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When I was nine years old, my parents lost their business. I’m not sure of the exact details (I was only nine -and it’s not really my story to share in detail anyway) but a business partner made some bad decisions, all parties suffered, and the next thing I knew, everything was gone. Including our home.
With practically nothing left to lose, my parents decided to pack our little family up and move us from busy Southern Connecticut to quiet central Vermont, a place they had always loved to visit. It would be a fresh start for our family.
We ultimately landed in a rental home that was situated on the front half of about 140 +/- acres of forest and field, on the side of a “small” Vermont mountain. Each of the neighbors on either side of us had approximately the same -if not more – amount of land. The result was a 3 mile stretch of dirt road up a mountain, with a total of maybe 6 or 7 mailboxes on it. True wilderness. Though my parents might not have realized it at the time…this unexpected upheaval was the greatest gift they could have given me.
Being the early 90’s at the time, and of course, the fact that we literally lived in the middle of nowhere, meant that my sister and I – and often our two next door neighbors who coincidentally were the same ages as us – roamed freely through the forests for hours and hours on end, all year long. Barefoot in the summer or bundled up trudging through many feet of snow it the winter, it didn’t matter. It wasn’t a conscious decision to spend time in the wilderness, as it becomes when you are an adult seeking some solitude from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. It was simply what was available.
Or, more realistically: one of our mom’s said “GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY” so we did.
As I grew, the Vermont wilderness became the backdrop to essentially everything I did. My parents weren’t overly adventurous when it came to the outdoors, nor were they typical “Vermonters” with endless acres of fields to hay and livestock to tend to. They were more what I call the “L.L. Bean” type of outdoor enthusiasts, which was just perfect for us. No, there were no multi day back country treks or hundred mile bike rides, but as a family we camped in campgrounds, we spent days on the beach, we canoed and kayaked, we spent endless summer evenings outside around the firepit. I grew up not only appreciating the great outdoors, but truly being a part of it.
Summers were spent swimming in lakes, ponds, and rivers. Spring and fall was spent honing my soccer skills in sprawling, open fields. I learned to drive during mud season on endless dirt roads. Field trips in school involved skiing and hiking mountains. Hell, even the high school “parties” we would sneak off to were held in the woods. You name it – growing up in Vermont meant we were almost always outside.
Therefore as an adult, it’s absolutely no surprise to me that when I feel like I need a “reset”, a chance to reconnect with or reground myself, I immediately head outdoors.
And if I can swing it: I head North.
This year has been particularly hard for me to navigate, in countless ways. Losing my dad and the subsequent grief that followed – a level of grief that I had never previously experienced – definitely rocked my world. I ran my body in to the ground, and have been dealing with abnormal fatigue and injuries over the last six months because of it. For the first time, the kids are in different schools, with different schedules, and different pre-teen issues that most definitely didn’t come with a “how to” handbook. I’ve juggled four jobs, all of which I love, but all of which leave me with little time to stop and breathe. And lastly, I’m still learning how to not take the emotions and fatigue out on those who are closest to me – namely, my incredible husband who bears the brunt of my “hot mess” status.
It’s easy for me to brush these all off as first world problems, and to an extent, they are. I have food on my table, a roof over my head, gas in my car, my kids are healthy, etc. However, I also think it’s important to acknowledge when you are struggling, and if possible, do something about it. First world problems or not, emotions can be difficult to wade through, and the worst thing we can do is shove them down and ignore them, because “it could be worse”.
I’ve been struggling. And I am fortunate enough to be able to do something about it.
I spent the last 13 days between Vermont, New Hampshire (aka “Ver-Hampshire”), and Cape Cod. I mostly unplugged from work and social media (which is also, at times, work)- both by choice and when a tornado came blowing through and knocked out our power for 36 hours. I for one, absolutely believe in hard work and digging deep to achieve your dreams, but I do not subscribe to the idea of non-stop hustle. I think success comes with a healthy emotional balance, and for me, that means giving myself an occasional “time out”.
Again, I realize how fortunate I am to have a couple of gigs (like this very blog) that provide residual income, whether I’m sitting at my desk or not. But while “workaholic” genes run through my blood, my heart isn’t on the same page. I needed a break and New England did not disappoint.
Highlights of the trip include:
Taking my little guys up one of my favorite little mountains (Wantastiquet), then taking my oldest little guy up my favorite mountain (Monadnock)
I mowed my mom’s yard. Fun fact: lawn maintenance is my favorite chore. Apartment living doesn’t afford me such things. So if I’m ever coming to visit you, feel free to not mow your lawn for a week or so. I’ll take care of it when I get there.
A number of pain free, short runs, simply for the sake of enjoying a run. Nothing on the training calendar to check off, no paces or distances to hit. Just a run, because that’s what my body loves to do.
Teaching my boys the joy of catching salamanders and crayfish (crawfish, crawdads, mudbugs- it all depends on where you grew up) under covered bridges in icy cold Vermont stream water.
The sunset on Herring Cove Beach in Provincetown, MA (the very tip of Cape Cod), and celebrating the life and last wishes of my Dad.
A tornado – yes, tornado – that came blowing through unexpectedly. I mean, we’re in Cape Cod, this place is known for lobsters, not destructive storms. Trees down on power lines and across the driveway.
A day and a half without power. My laptop and phone are both hanging on for dear life and don’t do well when not plugged in to a power source, so I was most definitely “unplugged”. We made the best of it.
Endless hours on a stand up paddle board or sit-on-top kayak on the salt water pond outside of our rental home on the Cape. I taught my boys how to paddle and steer, just like my Dad did when I was the same age.
A whale watch! This was my…third? Maybe fourth? Whale watch in my lifetime, but the first in almost 20 years. If seeing whales in the wild is on your “bucket list”, I highly recommend heading to a whale watch on the Cape. Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary is right off of the tip of Cape Cod, and is ripe with whales and marine life. The entire boat ride we were still within sight of land, and still saw plenty of whales (Humpbacks and Fin whales).
Plenty of family time. I got to relax, paddle, laugh, yell about how bad I am at puzzles, lose at mini golf to a bunch of pre-teens, and eat loads of ice cream with my sisters, brother in laws, my kids, niece, and my mom.
I suppose I don’t necessarily have a point to this long, rambling post. I feel better. My mind feels clear. I didn’t have to share that, but I often feel like I need to post something after being away for so long, before returning to regularly schedule posts about ultra running and the like. So I guess you could consider this the blog equivalent of a vacation postcard.
The weather was beautiful. Wish you were here. Now, back to the grind.
P.S. – don’t forget to get outside.