A three hour walk in the woods can solve almost any problem*

trees_hike_diptych.jpg
walk in the woods, Berkeley, CA, Canon Rebel Xti

Yesterday I had a little victory.

It was one of those days when all you want to do is crawl into bed, dive into work, take that pill, watch a movie, anything to distract you from the pain of your own thoughts. Anything to escape from your miserable self. When the sitter arrived and I knew I had three precious hours, I thought about what I wanted to do with it. Go shopping? Take a bath? Get back to work? Crawl into bed? Gravity was pulling me toward bed… the creamy pasta was kicking in, it was cold outside, a hot bath would be nice… But the wisest part of me was whispering even more loudly, You need to move your body. You need to walk. This is the only thing that will offer real healing.

The victory was that I listened.

I took myself to a pretty trail I had never hiked, made sure there were other cars in the parking lot (so as to avoid a stressful, creepy walk) and I promised myself one thing: that I would walk until something shifted in me. And then, when it shiifted, I would keep walking even further until I was dog tired and red cheeked and I knew for sure that my cells had been rearranged.

As I walked I remembered how natural it is for me to do this kind of thing, how much my spirit needs this to stay balanced and happy, and how I had somehow forgotten this fact in recent years. When I was kid and lived near the ocean, I would walk every night by myself to the beach for sunset. When I was a bit older and got my first mountain bike, I discovered that you could bicycle along the hard sand at low tide and get to the next town. I would ride and get hot chocolate at the cafe, my secret alone adventure. In college, crushed out on a boy who was an avid mountain biker, I cycled several hours every day in the hills in Santa Barbara trying to keep up with him. I would return scraped up and bruised, sweaty and very happy. (I never ended up getting the guy, he was gay it turns out! but we had great times together)

In coaching training, new coaches would often say to their clients, get out of your head and into your body! I loved it when one of my teachers remarked that your head is actually attached to your body, and being in your head is being in your body. As I walked I could see the inevitability of this, how moving my body so rhythmically and deliberately was literally moving around the stuck places in my brain. It took only 20 minutes before I felt better, but I happily walked for two more hours.

What’s my point, right? We all know this.

The trick is that little victory I pointed to earlier. The victory was in choosing this over the other. It was choosing self-care over all of the things I ought to have been doing. It was choosing the variety of self-care that my heart knew I needed, even though I didn’t initially feel like it. My gremlins wanted me to stay home and pay the bills, clean the house, you’re paying good money for this sitter for goodness sakes! The saddest part of me that gives up when things are hard, wanted to crawl into bed and hide for as long as possible. The unconscious part of me just wanted the distraction of shopping or work or bad tv.

Self-care comes in many different forms. Sometimes the best thing actually is to go to work and to be distracted by something bigger than you (or just different than you) Sometimes a hot bath and a juicy book is exactly the right medicine.

I am learning about the right medicine for me, the right tool for the right job. As I go into the new year, I am hoping to listen more to that wiser voice, and in the clamor that is sometimes my head, to be able to discern which voice is truly the most compassionate.

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Hi, I’m Andrea

On this blog you’ll be learning with me how to use our voices, share our creative superpowers and live life in full color.

As an artist, photographer, life coach + mentor, I’m redefining what it means to be a SUPERHERO — ‘cause in my world, it’s got nothing to do with capes, spandex or sidekicks and everything to do with tenderness, intuition & baby steps of bravery.

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66 Comments

  1. Samantha D

    I love this post! That’s exactly how I have been feeling lately, and, it’s refreshing to know that we’re not alone in the jumble of our thoughts. Thanks!

  2. rowena

    Self care.
    That is definitely something I need to spend time with in the new year.
    I do not know which self care option is ever the right one for the moment. Is it work? Is it painting a picture? Is it sitting in the garden with a magazine or taking a bath or taking a walk? I never can tell.
    Harumph. Another journey for the year.

  3. Lizzie

    Thanks for this post. I have become too neglectful in the self-care department. Not giving myself permission to do what feels like the right thing, but just doing what it seems like I’m supposed to be doing. I am not wearing it well and it is reflecting back in negative ways. Definitely something to consider as an opportunity for better in the new year.

  4. spoiledonlychild

    I want you to know that your blog has been so inspiring to me this year. In particular, the posts about the labyrinth and the “grow” mug were revelations for me. They helped me see my struggles as things moving me forward, rather than things standing in my way. I hope it helps to know what good your words have done. Happy new year.

