Call it addition by subtraction, letting go, or disconnect to reconnect.
Friday, my 15-year old son, aka Stud, three other young men, another adult, and I went backpacking above Breckenridge, CO. As we left town my phone wasn’t fully charged, so to conserve battery I turned off my reception. Best choice I ever made.
I spent 19 hours mostly disconnected from the virtual world and totally connected to the real world. This was a welcome connection, since I’ve lamented lately that I’ve been disconnected from life. Although I talk about and strive for authenticity, sometimes the most authentic thing I can do is admit that I’m not feeling real, that I’m not really HERE.
Such has been the case for the greater part of a year. I’ve been traveling frequently, worried about my kids and their well being, striving to add value in other ways, and working to build my speaking business while simultaneously working on my second book. I know, practice what you preach and slow down…
Well, that chance came Friday and Saturday. Even getting on our way was rushed and hurried since I was trying to help Stud’s mom move her treadmill from her basement to the loft. Stud and I were late getting to the meeting point, but from that moment on, everything slowed down.
As we put on our packs, I was certain that I was ready for the hike, even though I knew it was going to be somewhat difficult. What I didn’t reckon was that my time spent traveling to lower altitudes throughout this year would affect me so much—it was either that or I’m not very effective in my workouts; I’m choosing to believe the former.
That strain and pain, however, was the perfect beginning to reconnecting. Hard, physical exertion, especially when trying to keep up with your son so you don’t look like a balding, middle-aged wash out, is gratifying. It was HARD. I couldn’t breathe. My heart was beating FAST. And I was connecting to nature. The views were incredible. My son and his chums were having fun. The other leader and I were talking about meaningful things. I was in another world. This world.
As we got into camp, I noticed just how profound the beauty of the area is. I commented that the view once the sun was up the next day was going to be unreal. Indeed, it was.
That night we all worked together to build a fire. One person held the flashlight, one held the awkward log we were trying to cut, one used the hatchet, one pounded the hatchet into the log using a sturdy branch once it was lodged in, one shaved the wood into kindling, and the other took turns where needed. It was silly and goofy and completely not necessary and so much fun. There were little quips, self-adulation at a great job, and compliments from the others for doing something especially useful.
Building the fire itself was an exercise in teamwork, patience, and idiocy. We built the fire, Stud sprayed sunscreen on the kindling, and we tried to light. Nothing. Again. Nothing. Again. Nothing. Now with more kindling. Nothing. Now with a paper towel to get it started. Nothing. It must have taken us more than 10 tries to finally get the thing going. Then it went out. Then it was blown back to life. Then we smothered it with too much wood. At last we had a little fire that burned for 15 minutes. Not long, but enough time to allow us to have a meaningful discussion about spiritual things. OK, it wasn’t all that meaningful because the young men were caught up in the fire and needing to talk to a bush. But it was still special.
In the morning, I awoke before the others and took the time to enjoy a solitary morning devotional. I walked up the hill on one side of our camp to take in the view, see how far I could get, and connect with nature and God. From high on the hill I got some good pictures of the area and could watch the others wake up and get going. When I came down to join them they had breakfast going at the lake with crystal clear waters, thus earning its name Crystal Lake.
We spent our time after breakfast hiking up a hill on the opposite side of the valley, again to spectacular views. The whole time we hiked I felt THERE. I was present. I was enjoying my son and his friends and life. I just existed and that was enough. No fear. No worry. No concern—other than the boys doing something almost dumb, as 14-16-year old boys are prone to do. I was present and it was enough.
The hike back was punctuated by stops for walking through the snow cave carved by the river and to take pictures. The two hikes that morning had been strenuous, and the hike back was too, because it was consistently downhill for 2.75 miles, almost as hard as consistently uphill the day before.
Back at the car I felt at peace. I was happy to have been there. I felt closer to my son. I felt closer to me. I felt closer to life. I checked my phone perhaps 5 times while we were there to ensure all was well with my children or to send a text that I was up on the north hill so they didn’t worry. Other than that, I was disconnected. And in disconnecting I’ve never felt so connected or alive.
My invitation: Disconnect more, worry less. Reconnect more, check your phone less. I know I’m not the first guy to this party and this message has been shared before. So maybe you didn’t need this lesson as much as this guy right HERE.