“Health isn’t just about the absence of illness or pain, it’s also physical, emotional, mental, intellectual, and spiritual fitness—in short, it’s about the joy of being alive.” — Richard Louv
Richard Louv is the author of wonderful books including “The Nature Principle” and my personal favorite “Last Child in the Woods,” which helped us decide that two years of homeschooling would strengthen not just Natalie’s but our entire family’s physical, emotional, mental, intellectual, and spiritual fitness.
A story Louv includes in “Last Child in the Woods” makes me laugh and gives me a lump in my throat each time I read it. A mother told Louv that her family had fallen into the high-achievement trap. She described it like this:
Our son was overstressed. We were overstressed. This realization came to us on one of those nights when all of our voices had raised an octave and all of our eyes were opened just a little wider than normal and we all were just…it was just too much. We peaked out. Suddenly we realized we were giving our son the message that he had to achieve in order to be lovable. My husband and I were doing it, too: he was working long hours to be lovable and I was doing all these extracurricular activities to be lovable in the community, and it was just crazy. We were getting less lovable.
But they decided to make changes. Louv describes their process: “the family made a list of everything they loved to do, and everything they hated to do, and then compared lists. The son surprised them: He didn’t really like soccer, which was news to his parents. What he really loved was working in the backyard garden. That surprised his parents, too. Together, they discovered that they all loved being outside, camping, and walking, with no particular destination in mind.”
So, what did they do? The father cut back on overtime at work. They stopped scheduling so many social engagements. And they began taking long family walks (with no particular destination in mind). As a result, they found more pleasure in their lives, in their relationships with each other, and in their connection to nature. They had re-discovered joy.
I so appreciate how the mother says that they were all trying too hard to be lovable. I think it’s one of truest, and most vivid ways I’d describe the sense of being out of balance in our lives.
If you have such a story to share, please do share it with us. I’m hearing from readers, who so want to know that they are not alone in what I describe as the “search for balance in an unbalanced age.” Know that even small changes can make a big difference.