Ahhh…after a packed winter with a full work schedule, some health challenges (I’m feeling much better now), and far too many hockey rink visits to count (and definitely too many carpool texts to tally), my long-awaited weekend up north finally arrived. On Thursday night after work, I packed a bag (I use “packed” loosely…some cozy clothes made their way into an oversized purse) and drove two hours north of Toronto to a picturesque resort called Deerhurst, in Huntsville, Ontario.
I had actually never stayed there before (shocking, I know, for some of my fellow Torontonians). And some may wonder what is appealing about northern Ontario in March. Well, call me crazy, but you can keep your Miami and Vegas weekends…you can even keep Nashville. Trendy doesn’t tempt me and I’m not even a foodie. This low-maintenance, Canada-loving, cottage-coveting girl is more than content with a fireplace, some fresh air, and some peace and quiet. All without having to stamp my passport.
My getaway was three nights in total – one night alone, two with a girlfriend. On Friday I enjoyed a peaceful solo hike. Part-way through, I noticed some similarities between my trek in the frozen woods and this thing we call life. It was a Forrest-Gump-Box-of-Chocolates moment. Okay…maybe not Oscar worthy, but stay with me.
So, what insights exactly did my one-hour chilly adventure divulge? Read on and follow my footsteps..
#1: Sometimes it’s okay to follow the path taken.
There were plenty of footsteps on the path, so I knew others had walked before me.
In our day-to day-lives, sometimes we just want some assurance, a soft place to land ….we don’t want to take too much of a risk. Sort of like my trip to Huntsville. I didn’t want to board a plane, I didn’t want to be far from home. I needed to be far enough away to get a real break, yet not too far to add any stress (can you say flight delays?)
I think the trick is to determine when to play it safe and when to go all in. So…umm…if you figure that one out, give me a call.
#2: Other times, we need to blaze the trail.
There were parts of the trail that branched off in multiple directions. At one point, I veered slightly off the path, intentionally, just to see where I’d end up; within minutes, I saw markers signalling I was back on one of the trails. [Insert woman breathing a sigh of relief that she didn’t meet any hungry bears]. This is just a tiny example of taking the road – or trail – less travelled. I’m sure we all can conjure up times when we did (or wished we had) taken a chance.
About six months ago, my good friend Jodi Kovitz, Founder and CEO of #MoveTheDial, invited me to freelance write for her. #MoveTheDial is a movement dedicated to increasing the participation and advancement of women in technology. I could have easily turned down the opportunity, and rationalized my decision with I’m-not-a-techie-what-business-do-I-have-writing-about-tech self-talk. But I didn’t. I took the leap and strutted my writing skills. With four published blogs under my belt, a fifth one is coming out later this week featuring a Dragons’ Den participant and entrepreneur! Imagine if I had said no just because I was scared!? And you know what? If I tried it and didn’t enjoy it, there would be another path (bear-free please) to explore.
#3: Friends and family – like trees – are there for support.
From the first step, I could see the trail was very icy, so I knew I’d rely on the birches and maples towering over me for support. Each move I made, I reached for the closest tall friend for balance and stability. In our lives, it’s a different type of support we typically need – the emotional kind.
I fully admit, I sometimes keep my challenges to myself, thinking I can handle them. But letting people in – and allowing them to help – always yields a better result. Case in point: this weekend. My friend and I not only relaxed by the fire, but we spent time sharing and brainstorming ideas around challenges related work, health, and relationships. Whether those closest to us offer new ideas and perspectives, a shoulder to lean (or cry) on, a listening ear, or all of the above, the more we let someone in, the stronger our bond and connection is.
And relationships, like trees, are best when they have deep roots, right?
#4: Challenges, like icy patches, sometimes need creative thinking.
Each time I approached a really icy patch, I had a choice: try to climb up or down it directly, or walk around it. The first choice would have likely landed me in the hospital with a broken ankle; so, not having a thing for a emergency rooms, I chose the second, not without its own set of challenges, mind you. Twigs, stumps, and fallen branches (ahem…mini challenges), were plentiful.
Ultimately, I triumphed over the icy patches by finding a better way. Right now, my 11-year-old daughter has a big, giant icy hill to climb (middle school stuff) and we’re doing our best to help her forge through and persevere. I know she will (my mom says so!) – even if she trips over a few twigs along the way. And you know what, even if she does break her middle-schooler ankle today, she’ll be stronger for it in the long run.
#5: Savour the moment.
When I reached the lookout point at the end of the trail, I had to remind myself to take it in, like Rick Hanson teaches us in Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence. I did take a picture (see below), but I also tried to take a photo in my mind. I spent a few minutes looking out on the frozen, snow-covered lake, taking in its curves and soft edges. I did this a few years ago when I had the perfect view of Toronto’s skyline from Centre Island. Honestly, the picture is still in my mind. I definitely need to do this more – and not just when I hike up a frozen trail or take a boat somewhere.
Unfortunately (and the reason, quite frankly, I was craving a getaway in the first place), our lives are so go-go-go, it’s easy to forget to enjoy our lives. And even to celebrate our successes. I know this happens in the work environment – one project wraps up, another begins, with very little time (if any) for celebration. Been there, done that (managers, take note!) Perhaps we can’t have as much control over what happens at work, but wherever possible, we should celebrate what we’ve achieved, where we’ve been, and where we’re going.
Starting now…this is my 57th blog! Yah…I’m kind of a big deal 🙂
So, whether I was looking for leaves or lessons that day, I came down that hill with both. In one way it was a break from the world to stimulate my senses. In another, it was all about stimulating my mind. The best 2-for-1 deal out there if you ask me. Oh, and if a woman slips gracefully in the icy woods but no one’s there to see it, did it really happen?
Until next time….