  5. Andrea D

    I second the motion about the Grow Mug post as well. Its good to hear from you again. I think I need to take a really good, LONG, solo walk again. I’m being attacked by the Blahs and some gremlins. I hear Gremlin’s don’t like sunlight – but I do. 😉

  6. Susan Jonsson

    You have written such a beautiful and important post… You mention options….choices…and it occured to me how important that is….to even have choices….as many do not. A blessing counted. In addition to choosing to walk…you also chose to share this part of your life with others, which takes courage, energy and care. I for one appreciate you, and all the good things that come to me as I consider how much I can relate to what you are expressing. My sons are grown up and as priorities shift I still find myself needing to pay attention to self care. Many blessings to you for the New Year.
    Susan

  7. Susan Jonsson

    You have written such a beautiful and important post… You mention options….choices…and it occured to me how important that is….to even have choices….as many do not. A blessing counted. In addition to choosing to walk…you also chose to share this part of your life with others, which takes courage, energy and care. I for one appreciate you, and all the good things that come to me as I consider how much I can relate to what you are expressing. My sons are grown up and as priorities shift I still find myself needing to pay attention to self care. Many blessings to you for the New Year.
    Susan

  8. Kelsie

    You’re wonderful Andrea. Such a timely post. Last night I was feeling much like you were. I decided, I too would walk. Albeit on the treadmill, but walk nonetheless. The victory was doing this instead of watching a movie, sleeping, or cleaning this or that. I’ve had Elizabeth Gilbert’s Last American Man sitting on my nightstand for weeks. Last night it called to me, and I discovered I can very much walk and read. A half an hour flew by. Me: walking, reading and basking in the glow from my Happy Lite. That book, that walk: I embraced self care.

  9. Molly Merrick

    We talk about self care ALL the time in social work school. It’s one of the many ways I know I’ve chosed the right profession.
    How can it be possible to take care of others without taking care of yourself?
    My self care often consists of friends, dancing, and/or wine.

  10. lisa

    Hooray for your victory!

  11. Antonia

    This post was *just* what I needed to see today, as I begin the new year resolved to pay more attention to my own self care. Well done you for realising what you needed and doing it! And thanks for the inspiration for me to do the same. Happy New Year!
    Antonia 🙂

  12. kimberly/tippytoes

    Listening more to my wiser voice is exactly the thought I need to take into the new year. Thank you!

  13. Puanani

    Your timing is always impeccable. I had been hiding for the last few days, with bad tv, not creamy pasta, but whipped cream. I finally pulled myself out of the bed early this morning and forced myself to go to yoga. As usual, it was the right decision. It always is the right decision. Tomorrow, I plan to go the sea to celebrate a dear friend’s birthday. I am looking forward to letting the sea air clean out the cobwebs of 2008 and leave room for the new and brilliant of 2009. Keep walking, keep moving and sit and soak when necessary!

  14. krista

    amen sister….AMEN.
    i’ve decided in 2009 i’ll log 1000 miles…..just for my sanity.

  15. krista

    i just realized the beginning words to the song i’ve got playing on my blog today…..
    “i walked all morning to lift my heart…” Big Jumps by Emiliana Torrini
    how appropriate. 🙂

  16. mccabe

    i so understand this
    beautiful language and wisdom.
    bless you.
    thank you.
    mccabe xx

  17. shari

    i really resonated with this post. thank you andrea!

  18. Laura Neff

    Ah! Brilliantly shared and SUCH a vivid reminder of those tiny, vital moments that make all all ALL the difference. Thank you! I may need to share this with some of my clients, if you don’t mind…!
    xo,
    L.

  19. another outspoken female

    Wonderful post…now if I can just pull myself out of bed and into a different part of my body, I’ve been inspired to take a walk 🙂
    Thanks.
    Hope the new year is a inspiring one for you.

  20. Nerdy Renegade

    Fabulous post! What priceless wisdom you’ve captured here! Hooray for this victory!
    Your last paragraph is worth its weight in gold, dear Andrea. Thank you for sharing this story with us.
    BTW, I took myself for a good, long walk – and an exploration/photo session in a local cemetery – yesterday, too! The sun was out, the sky was blue, the temperature was tolerable. It did wonders! (And then I let myself sink into the couch with a blanket and good book that evening.)
    Happy New Year to you and your lovely family!

