A very strange thing happened last weekend. It began as a normal camping trip.
We set up Friday evening, enjoyed a simple dinner, listened to the Tigers game and fell asleep as the sun was going down.
I slept in a bit Saturday. My husband always gets up early, takes the dog for a walk and gets the coffee going. (I’m very grateful about that, by the way.)
It was a beautiful morning. Coffee never tastes as good as when enjoying it outside. I built a fire and we settled into our common routine of reading by the fire, while listening to birds, bugs, dogs and kids as our background noise.
Feeling the need to stretch a bit, we took the dog for another walk. We found a place where we could just watch her run. And run and run and run.
After we got back, it was time to do something for lunch. We put some sausage on the fire, and soon had a simple meal with a side of potato salad.
Not strange so far, right?
My husband was thinking about taking a nap. I was in sort of a daze. In my head I’m trying to decide if I’m sleepy, or just what I was feeling; it was an odd, confusing moment.
Then, eureka! It hit me. I’m relaxed!
Such a foreign sensation, a strange feeling. Being this relaxed has not happened in, well, years. But then my mind immediately started down the rabbit hole of, “What is this? Why is this so hard, so unfamiliar?”
I started to analyze and try to figure out how this happened and how I could duplicate this feeling. I’m running through a plan in my head, and then I paused.
I looked at my two favorite companions, my wonderful husband and my beautiful dog, and I refused to continue that train of thought for the duration of my weekend. I was just going to “go with the flow.”
We enjoyed the rest of our weekend tremendously, but not long after we got home, that nagging feeling revisited my brain.
I don’t know if what I experienced is normal for most people. If having those few precious moments of true rest is a surprise to anyone else.
But it hit me like a ton of bricks, and what bothers me the most is that I didn’t even know what I was missing.
During my busy work and family life, I didn’t realize that I haven’t truly relaxed in a while. Now, for those of you thinking, “I can plan a day to relax, I’ll just schedule it on my calendar,” I just want to say, I didn’t plan to relax, it just occurred while I was preoccupied with momentary life in the woods.
So now you’re probably expecting a great revelation of the secret to relaxation, right?
Well, the truth is, I don’t know.
But some of the things I’ve learned as I age – with the additional advantage of working with experts on aging – is that we are ever a work in progress. Everyone needs to find their own center – their own place where they can just relax.
For some, it’s the quiet of the woods, and for others, it’s sitting with 20 people around the dinner table telling old stories. And it is ever changing.
What brought relaxation to me last weekend is drastically different than what brought me solace two, five or 12 years ago. I’m learning to be present in the moment.
So, to my family, friends and colleagues and anyone else struggling with the balancing act of life, please, come join me and embrace the moment.
Pat Arter is senior volunteer program director of Region IV Area Agency on Aging in Southwest Michigan. Questions on age or independence services? Call the Info-Line for Aging & Disability at 800-654-2810 or visit www.areaagencyonaging.org. The Generations column appears each Sunday in The Herald-Palladium.