One of the benefits of aging is gaining a greater sense of who we are - and who we are not. Over time we are able to see more clearly our limitations and find increasing confidence to say no to those invitations we know will put us in uncomfortable positions.
At this stage in life I wear many hats. I have a wide variety of interests. I enjoy a broad range of activities. In none of these categories will you find the word "camper" or "outdoor enthusiast." Don't get me wrong: I love being outdoors (when the weather is favorable). I enjoy a good hike - a blazing campfire - talking with good friends late into the night under a blanket of stars. But when the evening draws to a close, I like to take a warm shower and sleep in a soft, bug-free bed.
So when we learned that my daughter's elementary class would be going on an overnight camping adventure in the middle of nowhere, we decided my husband would accompany her. Make no mistake - he is no better suited for such activities than I am, but as the default parent for 99.9 percent of my daughter's activities, I had the upper hand in the decision-making process this time around...
When the date for the trip was announced, however, we realized it stood in conflict with an important work commitment on my husband's calendar. I was faced with a choice: honor my limits (by denying my daughter an opportunity to learn and grow in a warm and loving environment) - or put on my "big girl pants" and march forward.
As we drew closer to the trip I was filled with dread. Any outdoor survival skills I learned as a Girl Scout have long since disappeared due to decades of disuse. I do not own a sleeping bag. I do not own a tent. And I do not have the first idea how to go about assembling one. I also learned from veterans of this trip that many of last year's campers unknowingly pitched their tents in a tick-infested enclave. And an unexpected tropical storm warning drove campers and their families to shelter in place for hours in a cramped, noxious pit toilet shelter. I was way out of my comfort zone and we hadn't even begun....
But each piece of discouraging information I received was countered by the enthusiasm my daughter exhibited each day she came home from school declaring, "I'm on the sports planning committee! Did you know we are going to make s'mores? I shouldn't tell you because it is supposed to be a surprise, but we're practicing songs to sing for the parents at the campfire!" And then there were the weekly updates by our class room parent - a saint of a man who accompanied every email with a detailed spreadsheet of supplies, activities, and schedules. It was enough to make my cold analytical heart melt.
The fact that you are receiving this newsletter is proof that we survived. And if I am being honest, I will confess I was glad to be there. I made connections with lovely and caring parents with whom I will be spending much time over the course of the next few years. I figured out how to put up a tent - and was able to help other camping-averse parents do the same (so empowering)! Most importantly, my daughter and I made memories hiking, combing the beach for shark teeth fossils, sharing s'mores, and sleeping under the stars. Together we explored the boundaries of our city-living comfort zones, and we are better for it.
I still do not consider myself a "camper." Sleeping on the ground remains something I would prefer to avoid. My daughter and I came away with plenty of scratches from hiking through brush, as well as our fair share of bug bites (but no ticks!). And I won't even get into the restroom facilities (or lack thereof...), but I have already decided to go again next year - and volunteered to lead a morning yoga practice for the parents...
It is important to know yourself. Establishing limits and boundaries is critical for self-preservation. But occasionally we benefit from putting ourselves in uncomfortable positions.
As we head into a new month, are there limits you can test? Is there an opportunity you are inclined to reject out of habit or long-held assumptions? Consider whether stepping out of your comfort zone might provide an opportunity to learn something new about yourself. Let's explore our limits together...