When some friends invited me along on a short camping trip, my energy spiked. I have been falling into a pattern of "doing" and "accomplishing" without taking time to actually value myself, and a camping trip seemed like the perfect opportunity to get away from the perceived need to always be busy. On top of that, the weather this weekend was about as perfect as it will ever be in Texas, and my favorite 3-year-old girl was going to be there to boot.
The trip was wonderful. We ate some incredible food that no one who truly loves roughing it would ever associate with camping, including skewers of what has come to be known affectionately as "Randy's Wikken Chicken". We had brought along a few cards games and a bocce ball set which held our attention for short stretches, and the scenery at the campsite held its own placid beauty despite roving bands of rambunctious boy scouts. And through it all, we were constantly invited to pay complete and utter attention to an incredibly energetic young child.
And here's where I realize what I missed out on. During all of our adult card games and bocce ball and food preparation and consumption, we expected to a certain extent that a three-year-old would "behave herself" and let us adults enjoy our camping trip. Sure, our attention to her seemed incessant from our perspective, but throughout the weekend, I was almost always engaging in some specific activity. Sitting quietly listening to a dozen bird songs blending with the rhythm of a cereal-crunching munchkin in my lap was actually the most satisfying moment of the trip. And yet I spent a great deal of time on structured events... doing instead of just being.
When I let a child guide my conversation and activity, it is a moment-by-moment ever-shifting adventure. That can be a bit intimidating to someone who loves to have details planned out, and it can be very freeing once I get past the anxiety of not knowing what's about to happen. Structure certainly has its place, but structured activity is by its very nature limited. If I want to be expanding my creativity and dreaming bigger, it makes sense to set aside some bona fide free time. My bet is that willingness to play is a major contributor to quality of life, and its certainly something I know how to do. If I just remember to give myself permission.