For reasons I cannot now remember I went camping this half term with my boys T and B, aged 3 and 5, respectively.
I assume I was so keen to test our new air beam canvas tent that I ignored the likely meteorological conditions. A stiff Cromer gale had put paid to the previous, cheaper, nylon version. As B has often pointed out, the old tent would not have snapped had I pitched it properly. I thank him regularly for that insight.
So, on Wednesday, we set off in good spirits to Church Farm near Stevenage.
With effort (and chuntering) the tent went up, the car emptied, and the exploration began. Soon after mud was everywhere, the heavens opened, and it was cold and dark.
The heavens reopened on Thursday morning after a bad night’s sleep and so we sought respite in a Stevenage softplay. It was still tipping down when we were turfed out and too early for lunch, so we drove around aimlessly for 30 minutes enjoying Stevenage’s inner ring road.
Multiple roundabouts later we were at Nando’s but there was a 30–minute wait. It was the same at the other Nando’s. We rang the pub that we had booked for dinner – the same again.
I was increasingly despondent, then I had a thought.
We would pack up as much as we could and drive home, to warmth and familiarity and Domino’s. Tomorrow I would return to pick up the tent. I put this to the boys and was sure they would agree.
They were having none of it.
They were having an excellent adventure, they were not cold, they had slept fine thank you very much, they were not even that hungry. Rain? So what? It’s just water. Mud is fun.
And then true wisdom arrived – my ego had convinced me that my experience was everyone else’s. My ego was trying to ruin their camping holiday.
My agitation evaporated with this realisation and my head cleared. Two minutes later we came across a pub with space – The White Lion in Walkern (truly great pub food (simple and tasty) if you are ever in the vicinity). Then the rain stopped. And it warmed up. There was still mud galore, but we had a whale of a time for the rest of our trip.
There was my ego rabbiting away telling me this, that, and the other and I had been suckered into believing it was truth. Meanwhile the people that mattered were thinking and feeling nothing of the sort. Their perspective was entirely different.
They were not wallowing in ego created thoughts and feelings. They were just there, safe and happy, dealing with the only thing there was – the present moment. They were not bothered about what had happened or what might happen.
True wisdom showed up in the form of a 3 and 5-year-old. They taught me a lesson I hope I do not forget:
All we have, all that ever exists, is right now, the present moment. Everything else is a mirage we pay attention to at our peril.
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