  21. monique

    I think there was something almost cosmically wrong with yesterday. I was in a funk and a great mny of my friends also expressed feeling off… then again maybe it’s post holiday bluesiness??? In either case, I didn’t do the right thing yesterday and was miserable. This morning I vowed to get a big daunting task out of the way, which would also get me out of the house and bring us (the kiddos and I) by a neat park on the way home. I think it really helped. Thanks for the serendipity!

  22. abc

    lovely post! the first year of parenting is very hard. At least for most of us, I think. It is exhausting. It is overwhelming. And as much joy as there usually is, there is just as much in the way of feeling like it is too hard, too stressful, too exhausting. And we can’t forget that we also have to mourn the end of our days as having a life that belongs all to us (or maybe a partner) and not to a little creature who needs us more than we can understand. That first year–I hardly remember it now!
    You inspire me, Superhero.

  23. ~moe~

    Andrea, you always have the right post when I need it. Thank you for this today. Happy New Year.

  24. sonrie

    Oh yes, this is just what I needed to read. How amazing that physical activity can brighten a mood. Happy New Years’ to you!

  25. anna

    Ah… you are reading my mind again. I have been craving a hike in a particular trail here in SoCal where I will only be for a few more days … instead, I have been not getting anything done that needs to get done…
    I am hoping that the next few days will bring some relief…and walking…

  26. Laura

    Have had a lot of reminders today of what I already should know. Getting out and moving is one of my new year’s plans. I give you joy of your victory, Andrea. 🙂

  27. alison

    I meant to say those first two years. Not first year. Though the first year is the hardest, it is hard the second year too. Boy, I guess it is always hard! Though it feels easier now that my girl is five. sorry, blither blather.

  28. Trish

    Sweet Andrea,
    Have you ever read Marlo Thomas’ book “The Right Words at the Right Time”? This post has the right words at the right time. Today I took a bath and just submerged myself for a good long time while talking to a friend…I gave myself some self care and then I read this post acknowledging it. You have truly touched my life in 2008. My world is more thoughtful, authentic and healing having you as a mentor. When my computer is remedied I will forward you the Squam pictures I have. From my heart to yours, thank you for transforming parts of my soul this year.
    Love, Trish
    patriciadolan@comcast.net

  29. Trish

    Sweet Andrea,
    Have you ever read Marlo Thomas’ book “The Right Words at the Right Time”? This post has the right words at the right time. Today I took a bath and just submerged myself for a good long time while talking to a friend…I gave myself some self care and then I read this post acknowledging it. You have truly touched my life in 2008. My world is more thoughtful, authentic and healing having you as a mentor. When my computer is remedied I will forward you the Squam pictures I have. From my heart to yours, thank you for transforming parts of my soul this year.
    Love, Trish
    patriciadolan@comcast.net

  30. Trish

    Sweet Andrea,
    Have you ever read Marlo Thomas’ book “The Right Words at the Right Time”? This post has the right words at the right time. Today I took a bath and just submerged myself for a good long time while talking to a friend…I gave myself some self care and then I read this post acknowledging it. You have truly touched my life in 2008. My world is more thoughtful, authentic and healing having you as a mentor. When my computer is remedied I will forward you the Squam pictures I have. From my heart to yours, thank you for transforming parts of my soul this year.
    Love, Trish
    patriciadolan@comcast.net

  31. liz

    i totally get this.
    and how sometimes i know people that don’t need the same kind of ‘medicine’ nor as often as i might. and that doesn’t make anything wrong with me and my needs. only when i don’t listen to myself.

  32. Emme

    Its amazing to me how so many of us can be feeling the same things right now, and you spoke it just right for me. I am definitely needing to feel that shift…I think a hike is in the imminent future, cold, rain and all! thanks for sharing your heart.

  33. Jen

    what a fabulous post… I love it. I feel like I go through those times where I need to move my body… to walk. Oh my, how I love a long walk. And, in the winter, my treadmill just doesn’t do it for me. Today was a beautiful day. And I knew that I should take a long hike OUT IN THE FRESH AIR. But, I didn’t. I “got things done.” I went to my classroom and made some progress organizing and cleaning up. And, that certainly had it’s place. But, I just stayed tucked under the covers way too long this morning… when like you said… I should have hushed the gremlins and hopped out of bed. oh well.
    you have inspired me. I will be hushing the gremlins SOON. 😉 😉
    thanks!

