Man down!

This week has been an emotional roller coaster and I think it is true to say that the world seems to be having a collective mental breakdown. I don’t know if it is the full moon, combined with Winter solstice or if the ridiculous political pantomime we have going on in the UK is just sending everyone over the edge. My children have cried approx. 500 times this week. Twice, the adults in my Forest school sessions have broke down in floods. I have a number of friends reaching out for help. I too felt utter helplessness last weekend. The world can feel overwhelming.

I think there is a reason, why throughout history, we have a big celebration right in middle of winter. We need it to get though the bleak season. We have evolved to over think everything, but animals can actually point us back in the direction of listening to our instincts. At this time of year, birds fly south. “Bugger this for a game of marbles!” they think. The flightless mammals build a den, get a load of food in and sleep it out till April. The deciduous trees drop everything and going into suspended animation. No more work till spring. Nice idea nature.

Snail and babies hiding under a log till it’s warm.

But most of us cannot do all those things. What we can do is slow down. We can appreciate the last bird song of the season. We can plan to meet friends and reconnect with some good nurturing autumnal food. This week I made smores with my Friday Forest school group. One of the parents said her daughter was looking forward to it all week. Next week I will plan a fire pit feast and a mindful walk in the local park and we can all hug it out around the flames.

When a beautiful lady cried at my adult session, I brought her a hot coffee and let her spill her heart. Then we went out as a group hunting fungus. We found a fairy den and inside were hundreds of coral fungi growing. I told a story about doing my scuba diving training at this time of year in Devon and being amazed by swimming through a kelp forest. Even under the sea, the plants go all the rainbow colours in Autumn. That spurred others to tell stories and we walked and talked and laughed.

And yes, dear friends, that is a picture of me with some cone fungi on my boobs. Because sometimes adventure is the answer to your problems, and sometimes having a laugh is. No one could resist laughing at my rendition of Madonna’s “Like a virgin.”

Last week I was selected as one of the top adventure blogs in the UK. https://blog.feedspot.com/uk_adventure_blogs/ Which is wonderful and fabulous and helps me in my mission to connect people with wild places.

But this week I was reminded that it is our connections to each other and not the places we go that make us happy.

Mindlessness for beginners

My son and I five years ago

“I am going to make an unpopular and controversial statement…I don’t get Mindfulness.”

Syreeta

I recently came across this photo and realised that I barely recognised myself. I now look like a train wreck which has been dragged through lard factory. My life was not stress free five years ago. I had two tiny children, we had just moved house and my husband worked really long hours. So what was different? I considered this for along time and decided that the real difference was two things. Firstly, I would plan a different trip each and every day. Secondly, I made sure I met up with someone I really connected with on the trip. We would go to 5 different parks in a week. We would explore local patches of forest. We went crabbing, cycling, walking, swimming. You have to be out the house by 9am when you have toddlers. There is no other choice. We were happy. We were healthy. We were connected.

My vow to have 52 new adventures in 2019 had put me back in a similar zone. Since January, I genuinely feel like a different person. But let me come back to “mindfulness “. If I am about to loose my job, and therefore get my house repossessed I really don’t think noticing a lady bug walking along a log is going to make me less stressed or anxious. I kind of get the idea in principle, but for me it is only skimming the surface. Here is a thought I had only this week: have you ever been away for a week or two and had a holiday epiphany? There you are sitting by a pool, or on a beach, or up a mountain and you suddenly think “I am going to study for a Masters.” Or maybe “I am going to propose to my love.” I bet you do. But why? You could have had that thought while eating a flaccid, cold sandwich at your desk last week. It never happens that way.

Being in a new environment, away from the usual bollocks of life presses the reset button in your brain. You have almost certainly chosen an exciting place you were really looking forward to and find inspiring. At this point you notice the glorious starry skies or the sparkling waters or the damn lady bug. My next question was, how do we recreate this experience? Could you do it every day? And most importantly could we use it to initiate active life decisions that would reduce anxiety and depression.

Pembrokshire. UK.

On this adventure I took my paddle board. I had signed up to do a sup triathlon in late May and because of flu and work commitments, had done no training. Dear reader, my poor sup had only kissed water 3 times. My husband, who has known me for 22 years could see I was talking myself out of it even though there were so many beautiful little islands to explore. “I’ll carry it down for you.” He said. I loved and hated him all at once. Even though he had done the long drive, he entertained the boys playing Brazilian football while I went on a walk to the shore to scare myself. I could see one other sup out and I watched it closely to see if it was being pulled out in some evil rip tide.

Eventually, after a full hour of making excuses, I ventured out. I was literally shitting kittens. I made myself go knowing that the boys were watching. I suddenly had a terrible thought! What if the bastard thing burst! Was I fit enough to swim my arse back to shore? I was way out. People think extreme sports people are thrill seekers. I think it is actually that you are forced to enter the lizard part of your brain, and this is where it gets interesting. I was no longer worrying about my exam group. (I am a teacher). I was no longer wracked with self doubt about starting my own business or applying for a new job. I forgot about the dodgy noise the van had been making for months. I was entirely focused on the depth of the water, the rising of the swell, the noise of squealing birds. It had my complete attention.

Time was lost. I got back and it was my first question. It could have been 10 minutes. It was quite conceivable it was nearly an hour. I was lost in my head space. I came back really relaxed. I enjoyed going on a meander with the small son. We ran like toddlers along the shore line laughing and screaming like idiots. We collected shells and mermaids purses. We found new lagoons and caves and a river appearing out of the rocks.

And mostly, we felt alive.