Finding Your Zen Zone: Write Two Blog Posts and Call Me in the Morning
I have learned several things during my short stint as a travel blogger, the first being that I am horrible at keeping to a weekly posting goal. The second is that it is much more effort than I had initially anticipated. I thought I would pop on and post some interesting pictures and share some travel nuggets, but that has proven difficult to maintain between homeschooling the kids and recouping from my weekends at work. Those weekends are killer and never fail to wipe me out. I learned that on-call Friday through Monday means you really get no Friday or Monday, especially if you work Sunday night and have to sleep your Monday away. Yuck. My most important lesson learned is that family and travel are the most important things to me and that making memories with my kids is everything. Granted, I drag them most places, but I never remember the tough stuff when looking back. I only remember the happy, and I really laugh off the stuff that seems to stress me out at the time, such as this shenanigan here.
My kids are obviously not fond of my hobby. Half of them are not even keen on traveling, so that makes this endeavor even more of a challenge. If we had adventurous kids, we would legitimately buy a bus and hit the road. We wouldn't look back, either. I am inspired by all of the young van life crowd, and I live vicariously through van couples like Brittani and Adam, check out their website here. Brittani was a travel nurse, so I could see how we could sustain our lifestyle by listening to the story about how they got started. But alas, although I pine for the nomadic life, I cannot leave my older kids homeless. Life is about balance, and this is where we are at right now. Once all of our kids are out their own, mark my words, we will be packing up our walkers and Ensure and hitting the road. In the meantime, we will keep traveling as much as humanly possible with 2-full time jobs, 5 kids, 1 cat, 1 dog, 1 duck, 1 chicken, and a whole lot of love. Just to clarify, we usually leave the yard birds and fur babies home.
Blogging has also taught me that I travel to escape. I have read other posts about how they are not escaping "real life" by traveling and how traveling is their life. Well, I am not sure I buy that. We all want to escape, to live, adventure hard, squash the mundane, or at least take pictures of it to make us seem like we are oh so present and enjoying the little things. My friends, the facts are that we humans are not set up for boring. We live for change. At work, I find everyone complains so much because "nothing ever changes around here." For humans, the worse thing in the world is to feel stuck. Maybe you have heard of the legends about American Indians who were imprisoned, and they died because they couldn't see beyond the present and into the future. Whether that is a true story or not, if you are reading this, chances are you know what I am talking about. The horrible sick feeling when you feel trapped in a dead-end job or in a bad relationship, or maybe you are stuck in an emotional rut, and the depression is holding you down. That feeling (which lies along a spectrum), is precisely what I am talking about. It is the result of stagnation that comes with a lack of growth. For me, growth comes from exploration and sharing cultural experiences with my husband and family. For some, growth may come from reading volumes and volumes of literature. It is personal.
I want to talk a bit about the spectrum in psych nursing terms. This is something I use with my students to describe mood disorders but bear with me, see figure below.
If we think about the happy to sadness spectrum, most of the growth happens in the areas that hover around euthymic. Think of euthymic as being present and enjoying that Instaworthy glass
of wine overlooking a sunny azul body of water or a crackling fire with a pair of toasty feet sporting woolly socks. We all know that moment is fleeting. It probably took some pain to get there, too. Perhaps you got a splinter loading firewood, or you twisted your ankle on the cobblestone path walking up to the restaurant on those ancient Grecian streets. The challenging moments are where you learned to wear better shoes or be more careful and take the extra time to put your wood-hauling gloves on. We want to live in those happy moments where we are feeling really cheerful and alive, but knowing that we must pack up and move on, or go back to work, that is what keeps us grounded in the euthymic zone. I call it the Zen Zone.
The Zen Zone is a precipice from where you know you can easily teeter. It is the last stop before the gloomy feeling you get when worry starts to creep in. The Zen Zone is a place of contentment, gratitude, and presence. Of course, when we are mentally healthy, we can bounce back from sadness and live between cheerful and Zen, even if our lives get mundane (although some handle "mundane" better than others). But, when things don't change, and we don't have growth or forward movement, we slip further down toward the pit of depression. We won't discuss mania's pitfalls here, but too much change energy can also be a bad thing. Balance is key.
Blogging has helped me see where the unhappiness in my life lies. For me, that is existing in a place where nothing changes. This can be both an actual and a metaphorical place. It can be a real place like a bad job or relationship, or it can be a place without growth. Remember, although hardship is not necessarily required for development, I do think it expedites the process. Traveling and blogging about my adventures allows me to absorb and assimilate and become more than I was if I merely stayed on my couch and did my weekend gig as a nurse. I can bounce back from all of the job stress quicker, and it helps me recognize when specific stressors are unhealthy and require creative thinking to navigate. In my short time blogging, I am finding out a good many things:
It is more challenging than I thought to find the time to blog.
Travel with kids and trying to blog is really difficult.
Number two is totally worth it, and I don't regret a thing.
We all seek change.
Some of us crave significant changes and for others changing coffee flavors in with the seasons is good enough. If you have taken the time to get to the end of this post, I want to say. I appreciate
you. I also want to say that I believe in you. If you are afraid to make a change, that is understandable. Change is scary sometimes. A patient recently said to me, "My life fucking sucks." I wanted to say, "Everyone's life sucks at one time or another; it is what you do with the shit that counts. You can sit in the shit, or you can grab a shovel." I didn't say that to my patient, but now that I see it on paper, maybe I should have.
My advice. Write about it, take a drive to the middle of nowhere and scream about it, and then let's talk. If you can't figure it out on your own, reach out. Friends, family, and therapists can be a lifesaver, but in the end, you are the one that is going to need to do the swimming to get back to shore. So this is where I am at this week. I need to get away and do something to escape. Maybe, I will even blog about it.