This post was originally published on Neha’s blog, Mindful Living.
I had the luxury and comfort of going on several different camping trips this past summer. I use those two words because I am fortunate to be able to be so close to safe, accessible and beautiful campgrounds, to be able to take time off, to have a husband and toddler who love camping just as much as I do. (The toddler perhaps loves it a little more as he has decided that’s what he wants to do for his next birthday.)
There is so much joy in having full, long days with both my boys, simple food cooked on the fire under the stars. Time seemed to go by slower, or perhaps I got to pay attention better which made my days richer and glorious. Being away from my phone and computer for long chunks of time forced me to dream, observe and simply pay attention. I got to read, journal and take pictures. All in all, a very high ROI for the minimal costs of a local camping trip.
Contrast with comfort
And yet, there was the discomfort, too – the dirty toilets, the cold water, the ton of planning and packing that goes into a rustic camping trip with a toddler. The sleeping arrangements aren’t very comfortable. I was very sleep deprived as Vivaan woke up every hour during our first night and kept insisting he wanted to go home. Plus, being pregnant means I typically can’t sleep uninterrupted for more than a few hours without much-needed bathroom breaks.
And then, there is safety – during our trip to Yosemite, the second morning the ranger told us that our site was the bears’ favorite! Just a few nights before, a bear tore down a tent while following the fragrance of a citronella candle. Right then, Sumit tells me how he brought in crackers the night before to feed Vivaan and forgot to put them back in the bear box. Sigh. We were safe.
And I still will go back to the woods. In fact, I have a mommy-kiddo camping trip planned a few weeks prior to my due date.
People ask me why would I put myself through this discomfort when I could afford a luxury vacation? I also have people tell me how awesome it is that we prioritize camping as a family more so when I am pregnant. Perhaps both perspectives are valid.
The art of acceptance
Here’s my simple answer: It is this beautiful acceptance of opposites, this juxtaposition of the comfort and its discomfort, its joys and its struggles that make life meaningful. It’s not easier, simple or happier, but more meaningful for sure. When I reflect on most aspects of my life – my marriage, parenting, work, community, creative pursuits, relationships and my relationship with myself – I always find these seemingly conflicting emotions and experiences.
For example, I deeply, deeply value my marriage and my relationship with my husband and fondly wait to hug and kiss him when we meet in the evening and share our days with each other. Yet there absolutely are moments when I question everything, when the discomfort feels very heavy and painful. Yet, on a moment like today when I create space to hold both these experiences together, my heart feels full and abundant because of the meaning it brings to my life.
Acknowledging that these messy parts exist in my life, and accepting them for what they are, adds a little more ease into my life. It’s really about leaning into the discomfort as much as the leaning into the comfort that makes my life full, rich and deep. I have realized that it’s much easier to talk about the comforting aspects of our lives, not just to others, but more importantly to myself. There really is a much bigger, more complete picture I can choose to even hide from myself. Yet it’s these seemingly uncomfortable, difficult and challenging parts that make the bright ones come alive to create a joyful mosaic.
I have learned that my camping trips are my metaphor for my life – my search for meaning in this magical journey called life.