When I first met Carolyn, we were panting heavily, having finished our inaugural ride in Tuscany and enjoying some well-deserved gelato. On one of our last group rides as part of a Women’s Quest tour, I had served as the de facto lieutenant, pulling the line of women as we sped back to home base to beat the setting sun only to have Carolyn shoot past us, quickly setting up poolside to greet us upon our return. She is a woman up for anything with a keen sense of adventure, an appreciation for the moment and a magnificent sense of humor. It is no wonder that we remained friends.
So when it came time to plan a vacation, one which would involve plenty of time to think, read, write and journal along with the opportunity to train, laugh and embrace life, I turned to Carolyn and wrangled myself an invitation to her home in Massachusetts, otherwise known as the Fish Ranch Think Tank. (So called because part of her home, located on a sizable pond, has a fish theme, while the “think tank” is an ode to the possibilities and ideas which are born and nurtured here.) When I arrived on Sunday, she had a gathering of friends and co-workers, as she does every Sunday, and the week could not have started off on a better note, not just because of the lively company but because we made s’mores at the fire pit. Yep. S’mores. I can not remember the last time I had a s’more. A small part of me balked with old thoughts: You shouldn’t be eating junk like s’mores. You should be watching your diet to get back on track after recovery week since the marathon is only 11 weeks away now. Ah, but I gave up “shoulds” last week, remember? This time, I practiced going with my gut, and while I could have overindulged in chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows all night long, one ooey-goey treat was plenty for me. (Huh. Go figure. It’s pretty easy to show restraint when I actually take the time to listen to my body.)
Then came Monday morning, the official first day of my vacation. I awoke to a beautiful sunrise, enjoyed my coffee then went to the pond with Carolyn for my first lesson in kayaking. I had never been in a kayak before and Carolyn showed me the ropes, which basically involved getting in and out of the kayak along with a few points on how to steer. I wasn’t fast or fancy, but found myself both in a state of peace and excitement. This was awesome. Day One and I am already doing something new and different. This, my friends, is exactly what I needed.
Carolyn often starts her day with a run then a short trip in her kayak. As we paddled around one of the islands in the middle of the pond, I started to think how stinking lucky Carolyn is that she has this opportunity to start her day this way all the time. For a moment I was jealous and a bit sad that I didn’t have something equally as awesome to begin my day with on a regular basis, but I quickly let those emotions flow over me. Surely there are opportunities available to me in my own surroundings, if only I took some time to look around, see what was around me and ask myself what it is I really want in starting my day.
Perhaps the key is not in the specifics of what I do but rather the spirit with which I begin my day. Perhaps if I valued the intention, the action would flow naturally. I would no longer be fighting against my day but rather be working with the rhythm of the day — sometimes riding waves of chaos and other times floating through recovery.
What is my intention for this respite away from my daily life? To spend time with a good, dear friend. To go some place I had never been. To do something new. To have adventure. To laugh, eat well and train. To read, reflect and write. Sounds like a big to-do list, but it doesn’t feel that way. To me, it feels like stepping out of my normal routine so when I return, I can look at it with the wisdom of a slightly different perspective. That, perhaps, is the crux of my vacation intention. That, and maybe one more s’more.