30 Days of Thanksgiving – Day 4: Parks

In the month of November, I’m meditating on my gratitude for something different each day.

30 Days of Thanksgiving: Parks by Bits of Beauty

In late 2008, shortly before I started this blog, I was suffering from anxiety for the second time in my life. I’d had depression before, but this was a whole other beast. Anxiety sucks. It really, really SUCKS. I was in therapy and conceded to medication for the second time ever. To top it off, I was experiencing insomnia for the first (and sweet, merciful God, hopefully the only) time, either from my anti-anxiety medication or the anxiety itself. Joy. Can I tell you how much insomnia blows? It freakin’ blows monkey balls. I can’t even begin to tell you how crazy and desperate it all made me feel.

I began to look for anything that would help. Decluttering? Going back to yoga? Indulging my senses? Visualization? Music? WHATTHEHECKDOIDOOMGTHISREALLYSUCKS!!! Some of it helped. Some of it didn’t. One change in particular stood out.

I spent time outdoors. I ate my daytime meals outside. I read books lying in the grass or on the beach as often as possible. I took Aidan to the park so that I could sit on the swings and forget how I felt for a few moments. I went from abhorring being outside to taking naps in the backyard. I don’t know why I did this, but it felt right. It helped in small ways. And then I took Aidan to upstate NY to visit my sister and his cousins for apple picking and fall weather. The entire trip furthered whatever progress I was making, but a random hike on the Appalachian trail really changed things for me.

I remember thinking to myself, “So this is what it feels like? This is why all those crazy people go hiking.”

I found peace in those woods and carried it home with me.

I went back to Florida, completed many more months of therapy, weaned off the happy pills, and gave my mental health issues an epic ass kicking. I did some hard work, relearned behaviors, and built habits. But something about that peace in the woods was magic; it was my turning point.

I’ve felt that magic since then. The second time I ever felt that sort of peace was during a brief walk around Muir Woods. Most recently? Throughout Ireland and Scotland, whenever we found ourselves in a park. So here’s where I’m going with this little story.

I’m thankful for parks. I’m seriously thankful for the miles of protected and preserved nature. Who knows if I would have ever been able to experience that moment, standing in the middle of all those trees, without the protection provided to them by being designated a park. I’m equally thankful for the local, man-made parks with playgrounds and dog runs. Anyone who has ever stepped off the streets of NYC into Central Park can vouch for the respite a park provides.

Local, state, national, beach, woods, wilderness, and man-made – we’re lucky to have them. I’m so very thankful, and I hope they’ll be around long after I no longer am.

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