Last week, while we were on the road to Acadia National Park in Maine, I mentioned to Ryan and her friend Piper that I'd read how, if a person has trouble sleeping, she simply needs to go camping for a week. It's supposed to re-set our internal clocks naturally. Ryan said, "Yeah, it's all about the Acadian Rhythm." Then she laughed and corrected herself, "I mean Circadian Rhythm!"
But you know what? I think she was right the first time.
We went to Acadia and Bar Harbor back in 2008 and we loved it. Returning was always on our to-do list but I planned for us to go next summer, when Ryan could help with the 16-hour drive (12 hours according to Google Maps. Google Maps is on crack). Then friends of ours said they'd like to go this summer, so we changed plans... but plans have a way of falling through and our friends weren't able to go. I asked Ryan if she still wanted to make the trip. She did, but she asked if she could bring a friend along. I was reluctant at first, as I like our vacations together, just the two of us, but I decided it would be a good idea this year. I'm still feeling the effects of chemo and since vacations with Ryan are go-go-go, I knew I'd never get to sit-sit-sit (what I really needed). So Piper came along. It was a good decision.
The drive up was exhausting, as 16-hour drives are wont to be, and we arrived at 9:30 pm, just before the campground office closed. We put our tents up quickly, in the dark, blew up the air mattresses, and crashed. Hard. I slept like the dead, for the first time in I can't remember how long. It was kind of wonderful, let me tell you.
During the week, we split our time between doing things as a trio (like wandering around Bar Harbor and going on a whale watching tour), and the girls going off on their own, leaving me to do whatever I wanted to do.
Whatever I wanted to do! I was nearly giddy with the possibilities!
I was also sleeping -- and I'm talking good, solid, whole-nights full of sleep. We were heading to bed around 9:00 and getting up at 7:00. My Acadian Rhythm was definitely righting itself.
During my days alone, I traveled the carriage roads (built by John D. Rockefeller, Jr.) on foot. I did seven miles in one day, which was quite a hike for me, given my limited physical activity for the past year or so. It was extremely tiring but I also felt incredibly accomplished after, and stronger than I've felt in a long time. I also explored the 'other side' of the island, which we never ventured toward the last time we were there. On my way to the Coast Guard-manned lighthouse at the southern tip of the island, I came unexpectedly upon the 'sea wall,' which was quite spectacular (though pictures simply don't do it justice).
I made a second visit there, later in the week. This time I arrived earlier in the day, when the tide was out, and I sat for a long time, just breathing in the salty air... that wonderful smell -- there's really nothing quite like it; it gets into your lungs and your pores and your head and your heart and it just... fortifies you.
At the sea wall, I wandered around on the rocks, taking photos of all the little tide pools and life left behind by the waves. I built two little cairns, which was much harder than you'd think. After, I was writing in my journal and I realized what a metaphor for Life those little stone towers are...
There were stones everywhere on the beach -- endless possibilities. I kept choosing different ones, trying them out, trying to make them balance. They didn't all have to be flat or a particular shape (in fact, when I chose all flat stones - the ones that balanced perfectly on the first try - the cairn was quite dull and boring-looking) - they just had to fit. I had to try out several to find the right ones. Finding the balance was terribly difficult but when I did it, those cairns just... worked.
Just like Life. Find the balance and it just... works.
On our last night, we signed up to do a sunset sea kayaking tour with Aquaterra Adventures (look them up if you're in Bar Harbor! They're great!) - the three of us (the girls in a tandem kayak and me in a solo). I was pretty nervous. First, I knew it would be physically taxing. Second, it was a new experience for me and I'm not a fan of looking foolish when I try something new. But I had put it on my Post-Chemo Bucket List, so I decided to put my big-girl life vest on and just do it.
And I'm so glad I did!
It was hard. It was really hard. I was all alone in a very long kayak, trying to keep up with a group of eight teenagers, who were doubled-up and paddling in concert. I was, clearly, the most out-of-shape person in the group, as well as the oldest, and I struggled. Had I been able to paddle a bit and then rest, it would have been OK, but I was so slow that by the time I caught up to everyone, all of whom got to rest while waiting for me, they took off and I had to go again! Gah! I felt like one of the slow swimmers, who takes so long to get to the wall that everyone's gone when she gets there and she has to do another 50 immediately. For the record, I will be kinder to those kids when I coach next summer.
But I did it! Our instructor/guide, Travis, was wonderful and never made me feel like a slowpoke. When I paddled in to the dock and was able to extricate myself from the tiny cockpit (with help), I was on top of the world. I did it! I paddled two miles! Around an island! In ocean waves! And I didn't fall out, roll over, need to be towed in, or die! It was BRILLIANT!
This past year has been hard. It took me to my knees, both physically and emotionally. But it also made me realize how much I want to live. It gave me things to think about and work toward. I've realized that I don't want to just survive... I want to thrive. So, to go from being sick as a dog just a few weeks ago to feeling strong and healthy, able to do physical things I didn't think would be possible for a long time to come? Well, I can't really even describe how that made me feel... how that makes me feel.
Yes I can.
It's my Acadian Rhythm.
I found my Acadian Rhythm.
And I never want to lose it.