  34. Jen

    what a fabulous post… I love it. I feel like I go through those times where I need to move my body… to walk. Oh my, how I love a long walk. And, in the winter, my treadmill just doesn’t do it for me. Today was a beautiful day. And I knew that I should take a long hike OUT IN THE FRESH AIR. But, I didn’t. I “got things done.” I went to my classroom and made some progress organizing and cleaning up. And, that certainly had it’s place. But, I just stayed tucked under the covers way too long this morning… when like you said… I should have hushed the gremlins and hopped out of bed. oh well.
    you have inspired me. I will be hushing the gremlins SOON. 😉 😉
    thanks!

  35. gem

    the whole of this speaks to me, Andrea* thank you…
    warmly,
    gem

  36. Tara

    Wonderful as I sit and read, with my 4 month old wiggling on my lap, I think about my little discovery in the woods and on shore lines back home. What great clarity I have found there and how I have forgotten about that. Sometimes finding the right tool to fix oneself is sometimes taking a step back to the basics that worked so long ago but have fallen by the way side.
    I am a new mother trying to find my way to who I have become, all over again.

  37. The Other Laura

    I know this feeling exactly. It’s sometimes hard to do the very thing we need the most.
    You’ve inspired me. I am going to get dressed and get out and walk this morning. See what rearranges in my head. Thanks!

  38. gayle

    Self care is such a hard thing for me to do on a regular basis. I always feel so very selfish when I chose to do something solely for my own spirit, chose to do something to help me heal a new or old wound, or just to do something for my soul that my soul needs.
    I seem to forget, that when I do take the time for myself, I am more able to fully be with the people I love and care for most. I have more focus and energy for them when I take those selfish bits of time.
    Thank you for the gentle reminder, that it is indeed ok and warranted to be a little selfish.

  39. Meg

    Hi Andrea!
    I haven’t been commenting much of late, but I wanted to chime in mostly to say Happy New Year. I always think of you at New Years time as I do my Mondo Beyondo list. Last night my better half and I did Mondo Beyondo/Life lists together in honor of our upcoming wedding. It was amazing and wonderful to see how similar they were. I was also thinking about how many things have come true since I did my very first Mondo Beyondo list, the first year you posted about it, and wow. They really are magic, huh?
    Also! We were out in the Mission last night, and a GORGEOUS superhero necklace was out and about too. Its always so inspiring to spot them about town. I feel like I’m in on a secret with the wearer, whether she knows it or not.
    So – I’m wishing you a 2009 filled with magic at your finger tips and plenty of intention. I’m wishing you time to confront painful thoughts, face them down, and sort them through. And more then anything I’m wishing you space to be your most truthful and brave self. And yes, I’m *forcefully* wishing for you to have the time you need for self care. Love to you and yours from the fog wrapped city across the bay.
    xo
    Meg

  40. jolene

    my new year’s mantra is all about self-care, too. i completely agree about the healing power of walks/forests. if only that wasn’t so difficult to accomplish in the dead-winter of chicago!
    happy near year, andrea!

  41. kage

    Thanks for the post. Just what I needed to face 2009 Resolutions.

  42. k.n.

    thank you for your openness andrea.
    here is a poem i love … an entrance into this new year … let’s all ‘unhook our tired bras”!
    stripping
    by alison luterman
    Strip off the shoes and pantyhose,
    the grown-up drag. Undo those soft
    white arms and their blond down,
    moss made of light,
    Wash away the sour working sweat,
    fatigue of heels and fluorescent lights.
    Unhook that tired bra, unclench the feet
    with their worn-out travelogues, knees,
    complaining in their bone cradles,
    the drooling sex, and the shamed
    belly, pouched like a stubborn mountain.
    Release the years in a shower of moths shaken free
    from an old sweater so full of holes
    you can see through to the skin.
    Strip off the skin. Let it hang
    over a chair the way it has hung
    from your body lately, exhausted,
    confessing to years of experience.
    Strip away experience, that false umbrella
    blocking only the sun.
    Strip your mind of these words, clods
    of dirt kicked up by donkey mind, clouds
    that will soon pass. Let the clang of language die
    in your mouth. Let your overworked tongue
    hang, innocent and dumb
    as tomorrow morning. No one owns it yet
    that paper mini-dress of time, meant
    to be cast off after one wearing.
    I want to strip. It’s the jewel
    at the center I seek; let me be oyster, hoarding pearl.
    Let me be coal, sheltering diamond.
    Though in my heart of hearts I am afraid
    I may be onion, each white circle
    of stinky tears hiding another
    exactly like it. Or rose:
    whose petals are her everything.

