December 25 – January 9
After Christmas we still had a couple of weeks at my parents house. Clay had flown down from Chicago, so we all got to enjoy lots of family time. In keeping with usual Arkansas winters, we had some days in the 60’s for bike riding or hiking Brad’s loop trail, and other days in the teens for huddling by the fireplace by day and working to keep Stumbo’s pipes from freezing by night.
It was such a bizarre experience to go from this grand journey we’ve been on for the past 4 months, seeing so many completely new places, and interacting with so few people outside of our immediate family…to being around extended family and friends nearly 24/7 in a place that has been familiar to 3/4 of us since birth. Brad & I both had used the phrase “it feels like we are on a break from our adventure” multiple times.
We are firm believers that the way you choose to frame an experience with your words shapes your perception, which in turn greatly informs the reality you are facing any moment. For example, Brad has long been insulted anytime I’ve made comments to the affect of “I’m really sick today. I bet you’ll have it tomorrow.” In Brad’s opinion, I more or less give him the sickness in that very moment of planting that potential reality in both our minds. I used to be skeptical, but over the years I feel like I’ve definitely seen the “power of positive thinking” play out in our lives. One of our favorite quotes about this is also a book title that we frequently say to each other: “You Are What You Think”. (Brad actually read the book. I feel like I probably got the gist of it from reading the front cover.) We also listened to a really interesting On Being podcast recently where a psychologist was interviewed about mindfulness because it’s a concept she has been studying since the 70’s – before it was cool. She doesn’t study it like many do as something tied to meditation or yoga, but simply as the act of actively, intentionally noticing new things in the world around you. Her studies have revealed amazing affects that stem from the way you think about things. In one study a group of chambermaids were taught to think of their constant on-the-job movement as exercise instead of work, and without changing anything else they lost weight. I’ve also been known on occasion to channel my inner motivational gym poster to tell my kids, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right”.
All that to say – whether we experienced it first or said it first is nearly indistinguable. But we don’t like the feeling that these weeks with family & friends are a step out of our “adventure”. So we are very intentionally trying to keep the adventure alive as we wait out the winter in these states, and a huge part of that is in how we talk about it and label it. Brad calls it “the tourist mindset” that we are trying to maintain even though we are in familiar places. We’ve tried to accomplish this in Arkansas by visiting new places like Central High School National Historic Site and also by revisiting old places with fresh eyes like the Arkansas State Capitol Building, the Discovery Museum, and Lake Dardanelle State Park.
I could have watched the magnetic dust dance on electromagnets to the programmed songs all day…
We have had such an amazing time at each of the museums we’ve had to pleasure of visiting, but it’s started to be a little funny how many exhibits are starting to look VERY familiar!
So that’s how we tried to fill our days in the Russellville area as they slipped by in that bizarre way they do when you suddenly have less to keep you busy than normal. No unhooking or hooking up the trailer. No cross-country drives. No trying to figure out where the closest grocery store is located, hauling dirty clothes to the laundromat, or packing yet ANOTHER picnic lunch the night before a full day trip. The days were slow but the weeks flew by in a matter of minutes. We jumped from day 100 on the road to day 150, and it’s crazy how differently those 50 days passed than the first 2/3 of our journey.
So if you talk with me in the near future and ask how the trip is going, and you get the response that “it feels like we’re on a break from our Adventure right now”, then please be sure to gently remind me that “You Are What You Think”. And I’ll probably say, “I don’t know what you’re implying because I haven’t read that book.”
As a closing thought, I want to share that my mantra these days is GRATEFULNESS. Anytime I start to feel any other emotion about this adventure – guilt or fear or impatience or worry or like it’s a self-indulgent exercise, I try to turn away from any of those thoughts and return to “I am grateful”. I’m still so overwhelmingly amazed that we are actually experiencing this year on the road that we talked about and dreamed about for so long. This opportunity that I never really thought would be a reality finally is, and it’s going by way too fast. I’m so grateful that we were able to align all of the logistical details to make it real, and I’m so grateful for all of the people we have in our life that have supported us – whether by installing RV hookups in their front yard or just replying to a facebook post or something in between…we have so much love in our lives and it moves mountains.