Running Wild

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I was talking to a friend today, and he was telling me that he met a man that hiked the Appalachian Trail. Pretty cool, huh? What if I told you that he did this when he was twelve years old? With no adult supervision… just a bunch of Boy Scouts on their own, hiking the Appalachian Trail.

It got me talking about my childhood. We all tend to romanticize about the “good old days”. And, maybe that’s just what I’m doing. We lived in a house in upstate New York. I lived there from age six to age eleven. We had a big tree with a tire swing and a big side yard that my parents made into an ice rink in the Winter. On the other side of the house was a hill that was perfect for sledding.

In the more temperate seasons, my friends and I would leave our houses in the morning, and go off on adventures. Sometimes we would come home for lunch, and sometimes not until dinner. If our parents ever worried about us, they never let on.

We would play in the apple orchard, climbing trees and throwing apples at each other. We might decide to go to the pond, and see what creatures we could find. When we got tired of that, we would go to the farmers field, up to the place where there was a bunch of old tires. Sometimes we saw snakes there. It was scary, alright. But worth the risk to climb on those tires.

Some days, we would stick closer to home and stomp down the field of high grass into a “fort”. This was a maze of rooms and we would sometimes accessorize them with treasures from home. We were always building forts and off on general explorations all summer long.

My husband grew up in Scotland. He was taking the tube (subway) around London when he was twelve. When he was seven, he would take the bus into Glasgow and go to the cinema… by himself. Can you imagine allowing something like that with your kids or grandchildren?

The point is, these days we have to watch kids like a hawk, it seems. I was strict about where my kids played when they were little, and wanted them to stick close to home. Now, people might say that they did not have proper supervision. I wouldn’t let them go off to a pond, or across a field out of view. It’s a different time.

 
Or is it? Do we have more danger and treachery in the world these days? Is it possible that the people that prey on children have expanded in number exponentially? Or do we just hear about it more? Does the internet that makes it easier for evil people to commit crimes against children? Or, does the internet just keep reporting these crimes so much that we become desensitized at some point?

When we recall these childhood days, are we longing for a place… or a time when catching a frog was the highlight of the day? If I had to pick the happiest time in my childhood, it was when we were running wild.

– Cat

Happiness Now

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How many times have you looked up to someone and thought “If I had their life, I would be happy”?  It’s natural… the whole “grass is greener” thing.

When I was a teenager, I was always envious of my best friend, who was so tiny and petite.  Years later, I confessed to her that I was jealous of her slight frame, and her ability to wear cute summer shirts. You well endowed women know what I’m talking about.  At the moment of my disclosure, she said “You’ve got to be kidding!”  She continued “I always felt like a boy next to you; I was so jealous of your curves!”  Sometimes you need to get a reality check and look at things from someone else’s perspective.

We rely on material things to make us happy.  Sometimes you want a nice car, a big house… maybe a boat, or a $3000 designer bag, or the latest Jordans.  You catch yourself thinking “When I get that extra special thing, I will be happy.”  And then, finally, you get that thing, that magical unicorn you’ve been dreaming of.  As it turns out, the struggle for acquisition was the best part.  Once your quest is over, you come face to face with the truth.  You’re still the same person, you just have a new possession. 

If you’re thinking you need to get another job, or live somewhere else to be happy, chances are you’re wrong about that, too.  You’ll be the same person, but with another job, or in another locale.  Quite often, we think “If only I could make a fresh start”.  You can make a fresh start, alright.  But not through external gratification.

Start from where you are, right here and right now.  Cultivate happiness within you that has nothing to do with your looks, your money, or your job.  All the stuff you have, and don’t have, doesn’t matter a bit.  You can add those things into the mix, but if you’re not happy now, those things won’t change you.

How many famous people kill themselves with a self-destructive lifestyle?  They’ve got money, fame, and everything that those things can bring.  Is that enough to sustain a person?  Nope.  I love the quote from Henry Ford when someone asked him how much money does it take to make a man happy.  His response:  “A little bit more”.  In the end, we all end up the same situation.

It’s good to have dreams.  Reach as high as you can.  Stretch right out of your comfort zone.  Remember that achieving those things will never make you as happy as the struggle to achieve them.  Put another way, it’s the journey and not the destination.  Moments in time, being with loved ones, trying your best, believing in yourself.  Those are the things that will bring happiness.  Lasting happiness.  The kind of happiness you deserve.

Be gentle with yourself.

– Cat