When was the last time you wrote a real letter and sent it? What scares you the most? What are you most grateful for? What do you like most about yourself? These are questions I asked other people and myself this past weekend at Camp Grounded. So, I want to ask you these questions as well. Actually, I want you to ask yourself these questions and then ask people you meet similar things. Especially when you find yourself wanting to ask them silly questions like their ages or their job titles. Maybe if we started spending more time finding out what makes other people happy, we could find new ways to be free from the stuff that disconnects us from others.
The day that I saw information about Camp Grounded: Summer Camp for Adults on Facebook, I got really excited. I knew that I had to go. My inner voice shouted, “YES! Let’s do this!” So, I signed up almost immediately and then spent the next few months looking forward to what I was certain was going to be a pretty amazing weekend. And that it was. It was also a lot of other things too. I can’t remember another weekend being more of a Roller Coaster of emotion. I want to try to tell you about it, but I know that I’ll never be able to get out what I learned about myself and about other people.
When I travel, or when I go to a really great show, I always find myself wanting to write about what I see. But it’s always hard to put into words what I experience. Sights, smells, tastes, and sounds are not easy to document for someone else, at least I feel that way when I’m the one doing the writing. This is not the truth when someone else is doing it…I’ve lived in worlds that I will never know and I’ve seen things my eyes will never set their sights on, and it was all because someone was brave enough to create that world for me and for others. Because of this, I”m going to try to be brave enough to write about my Camp Grounded weekend. Maybe you’ll be inspired to do something different, maybe not. Either way, I hope you know that I feel blessed beyond belief to have been a part of such a beautiful and fresh experience.
As our car rolled up to the campsite, we were greeted by some very jolly people who told us to get out of the car and the showered us with love and hugs. I was slightly taken aback, not sure how to handle the excitement that these strangers had greeted us with. It seemed pretty corny, but I went along with their excitement, and decided to be open-minded. I had no idea what was waiting for me at camp, so why not just be open-minded and enjoy the fun? Once out of the car at camp, we were greeted with more hugs, more excitement, and well-organized registration. We checked our real names and our electronic devices upon arrival and set off to have some Digital Detox fun with our new found aliases.
As I reflect on the last few days, I find myself wanting to write a detailed post about every single thing that happened there, but I feel like that sort of cheapens the whole experience. It was a magical weekend, filled with beautiful people. I was inspired by so much of it. The first day, I was assigned a village and three counselors. Our first camp meeting was a pretty profound moment. We came together to create a cheer. As we worked together to create this cheer, I realized how wonderful it was to be with people I didn’t know and not feel uncomfortable or competitive with them. Instead, we were together as one: working, creating. They had us write an intention for ourselves that day, and then encouraged us to check in with ourselves throughout the weekend, so that we could make sure that we were staying on course with this intention. My intention was to try to peel back the layers of the things I think I know about myself, to find out what else is there. Amazing how easy this intention was to stick to. Without the crutch of my electronics, and hiding behind the label of my job title, what I found was a girl who still has some pretty interesting high school hangups, a lot of physical energy, and a newfound appreciation for herself.
Ultimately, I felt like I was in a place where I was free to love and let myself be loved. There were compliments flowing, there were people getting to know themselves just like I was, and then there were others who were there for something different than me. There was face paint, solar carving, hip-hop dance, yoga, friendship bracelets, amazing vegan food, singing, dancing, hooping, swimming, laughing, crying, joy, fear avoidance, and all kinds of other stuff. I tried to find my people; people with whom I could be honest about what I was feeling, what I was trying to avoid feeling, and people I could just be my silly self with. It was not at all hard to find these kind of people, but sometimes, I found myself alone. It was in the solitary moments that I had some real clarity. I have spent a lot of time in the last five years, trying to force myself into situations that were clearly not right for me. When I found myself alone at this camp, I would feel frustrated, as if I was missing out on meeting someone really interesting, someone with whom I could share a magical moment. I had a very important revelation at camp, which I hope to carry with me for as long as I possibly can. The most magical moments that one can have are the magical moments we share with ourselves. It’s not about who is around us, validating us, making us feel loved. It’s about what we are feeling on the inside and how we are putting those feelings (good and bad) to good use. You have to help yourself before you can really help anyone else. I know, I know. I read versions of this statement time and time again. And I hear it from people that I trust and look up to, so I know that it has to be true. But, still…I spend a lot of energy trying to make myself feel loved by loving other people more than I love myself. This past weekend, loving myself meant avoiding FOMO and negativity, trying not to compare myself to other people’s outsides, and putting myself to bed when I felt like going to bed was the right thing to do.
The highlight of the weekend for me was a period in which we were encouraged to be silent and spend time with ourselves. I sat by the river and listened to the sounds, and let myself BE in that place. It was the happiest place that I have ever been with myself. I didn’t need anything in that moment besides my breath, that water, those rocks, and the willingness to be still and breathe. After the silent time with ourselves, we ate a silent meal with our new friends. I’m not sure I’ll ever eat another meal like that again. I hope I do. It was a really beautiful moment in time. I will never be able to do it justice by talking about it. Just know that it was really, very special to me. Brussel Sprouts have never looked, smelled, or tasted so good.
The more I write about this, the more I feel myself trying to hold on to the smaller moments, instead of just letting the big picture take place in my life. I found freedom in those woods. I found freedom to accept myself and situations that are beyond my control. I found freedom to let myself be joyful and have a good time. I found freedom to let myself be honest about some serious stuff that has taken place in my life and affected me in ways that are beyond my control, because they are behind me. What I can do, is look forward to letting myself find more freedom in my future, by being present in the here and now.
I may end up coming back to write about highlights from the weekend, but I feel like the more I try to document what happened, the less I’m trying to live the values that I learned there. It was a weekend that I’ll never forget. Thank you to those who made it happen and thank you to those who were there to share in the joy and the struggles with me. To those of you who are feeling envious right about now, know that this will happen again, and you should definitely try to join in on the fun. But remember that you can always find a way to be grounded in the here and now, you don’t need to go to camp to do it. Pick up the phone instead of texting. Have lunch with someone you love. Draw a picture of your lunch instead of photographing it. Think of a question you’d really like someone to ask you, and then ask someone else that question. You might be surprised what happens when you do. I promise, if you start to do these very simple things, you might find yourself in a place of gratitude much like the state that I am in right now.
“Today, You are You. That is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” – Dr. Suess