The Decompression Chamber

The first year my husband and I were married, I set a “life goal” to visit every national park in the United States. We haven’t made a lot of progress on that goal. After nearly 14 years of marriage, I think we can check seven parks off the list.

Back then, I know I drove my husband crazy with my fast-paced approach to vacations. I would carefully schedule a long list of places to see and experiences that couldn’t be missed. Sometimes we would even have to “train” for our vacations to endure the long hikes and challenging mountain bike rides that would be part of the scheduled fun.

It seems funny to me now. Here we are on a trip to the same national park we have visited four times in the last 14 years. It’s also the same national park that we visited over and over again when I was a kid. Going to the same national park repeatedly isn’t really helping with that “life goal.” 🙂

I have realized that much of what we do here is re-live my old memories and experiences. I love the familiarity of it all. A lot of things have changed here over the years, but I prefer to block them all out and stay focused on the things I know. Playing on the rocks in the river. Sitting in the hot tub on the deck. Visiting the candy store. Walking in the forest.

Just thinking about doing something new or different starts to make me feel stressed. I guess that is a sign to me of just how much I needed this vacation. Even after a few days here, I’m still trying to adjust to the quiet all around me. Without anything pressing to think about, my brain is slowly starting to unwind.

I guess you could say I’m still in the decompression chamber. You know how deep sea divers can’t come immediately to the surface? Instead they have to go inside a chamber that will help their bodies adjust to the change in pressure. They have gotten so used to being underwater that they have to come up gradually. Or they can go into the chamber where they sit and do nothing but breathe in and out for a while until their bodies can function without that water pressure all around them.

I have had so much on my mind the past few months that I have barely been able to think past what needs to be done at the moment. Even when I’m doing something fun, I’m still thinking about what is waiting for me. Decisions that need to be made. Tasks that need to be completed. A long to-do list.

I haven’t had much time to do nothing. To sit and breathe in and out for a while.

I have accomplished absolutely nothing the past few days. (Actually, I have taught my kids to play the card game “hearts,” helped them learn the rules of pool and played a few rounds of hide and seek!) In fact, so far today I haven’t even left the cabin. My husband took the three older kids into town while I stayed home with the toddler during her nap.

It’s so quiet I can hear myself breathe. I’m starting to decompress. And that’s a good thing.


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