Monday, October 6, 2014

Fall, the Wasatch and Labels

This past weekend, I took my four younger children for a ride up Big Cottonwood Canyon and over Guardsman Pass down into Park City. It was a gloriously beautiful day.

As we drove, I was wishing I was on my bicycle. One of the things I love about cycling is being out in the midst of scenery such as this ... to be able to hear the streams rushing by, to see vistas that are unobstructed by a windshield and the roof of my car.

Neverless, I wanted my children to see this fairyland that exists within 20 miles of our home. I would have taken them for a hike, but I knew I would meet with strong resistance - at least with some of them. The thing about taking four kids out who are between 7 to 11 years of age is that they're never all going to agree on anything. So, I do the best I can. For example, as I stopped to take the pictures in this post, one of the boys said, "Um, Dad, are you going to be taking more pictures?"

I was never, in my previous life, much of an outdoorsman. My dad's idea of camping was the Holiday Inn. I went to college at the University of Illinois in the midst of cornfields. Later, once I was married and the children started coming - and coming - there was never the time nor the funds to spend much time in the great outdoors. 

But just because one never had the opportunity, for various reasons, to develop a love for the outdoors doesn't necessarily mean that one is "not an outdoorsy person." (That label was attached to me, and it was just easier to believe it, even though I resented the label.) If presented with the opportunity to appreciate being in nature, that love - like other loves - can develop later in life. For we always have the capacity to develop or expand new loves.

Coming down from Guardsman Pass

Labels are so destructive, whether placed upon us by others or by ourselves. Many of them are preceded by the word "not": "You're not an outdoors person." "You're not a dog person." "You're not an athlete." "You're not a social person." "You're not very spiritual." "You're not very good at [insesrt]." And these labels are usually attached by others who think they ARE these things.  

Some people have the ability to deflect attempts to label them. Others are not so fortunate, and they accept these labels for various reasons. Eventually, they can become so ingrained in us that they become part of who we are - or who we perceive ourselves to be. This certainly happened to me.

But! - I have had the great good fortune, later in life, to confront, challenge and throw off some of the labels that have been attached to me by others and by myself. I have discovered - though I am still very much working on this - that I am not the person other people convinced me I am. 

Looking down into Heber Valley

I have also had the great good fortune to have positive attributes pointed out to be me that I could never see in myself. "You're a natural athlete." "You're a sensitive person." "You're a loving person." "You are handsome." "You're a good father." Sometimes, it takes another person or persons to hold up different mirrors to oneself which allow us to move forward on the road to self-love and self-acceptance. 

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