When my children were babies, I took them on a walk every day. We walked miles and miles around the neighborhood, in all kinds of weather. Only ice or high wind kept us inside. I would strap two into a double stroller and wear the third in a carrier, rotating who was against my chest (later my back). When the weather was bad, I’d really bundle them up. Two were safely covered by the plastic stroller cover, and I would use the top of the carrier to protect the head of the baby I was wearing. But I had one kiddo who hated that. When she was on my chest, she would strain to come out of the little cocoon and feel the wind and the rain on her face. And she would look at me with a huge grin as if to say, “Ah, Mama, the elements are awesome!” Maybe someday she’ll be an explorer or mountaineer.
Currently this same child seems less enamored of the elements, but this memory came back to me the other night when I was walking in the dark through the first the first real rain we’ve had in weeks. I was feeling glum from some interpersonal drama, but as I walked and got wetter, I could feel the melancholy start to melt and what took its place was a sort of glee.
I’m not the sort to chase tornados, or stay out in thunderstorms. But there is something so freeing about being the only person about when the weather is a bit nasty. Jogging through the early-morning snow in Prospect Park in Brooklyn gave me that feeling in my 20s. Climbing over snowdrifts to get to work in Chicago in my 30s. And in my 40s, it seems to be walking through the park on a wet evening in Portland.
When I am sitting at my computer working, there comes a moment when I finish a task, and don’t immediately know what to do next. Perhaps you have experienced this? This is a dangerous moment because it’s very easy to default to checking email or social media, both of which are black holes of productivity and creativity for me. So I have developed a strategy. In that moment of finishing a task, I STOP (thank you Alexander Technique) and then I stand up.
Changing my position, giving myself, quite literally, a different perspective, tends to rattle something free in my brain. I nearly always know just what to do next, and it is almost never email or social media.
Going outside does the same thing, only more so. When I’m feeling stuck, sad or snappy, the very best thing I can do is put on my shoes and head outside for a new perspective. This is easier on those brilliant, sunny fall days we’ve been having in Portland recently. A pink sunrise is so inspiring. It’s harder now that we’re back to our typical gray and wet fall programming.
But even on the bleakest day, or maybe especially on the bleakest day, it’s hard not to come back with that small-child wonder: “Ah, the elements are awesome!”