Last weekend, without intention I burned calories equivalent to two marathons, walked 39,457 steps, and…. experienced a moment of personal nirvana. I didn’t do it by competing in an Ironman challenge, going to a yoga retreat on a Colorado mountain or, running a marathon.
It started with a conversation on Friday morning between my husband and I that went something like this:
Me: Hey honey! What do you want to do this weekend?
Him: How about we rent a 50-foot cherry picker and a huge wood chipper and take down some trees?
Me: Awesome! Let’s do it!
I knew this weekend “activity of choice” wouldn’t be a simple task. It would consume our entire well-earned time off to unwind and relax, but we were up for the challenge. You see, my husband and I are Baby Boomers and have a strong work ethic. We don’t do well with down time. It’s kind of ingrained in us.
Now some of you may think, “she’s a wellness coach, she should know that balancing work with leisure time is good for our wellbeing!” Well here’s the thing. As an individual, you define what choices to make to bring balance into your life and do what makes you feel whole, happy, satisfied and complete. It’s not defined by time or activity or what someone says you should do. Work can be play. It’s really more about how you choose to experience whatever it is that you do. In our hustle and bustle world of dealing with life’s demands, sometimes you have to improvise. You can’t just wait for the right time in life to find your balance, just figure out how you can enjoy life now and thrive, not just survive. Even if it you have to multi-task to get there!
So, let me tell you about my weekend.
Saturday morning starts at 7am, by 8 we have the equipment on-site and are ready to go…until our chainsaw won’t start. One thing leads to another, it’s now 10:45 and I’m at Lowe’s picking up a new one. I decided to stop by the garden center just for a minute to ask “my lawn guy” a question. They paged him but neglected to inform me he was on break. I was being impatient, and started to pull out my cell phone to kill some time. I stopped for a minute, realizing how stressed and worried I was. Where IS he? My anxious thoughts took over. We are now 3 hours into this overwhelming project, rented a $1000 of equipment for the weekend, and we haven’t clipped a single limb! Time was getting away from us; we had a lot to accomplish! I started to feel overwhelmed. Why did we do this? What were we thinking? We can’t handle a job like this. I’m 59-years old for goodness sake! I should be going to quaint little towns, roaming around in gift shops and stopping for a leisurely lunch! I could feel the worry and panic creeping into my body and my breathing was shallow. (Oh, did I mention I have generalized anxiety disorder?)
Because of my anxiety, I’ve learned to use cognitive skills to help bring about some calm and wellbeing. I’ve learned that the most powerful tool I have is self-awareness…taking a moment to acknowledge what is going on with my internal self.
Once I was conscious about my mental and physical state, I knew what to do. I took two deep, slow breaths, and immediately felt my body start to relax and my breathing slow down. I leaned up against a stack of grass seed and began to just look around slowly, taking in my surroundings. I scanned my environment and focused in on how vivid and beautiful the setting was. I noticed little vignettes; pumpkins, colorful mums, birds chirping. Really? I never noticed that at Lowes before! I watched people gathering their supplies for the fall weekend…an older couple comparing labels on fertilizers…a father, knuckling his son on the arm (his son didn’t find it as funny as he did). So many little things I never notice when I’m just thinking about what I have to do next. It was a surreal moment. The whole world stopped churning, and in those moments I was living “in the present.” I was “a part of .” I felt my feet connected to the ground. I felt…at peace.
My moment was disrupted by a young man’s voice, “You look serene.” Startled, I said “What?” And half kidding, responded “Oh…I think I was meditating.” He smiled, gave me a thumbs-up and continued on his way.
Wow. Just minutes before, surely I had my resting “b” face on, but in that moment, standing in Lowe’s with my dirty sweaty clothes and no makeup, a stranger saw a person who was peaceful, calm, untroubled… serene.
I was processing what had just occurred, when “my lawn guy” showed up and we had our chat. I left Lowe’s with my chainsaw, got into the pick-up we rented and returned home. I changed the stressful news radio to some 70’s rock station and started jamming to Journey singing, don’t stop, this feeling! How apropos! Twenty minutes later, the chainsaw was fired up. “Let the games begin!”
For the next two days, we worked our butts off, sawing, lugging, chipping raking…and sweating. The weekend was 15 hours of hard labor on a humid, mid-80s weekend.
Every now and then I’d stop what I was doing (usually to let my heart rate come down after hauling some large tree branches) and looked around. As I started to relax, I scanned the yard and became present again in the moment. Once again the environment I stood in looked different - so vivid. I savored the moment. My husband was high up in the trees like a bird on his cherry-picking perch, buzzing through huge trees. My stepdaughter stopped and gave her boyfriend a kiss on the cheek as they shoved branches into the chipper like luggage through security. In that moment I couldn’t have imagined anything better. It felt so real...so meaningful. I was one with nature, working as a family, improving our own little nest and pushing my body to its limits. It was… nirvana.
In the end we didn’t get done all that we were hoping to accomplish, even with squeezing every last nickel of equipment rental time and no daylight. At that point it didn’t matter, it was all good.
Sunday night after showering, comparing “war wounds” of scrapes and bruises and complaining about whose back hurt worse, we had a glass of wine and sat on our deck. I thought, “Wow, what a great weekend.” I was so relaxed, and felt complete.
Find Your Serenity
Wellbeing is not determined by how much time you have or what is happening in your life. It’s often found in how you choose to experience life, in the now. Start with awareness. Pause “doing” for a moment to take a deep breath and recognize the world you are in from a positive perspective - whether you are folding laundry, picking up your kids from school or in any other mundane moment in your life.
Who knows, you might experience your own personal nirvana.