The sun is shining. The sky is blue. The leaves are red and gold. I pour coffee from my thermos and the steam billows above it, and I am back on the road in 2003 in the November I left safety and found a sense of belonging on the road, camping with Ralph, my purple Ford Ranger, Frederick, my teddy bear, and my "Papa's girl" engraved Buck Knife.
I long for the simplicity of that month of my life, when the $1000 I had saved up got me through 8 states, 11 National Parks, 3 car repairs, a love story, and countless adventures. Rereading that sentence, I think, man, that sounds so big, so brave, so adventurous, so impossible to my life now...not to mention $1000 barely feeds them all. But the reality of it is all I did that month was figure out where I wanted to go, how much I had, and I went.
Now, life is complicated. Going to Target is like going to the moon.
"Shoes. Get your shoes. Potty. Go Potty. Please. Just. Go. Potty. Seriously. Where ARE your shoes?!"
"I can't tie my shoes!"
"You learned how to tie your shoes 3 years ago. How have you forgotten this?"
"It's impossible! I'm never going to learn it!"
"It's not impossible. You've already learned it once..."
I mean, you get it. Leaving the house with 3 children is a Herculean effort.
I long for the days when I thought about where I wanted to go, what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, and I just went. I did. I was.
Now I stay. I don't. I am not.
Don't get me wrong, friends, I try. I mean, I know you see pictures of my efforts on Facebook. The efforts that make it look like I'm doing it. They make me look like I'm living the way God intended me to... Adventurously. Bravely. With belonging, acceptance, and love.
But the reality is that most of these adventures with kids are really just me dragging my whining, complaining children through the woods after I pointed my finger in their chest and growled through gritted teeth, "We are going hiking. I don't care if it is your favorite thing to do or not. We are going because it is MY favorite thing to do. I spent 4 hours baking and decorating a Pikachu cake for your birthday last week. I don't like cake, and I don't like Pokemon. But I love you, so I did it without saying anything bad about the whole process even when I dropped the cake on the floor and had to do it all over again, so YOU WILL HIKE. You will not complain. And you will do it because you love me."
I bully my children occasionally. It is a method that got passed off as good parenting when I was a kid. I resort back to it when I don't know what else to do. I get it. Clearly enjoying my time out in nature with the kids and staying patient with them while we hike and they whine and whatever is clearly the better parenting move because eventually my love of hiking and the outdoors will eventually wear off on them, and yadayadayada. But let's be real. These little jerks are robbing me of something I love and turning it into something I hate, and that pisses me off. It does. I'm allowed to be pissed about this. I've given them everything. My body, my time, my career, my food... the least they can do is to shut up while we are hiking. So...
We stay home because of snacks. And timing. And extra pants and wipes and whatever equipment is necessary. And because I know that bullying them into things is no way to parent, and especially no way to help them learn to love hiking, adventuring, and the outdoors.
Back then, I packed up what I needed for a month in the cab of my pickup. Groceries (beans, rice, salsa, tortillas), a week's worth of clothes, camping gear, and the aforementioned bear and Buck Knife. And now I take that much to the pool.
What happened? I mean, I totally blame the kids, but that seems unfair. I did want them after all. I mean they're 3 of the best things that ever happened to me, but...I miss how easy it was to be brave. I miss how easy it was to live out my dreams when I didn't have to worry about anyone else's bowel movements, food allergies, aversions, needs, or constant demands.
Being brave was easy. It was just figure out where I wanted to go, figure out what I have, and go.
Wait. Isn't it still that? It's just that it's about where WE want to go, what WE have, and then WE go.
It's the WE that makes it complicated, but it's also the WE that makes it great. If I had stayed in that life, that adventurous, beautiful life alone, I may have had more cool accomplishments. I would've reached the summit of more literal mountains. I would've seen more states. I would've played more. But all of those baby pictures are worth something too. All of the teaching how to walk and run and climb and ride and tie... All of the reading and snuggling and building and encouraging... Those are beautiful adventures too.
I am still an adventurer. I am still brave. I belong and provide belonging. I accept and am accepted. I love and am loved. Raising a family is a great adventure too. Even if we stay.
Especially when we stay.
Because being brave and being adventurous is mostly about showing up, saying, "Here I am" and "Here we are" and then doing the next thing.