Tight. Closed. Heavy.
If I had three words to describe my emotional well-being in 2015, those would probably sum it up nicely. This is not to say that I didn’t have a fantastic support system, I absolutely did, but regardless, 2015 came with a lot of hardship. At the end of it, even with some great adventures, I was left feeling tight, closed and heavy.
I want the opposite of that. I want to feel free, open and light. I want to breathe again. I want fresh air and sunshine and space. It maybe doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s funny how hard it can be to get.
And so, as I sat on the couch in December, 40 weeks pregnant and a day, I brainstormed ways I could get this feeling in 2016. A few ideas had been trickling around for a while. Hiking. Walking. Maybe (just maybe) cycling. Reading a book outside. Snowshoeing.
The common denominator? Everything I could think of that summoned those feelings of being free, open and light involved being outdoors.
I once said to someone, “I’m outdoorsy. I like patios.”
This should give you a sense of my typical lifestyle. I’m an urban dweller. I’ve camped twice in my life. My bicycle, which is pretty and red, currently sits inside my apartment, not having been ridden since before I was pregnant. I am pretty pale, avoiding the hot sun in the summertime.
On the other end of the spectrum, when I travel, I tend to push my boundaries a bit more. I’ve been hiking in Sapa. I’ve swum in Halong Bay, kayaked in Mexico, cycled in Laos, and scooted through Thailand in the fresh air. Why does it take a foreign locale to get me out into nature?
That was it. I’d decided. The goal: For one whole year, I would get outside, into nature (even urban nature!), at least once every day.
The goal was simple, the logistics seemed harder:
1) I knew that I’d shortly have a newborn to contend with. How would I keep him warm? Would he be fussy? What about the first month after birth? Who knew how long it would take me to recover!
2) I live inner city. Define nature? I lived on river pathways, so I supposed that was an easy enough transition, but what about when I moved?
3) It’s Canada and can be BITTERLY cold at times. How would I motivate myself to get outdoors when it was -30C? And at that temperature, was I really going to achieve what I was hoping to from this experiment?
4) Wouldn’t I get lonely? Yes, part of being outdoors, walking, being active is in connecting with yourself, but let’s be honest… being in your own head can be a scary place, especially for those who suffer from depression.
5) Would I have time? Believe me, I was already fast-forwarding to October 2016, when I’m meant to return to work after my maternity leave. How was I going to keep up daily outdoor activity once I was back at work? See what I did there? I already looked for an out. An out that was 10 months down the line… clearly I have issues.
One Month In – How Did I Do?
It’s been a crazy month. I’ve been contending with my new role as a sleep deprived mother. I’ve still had a lot of family stress. There are also potential changes ahead with my career. There were multiple days of temperatures below -20C.
With all that said, I was outdoors 29/31 days this month.
I’m pretty damn proud of this fact. To be fair, not every day was a great achievement in the outdoors. Sometimes it was as simple as the ten minute walk to the bank through the snow. But hey, I was OUTDOORS! I did it.
On more than one occasion I thought, “screw it, I’m tired.” Those were the most important days for me to be outdoors. One day in particular, I was having a meltdown. The number of things I needed to organize to move to our new house were overwhelming and the baby wouldn’t stop crying. I was distraught. David, in all his amazing-ness, took the baby and sent me out. It was -15C, but half an hour outdoors was all I needed to recalibrate. I came back calm, focused and with a plan.
The funny thing was that when I started that walk, my gut reaction was to pull out my phone. I should call someone or at least be somewhat productive. It took a lot to put my phone back in my pocket and live with my thoughts for a thirty minute walk. Maybe that sounds strange, that it is stressful to be with yourself, but it was. Being confident on my own is a muscle that needs to be worked, regularly. The fact that I struggle with it shows me just how important it will be for me to continue with solo walks.
I also was able to connect with a great friend who is going to help me with my year in nature plan. Once a month we’re going to go on an outdoor adventure together. She’s definitely an inspiration. Having gone through her own struggle with family issues, she was able to relate to my exact situation. This is one of the most joyful people that I know, and I asked her, given everything that’s happened in her life, how is she able to live with such joy?
“I choose to.”
Simple answer. Big message.
We choose what we will embrace in our lives. If she can choose joy, so can I. I choose joy. I choose to feel free, open and light.
I choose a year in nature.
Want to join me on my year in nature? I’ll be posting photos on my Instagram account as often as I can, but share yours with the tag #ayearinnature and we can all enjoy the ride together!
How does nature help you in your life?