As I navigated a turbulent and treacherous teenhood I had the great fortune of having a best friend that taught me how to have adventures. Mary was a true delight in so many ways, and when I think back to how I learned how to be able to pause from strife and just make an adventure out of nothing, I realise that she was the instrument of my learning that valuable lesson. We made adventures of getting french fries, making omelettes, late night trips to playgrounds. Later, when I was quite alone for the very first time ever in Italy, on my very first day aboard my ship, I decided that I would take advantage of as much time off duty as possible and adventure in this beautiful Mediterranean paradise. And I did. My heart box of memories is full of the adventures great and small I found while I was there, whether I was alone or with friends. Later still, when I had children, I opened my eyes to the wonder they must be experiencing with their tiny minds and bodies to this wholly new world, and allowed myself to remember what being a child was all about…so we could adventure together as often as possible. For our homeschool adventures I got us a Brock Magiscope so we could stop at the sides of trails or wherever and put the magnifying tube up against everything possible and look at it under the marvel of magnification, seeing the common bits of the world anew and afresh in a whole new way. I think sometimes I got more out of that tube of brass and glass than they did.
When I was introduced to the concept of mindfulness two summers ago, that dreadful summer of blackest despair in the lowest low of my life, and told that it was a gateway tool to use for calming anxiety and bringing light back into the heart, it was like remembering something I had forgotten. My therapist and I had been working for a long time on how to reconnect with my inner child so I could heal the deep and pervasive traumas that had left me racked with PTSD, to differing levels of success. During eight weeks of intensive outpatient therapy, I grasped the tenets of mindfulness with fervor. And I relearned how to make an adventure out of nothing at all. How to embark on a grand tour of the mundane and let the mystery of the everyday sweep me into a magical escape that could almost instantly lift me out from turmoil into a measure of peace and help me with whatever woe was facing me. Sometimes it is hard to get going on an adventure, and I have to give myself encouragement and pep talks. But once I get going, I remember how easy it is, and how so very much I get out of it. And the more I do it, the easier it is and the more fruitful the adventure is. On the surface, there is relief from negative emotion: anxiety, sadness, anger, irritability…whatever is eating at me or holding me down. And then my mind begins to work at the underlying issue. Perhaps there is a cognitive distortion I’m wrestling with. Maybe I’ve been throwing up excuses over why I can’t do something I know I should, or why I’ve been treading in old habits. Maybe I’m trying to break an old habit or start a new practice but having trouble starting and I need some thought-impetus to get started. The mindfulness of adventuring is a sublime way to fire up the synapses.
The easiest adventure is taking a walk. Around the backyard, or the block. Sometimes I need my cane, if my fibro pain is particularly bothersome. I can go slow. In fact, the slower the better, because I will observe as much as I can. Leaves (even on weeds), bugs, things in other yards. I will listen for the sound of bugs or birds, or even what is coming from the cars that pass. Perhaps I will make up little stories about the people I see. I will smile at the people I see, because giving the gift of a smile is free and it will make them and me feel better, even if my smile starts out faltering and wan. I smell what I can smell, and sometimes if it smells bad it makes me laugh. I try to take a plastic bag with me to pick up some trash, because that always makes me feel better. And I usually find some oddment that I call a treasure that I put in our bins of bits that we save for art. I think of where it came from, how it happened to come there, what it could be used for. When squirrels or prairie dogs holler and chitter at me it usually makes me giggle. Sometimes I will be ambitious and my walk will be along an open space, a couple hours of peace under the blue sky.
Or maybe I will go on a full-out adventure and take George, my camera, out to take pictures of some abandoned place I’ve noticed whilst driving around. Colorado is full of interesting places to take pictures. An hour spent taking pictures fills me up with fierce joy. Sometimes I will put on makeup and do my hair and take George and go to a spot in a city and take pictures of what I call “Interesting In…” and look for random arty spots along city streets. An interesting bit of graffito. Some quaint architecture. A peeling band sticker stuck just thus. And people watch. Some power bars stuck in my haversack to give out to some homeless along with a hug. Or maybe I will just put on makeup and do my hair and go into a store for a jug of milk. Or *maybe* I will put on makeup and do my hair and dress in full medieval garb just to go get some apples and Starbucks tea and chat with the baristas.
Maybe the adventure will be more subtle. Give the dog a bath? Give myself a bath? Maybe I will just make a batch of cookies. Or a pot of tea and set out the whole kit and caboodle. Or maybe I will go the opposite of subtle and take off on a drive with no particular destination in mind, just head west into the mountains and randomly turn down roads until I decide to stop. Or maybe it will be people today: go pick a spot and watch some people, maybe talk to them. Maybe not. Maybe take pictures, maybe not.
The fine art of adventuring is all about stepping out of the normal mindset, and giving your mind and heart a chance to breathe. To be other than set in it’s ways for a while. To pay attention to the things outside what is consuming your thought patterns so you can shift your perspective. If we constantly have the same perspective, we become agitated too easily; our cognitive distortions can grasp us and hold us again. And all too often we become unable to ease away from the things that hold us down and away from growth.
Here’s to adventure, whatever it may be.