Bear

My younger daughter is attending Girl Scout camp. She’s participating in lots of traditional camp activities like first aid and rock climbing and archery. They’ve made God’s Eyes (those yarn wrapped popsicle sticks that provided days of fun when I was a kid too), and duct tape pouches and they’ve tie-dyed shirts. They’ve sung many, many silly songs and chant-alouds (those not-quite-songs that children echo after a camp counselor) and memorized the hand motions that accompany them; songs that get stuck in their heads so they sing them not only at camp, but at home too, over and over again.

For me, camp weeks fill my house with a stillness that doesn’t happen often in a homeschool family. While the oldest only had three days of a school-sponsored art camp, she has either exercised her God-given right as a teenager to sleep absurdly long or has disappeared to friends’ houses, gulping summer socialization down like it was water in a desert. So there has been a lot of delicious silence around here.

At the same time, it’s been tough to be alone. A very dear friend and her family moved six and a half hours a way last week and the loss of their immediate presence in our lives has been immense already. Couple that with the sadness and weight I’ve been feeling lately about living in such a complicated and often tragic world and, well, I’ve been a weepy mess at points.

One of the song-ish chant alouds I vividly remember from my days at Girl Scout Camp is “Going On A Bear Hunt.” I bet you know it too:

 We’re going on a bear hunt. (We’re going on a bear hunt.)
Gonna catch a big one. (Gonna catch a big one.)
I’m not scared (I’m not scared.)
It’s a beautiful day. (It’s a beautiful day.)

What happens next is that there are a series of obstacles we have to face to continue on the bear hunt; swishy grass, a cold river, yucky mud – you get the idea. But here’s the important part, every time there is an obstacle, the chant notes something really important:

We can’t go over it, (We can’t go over it,)
We can’t go under it. (We can’t go under it.)
Ohhh NO! (Ohhh NO!)
We gotta go through it. (We gotta go through it.)

 All those messy, uncomfortable, scary parts of our lives, we gotta go through ‘em. Sure we can avoid them for a certain amount of time, but if we do that, sooner or later we have to admit we’re not really on the bear hunt anymore, we’re sitting on the couch binge watching Gilmore Girls and gorging ourselves on cherry Pop Tarts. (Not that I have any experience with that….) Going through the scary parts, is, well, scary and hard and exhausting. But it’s the only way.

Avoiding those hard parts keeps us stuck, unproductive and exhausted. And while it might be exhausted to go through the cold river or truly taking time to mourn any kind of loss, or deal with the reasons you find yourself awake at 3:30 in the morning ordering something you don’t need from the home shopping channel, at least at the end of that ordeal, you can recharge and keep going. Find yourself refusing to go through anything hard and the energy spent avoiding the pain leaves you exhausted day in and day out

So I’m letting myself be a weepy mess. I’m allowing myself to feel exhausted from feeling sad about my friends and the world. I’m dealing with it, obstacle by obstacle. I can’t say I feel great, but I am down to only one pop tart every other day or so and only a couple of hours of television at night. My bear hunt goes on. Slowly at times, but I’m still going through it.

What are your current bear hunts? And what are things you’re calling bear hunts, but aren’t really because you’re too busy trying to go over or under or around it? I find remembering to breathe several times a day, looking at my world in tiny pieces- a few minutes of writing here, crossing one small thing off my Must-Do list there, remembering to be present in this moment and gently asking myself, “What’s the next most important thing,” helps me put one foot in front of the other. I would love to hear what helps you. Feel free to share it with all of us by leaving a comment.

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