  43. donab

    You are so often in a similar frame of mind as me, only you are able to articulate it so much more eloquently. Thank you for that! I have been too often choosing bed, more pasta, my dark and cold studio aimlessly browsing the internet and feeling the inevitable results in my body and my heart. I need to listen to the voice telling me to go walk in the woods, put my toes in sand, soak up the sunshine. Thank you for the reminder.

  44. beth

    I did this recently myself….not even realizing a walk in the park was what I needed, thinking it was just something I wanted to do. So with frozen fingers and a red nose when I headed back to the car, I was renewed and felt alive again!!

  45. beth

    I did this recently myself….not even realizing a walk in the park was what I needed, thinking it was just something I wanted to do. So with frozen fingers and a red nose when I headed back to the car, I was renewed and felt alive again!!

  46. ~moe~

    Andrea, will you be hosting Mondo Beyondo again?

  47. Tea

    Oh my dear, I’ve been away from blogs for a bit and to come back to this is just lovely. What a beautiful post, and so very true (and reminds me of something I wrote for my site today, about walking Ocean Beach).
    Long walks in lovely places might just be the key to life.
    I hope you and yours have a new year filled with joy and beauty in the ongoing lesson of life. Thank you for sharing your days with us.

  48. GailNHB

    What a beautiful, thoughtful, peace-filled post, Andrea. I sooooo need this now. The reminder to take care of me as I struggle to take care of my daughter and my family. I think a walk is in order for me very soon.
    Walk until the shift happens.
    Keep walking.
    Love that.

  49. mary

    Andrea sending you Hogmanay Greetings from Edinburgh !
    I hope 2009 is a fantastic year for you !

  50. Sandy

    For years and years, your posts have resonated so completely with me, especially posts like this. I walk to get out of my head too — my walks start out hurried and with little attention the world, and by the time I get home, my pace has slowed and I’m actually breathing again. The walks are restoring. And I remember several years ago when I hit a point of total emotional exhaustion, I said to someone that I wanted to walk until my physical exhaustion matched the emotional because it felt like the only way out of the sad place that I was in. So thank you for sharing this and helping so many of us know we are not alone.

  51. bridge

    Yes, caring for the soul often means facing your heart’s pain over looking for distraction. happy new year dear. may it be full of self-care and love.

  52. JenG

    You are a phenomena genuine magical honest beautiful amazing soul. Thank you for writing what and how you do.

  53. mamie

    you are awesome. happiest new year to you. i think i want to go take a hike now. 🙂

  54. kim

    yes! I so often forget (duh! it is right there behind the door!) that being outside… brings me inside. You captured this so perfectly. I am not alone. Happy New Year and many happy hikes to you.

  55. robin

    just found your blog, so lovely! you are a great writer. I will be back for more 😉
    happy 2009!

  56. vivienne

    such a beautiful realization!
    i found myself in one of those moments this holiday when i decided to go out in the cold for a ski. it transformed my teariness into a balanced energy! i forget too often that all we need to do to make change is just move!!!

  57. tricia

    good for you….it is really difficult to choose self care, especially when you are a mom:) Here’s to a new year, full of wise choices.

  58. Nicole

    I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said a million times. “Thanks” seems so trite. But it’s what I feel. Thank you for writing. Thanks for sharing. Thanks for being. You matter to so many of us. You touch us. You are a superhero.

  59. tracey

    yes, yes, yes. i am listening to the same whisper. that wise voice is indeed worth listening to. loved this andrea!

  60. Sara Cotner

    So profound! I just found your blog today, and I suspect that you are a kindred spirit. Hooray! I am so thankful to the internet for helping us create larger and larger families of choice. Thank you for living your life out loud.

  61. Amy

    THANK YOU! oh my gosh you are me! I need to walk in the cold I need to quit telling myself I would rather get the things I need to get done done…I need to walk like you would not believe…not only for my aching back, but my mind…Thanks for this post!

  62. Teresa

    You are so right. Thank you for being a reminder, a beacon in the fog! I vow with this comment to start choosing the right medicine for myself. Thank you.

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