Friday, March 7, 2014

The Thinking Box

We all have a place where we can go to clear our minds. A place where there are few disturbances and we are able to get through a thought without being interrupted. For me, those places have changed and adapted over the years as my life has changed.

When I was growing up, my favorite place to think, imagine, create, and just be a kid were the woods and creek in the back of my house. Give me some tolerable weather and I was outside. Breakfast in my little body, clothes on, and out the door I went, barefoot if at all possible.  I never wanted to wear shoes as a kid. My feet were tough. I could walk across our gravel driveway as if it was the lush green grass in our yard.  Sometimes my parents would try to make me wear shoes outside, but I learned to outfox them. I wore them out the door but quickly hid them along the path in the woods to be retrieved on the way home.

Out the door and onto the small worn dirt path that led me down to the creek.  Dirt, rocks and sticks under my small callused feet, poison ivy trying to brush my ankles, I would run down to the creek looking for my next adventure. Scaling rocks, wading in the water, making dams and chasing water spiders were always part of my mission. Alone on my journey, I tended to sing out loud, a performance for only the animals to hear. I would talk out loud to myself sometimes about what I was doing. Other times I was lost in my thoughts and ideas, working them out with only the birds to answer to.

As a moody teenager, I retreated to my room for peace. This was the place I could be alone. Music playing, I would lie on my bed and brood over whatever teenagers brood about, most likely boys, friends, school, and my parents’ rules. Sometimes I wrote in my journal, scribbling out my thoughts about why trigonometry and analytical geometry were so hard and so boring or trying to understand why “so and so” broke up with me. Life is hard as a teenager. There are lots of lessons to be learned, especially the lesson about how the world doesn’t revolve around you.

Years later I was living and working on a dude ranch in Colorado. The first year I worked there, I would go hiking on my day off.  Traipsing through the woods, backpack full of water and snacks, sometimes listening to my Discman (that certainly aged me right there). Hours worth of hiking through the mountains to clear my head and get myself ready to wake up and take care of the guests who were vacationing there that week. I don’t remember now what I thought about or what problems were that I solved, I just knew that each time I went out the warmth of the sun and the beauty of my surroundings healed me.

Fast forward about 20 years and now I rely on what I like to call, “The Thinking Box.” This is a place where the kids (mostly) leave me alone. I am not interrupted by their incessant need for snacks or by a phone ringing.  In this place I have solved some hard life problems. I thought of the idea for the first article that I wrote and had published in the CrossFit Journal.  Sometimes in The Thinking Box I have written blog posts in my head, posts that never made it into the light of day.

In the Box I can cry and no one can hear me - because sometimes a woman just needs to cry.  These cries are my own, not to be shared, just a release I need from time to time. My cries are hidden because the sound of rushing water washes them away.  The warm water also soothes my aching muscles after a hard workout, and somehow I also feel that the water washes away all the extra stuff in my head; the rubbish that has tried to stick to my brain, clouding my thoughts, weighing me down with doubts, and not allowing me to think clearly.  In the Box I can take a deep breath and say out loud, “Ok, let me think about this,” and there is a release. The junk is gone, at least for now, washed away and circling the drain. Now my mind is able to do the work that it needs to do. Thoughts, solutions, and ideas flow freely.

I don’t have a lot of time in The Thinking Box, maybe 15 minutes max. But those minutes are my minutes. No music, no phone, nothing else to distract me. Just the hot water beating down on me as I solve life’s problems and create new stories and dreams, all in a 15 minute shower. Thank God for a long hot shower.