good life with shilea cooper
Part of cultivating a good life is being open to new adventures.
About two and a half years ago our family started planning and preparing for my oldest son to go on a mission. It was during these months that I became keenly aware of how fast time flies. How could 18 years have gone by so fast? Was he ready? How would I handle the change? I wanted to spend as much time as I could with my family and especially my son, but it seemed like even finding time to sit down together for dinner was impossible. Everyone had different schedules and responsibilities. Life was pulling us in all different directions and things were not going as I had planned. Stress and anxiety slowly crept in. One day I cracked. I was done with all the planning, preparing, deadlines, schedules, chores, jobs, school, etc. It was time for an adventure!
I quickly planned a two day getaway and told everyone to clear their schedules. I didn’t care what they had going on. We were going on a trip! We have always gone on annual family vacations and done fun things together. This time it was different because it was so spontaneous.
A couple days later we were on our way to Zions National Park just a few hours away. I thought it was just going to be a relaxing couple of days in the canyon filled with picnics and short hikes. It turned into us hiking Angels Landing, one of the most adventurous hikes in the park. We were totally not prepared for that adventure, especially given the fact that my son had just broken his collarbone and had surgery a week before. But we had a blast! And we had lots of stories to tell! More importantly, we reconnected.
As soon as we got home I was planning another adventure. And then another one and another one. I looked for quick adventures we could have not far from home. Hikes in the canyon, new restaurants, places we had never been to before, and so on! It almost became a challenge. What part of our city and surrounding area had we not seen or experienced before? Going on those adventures helped me to clear my head of all the stress, spend more time with my family, enjoy the present moment, and look forward to the future.
“We travel not to escape life but for life not to escape us.” -Anonymous
After my son left on his mission I continued with the “adventure” planning. I explored places like Costa Rica, Wyoming, St. George, Arizona, and California. But I also signed up for hot yoga classes, photography seminars, online scrapbook groups, flower workshops, etc. If I saw something that I wanted to do, instead of thinking it would be something I got to do one day, I took the plunge and dove right in. I met new people, served others, and became more fully involved in those things around me. I stopped stressing so much about the past and what I could have done better and looked forward to the new adventures in my life. I still have things and circumstances that overwhelm me and stress me out. But when those moments come, I find myself saying, “It’s time for an adventure!” And I set out to plan my next one.
Last week was one of those times. Life got complicated and stressful and I decided it was time for an adventure with my husband. We drove just a short twenty minutes away to American Fork Canyon. Our goal was to find the perfect spot to set up our hammocks. Driving around we came to this river. It was beautiful and I knew it was the place. Pretty soon my husband was setting up the hammocks, not by the river, but right over it. Totally not what I had envisioned, but I just went with it.
“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.” -Helen Keller
As I was sitting in my hammock, it occurred to me that my life was like that river stretched out before me. Parts were calm, others more rapid. One of my favorite authors, Lisa Wingate, sums up the feelings I had that day quite perfectly in her book, Tending Roses:
“Indian wisdom says our lives are rivers. We are born somewhere small and quiet and we move toward a place we cannot see, but only imagine. Along our journey, people and events flow into us, and we are created of everywhere and everyone we have passed. Each event, each person, changes us in some way. Even in times of drought we are still moving and growing, but it is during seasons of rain that we expand the most — when water flows from all directions, sweeping at terrifying speed, chasing against rocks, spilling over boundaries. These are painful times, but they enable us to carry burdens we could never have thought possible.”
As life unfolds before me, I am ever more grateful for the adventures I have had in my life. Those that have been placed before me and those that I have created. Our lives are like that river. Ever changing. Ever flowing. Each person, each event, each place changes us for the better. What we choose to do with those experiences is up to us.
“The greatest adventure is what lies ahead.” -J.R.R. Tolkien
Shilea Cooper is a member of our Creative Team using the digital product. She currently resides in Highland, Utah, with her husband Mark and her three kids — Cole (20), Keri (17), and Carson (16).