‘Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance’
Steven Pressfield – The War of Art
My brother in law said something fascinating to me some months back, when we were talking about the maddening yet seemingly fundamental human resistance to doing things that make us happy. And it was that the only way around it was trickery.
It happens to me all the time, this strange resistance. Writing my book, playing board games with the kids, tending my garden, doing my yoga practice- all of which I do regularly, but always with a moment’s hesitation and a tendency to think I would rather be doing a load of laundry. (Please tell me it is not just me? I know I have at least one ally in my friend who is a supremely talented artist, but seems to find everything else to do rather than pick up a paint brush.)
My wonderful brother in law’s advice is that in the face of this insanity, you must make the plan to do something so far in advance that it feels decidedly unthreatening and then rope in as many people as you can to do it with you, so that you are then beholden to your own plan.
It clearly works for him. He is the single most productive person I know. Now a successful musician in Berlin, his back catalogue spans three and nearly four albums, endless videos, rock-umentaries and merchandise. The man is an all singing, all dancing, one man machine of creativity and productivity. If he suffers from ‘resistance’ then he hides it well.
So it got me thinking that this clever little tactic can and should be applied to family life- and in particular family adventures, which I am increasingly convinced are the key to it all. My happiest memories as a child were when I was in cramped and often calamitous conditions with my sister and parents- so in a tent up a Himalayan mountain in a storm or the cabin of our miniature sailing boat in a heat-wave so intense that sleep was impossible or stuffed into one rickety mode of Asian transport or another. We were all together, no one was distracted, we chatted, we laughed, we played games- it was good old fashioned family time -and quite frankly I think it all needs resurrected.
All too often our current weekends are now spent carting one child to a sports activity whilst the other is late for a birthday party and the third is trying to work out the best bus routes for her trip into town, whilst grabbing my last remaining fiver on the way out. Meanwhile, my husband is sneaking off to get a quick computer fix and I am just longing for a nap.
For some families, adventure is already the fabric of their existence. No plans or tricks necessary. But for a lot of us, we might well yearn for it but the allure of a comfortable bed, the rhythm of an undemanding weekend and a diary that is so full it suffocates all spontaneity means that adventure extends to the local park if we’re lucky.
Now anyone who knows me will tell you I am something of a planner. I love a diary, and I especially love a full diary ( spontaneity quasher right there). Back in February I wiled away many an arctic day planning summer weekends, and merrily booked up the May bank holidays with carefully researched camping idylls. Five weeks ago this particular plan looked like complete insanity. It was still snowing. Even at the beginning of last week, when I was driving Skye to the bus in 1.5 degrees, I was thinking the only thing worse would be camping. In fact if the truth be told, camping always seems like a crazy idea. Who in their right mind would want to pack up everything including the kitchen sink, drive for miles with children fighting in the back from the first bend, to spend the weekend hunched over a single hob camping stove making saltless food, only to sleep uncomfortably all night and to wake up feeling (and looking) as though you’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards. Lesser trials illicit great resistance.
Friends’ plans of lazy lunches and late dinners were all sounding increasingly covetable. I lay in bed every morning, relishing the duvet and dreading the adventure. Luckily for me, I had ‘done a Jamie’ and paid for the campsite and roped in my sister to join us. There was no squirming out of my own plans.
And how glad I am that I couldn’t. Three glorious sunny days of being outside, of swing ball and boules and Frisbee, of Herefordshire cider and incredible scenery and nights by the fire roasting marshmallows and warming our toes. Sure, getting up in the middle of the night to go to the loo felt like an ordeal and every morning without fail I looked like the Wreck of the Hesperus. But how often do you find yourself only two hours from home but feeling a million miles away, walking a ridge and a valley that were some of the most beautiful you’ve ever seen? And on the Monday afternoon, before we had even got home, my six year old wanted to go again.
So my sincerest advice is whenever possible, trick yourself into an adventure. I am already busy plotting the next one.
‘We were born to be free-range….’
Shameless plug of wonderful brother-in-law – JIM KROFT
The highly recommended little campsite we made our temporary home http://www.thebridgeinnmichaelchurch.co.uk/camping/
Brilliant, brilliant book that will give you a proper kick up the rear if you need it