can’t live up to what we SHOULD be doing.

When it comes to understanding why shame is such a de-motivator, there’s nobody better than Brené Brown.  Seriously, this woman has spent a decade and a half  interviewing thousands of people from all genders, races, socioeconomic status, geographic area, career, etc. and finding the commonalities between them (as you may have guessed, we are way more similar than different).  She explores shame exclusively in her book “I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t)” (2007) and it’s chock-full of real life and research-supported examples of how shame impacts our experiences, choices, and memories.  There’s too much to post here, but here’s one particularly great statement: 

“We cannot grow when we are in shame, and we can’t use shame to change ourselves or others.”

If this topic resonates with you, I highly recommend checking out this and other books by Brené – I’ve been making my way through her collection over the past couple of months and they are all filled with such great information and practical strategies.  Head over to the new RESOURCES page for one of her hugely popular TED Talks and let me know if you check it out in the comments section! 

So… how does all this relate to me having writers block?

Well, as I had mentioned earlier, I felt like I was letting my little group of readers down because I SHOULD be writing more frequently/have awesome things to say all the time. The truth is, not every post is going to be a gem, not every week is going to be an inspiring one, and it’s unrealistic to think I need to start crossing things off the list when I still have OVER A YEAR to go until the finish line. 

This is really where the whole point of the project lies – working through my own insecurities, self-imposed standards, and need to be an “A+” kind of person.  As I was kindly reminded of the other day while stressing out to Brian that I hadn’t written anything this week – this whole blog was MY idea, made by ME, and is a product of what I want it to be.  It isn’t a school assignment or work deadline that I need to meet for anyone else, and I’m not getting graded on it (but if anyone WANTS to dole out some grades, I’m in!). 

I’m sharing my progress for the sake of vulnerability, accountability, and inspiration-ability.  Sometimes that progress will be significant and other times it will be non-existent.  This week happened to be more challenging than I expected, but that doesn’t mean it was a “bad” week.  Not posting multiple times a week won’t cause me to have a reader-less blog (right, guys??) and it doesn’t mean I’ve “failed” because I haven’t crossed a goal off the list yet.  

Actually, I did make some strides towards my goal of meditating every day for a year…and then ended my 5 day streak on Friday. In the past (and let’s be honest, very recent past), this would have completely stopped what I was setting out to do in the first place.  Whether we consciously choose to or not, the old “falling off the wagon” adage plagues most of us throughout our lives and prevents us from getting back “on”…usually it means the wagon rolls right off the road and over a cliff.  

I’m determined to break this pattern and I would love to hear from any of you who are working through the same struggle.  How do you cope with setbacks? Are you a victim of self-imposed shaming? Do you “should” on yourself so much that you need toilet paper? Let me know your thoughts in the comments or send me a private message on the Contact Me page.

Until next time!