I never once before considered myself outdoorsy or even really interested in the outside. Inside was a fine thing, as far as I was concerned. They had beds inside. They had toilets. I never, not one single time, thought “You know what I want to be? A person who camps and pees in the woods.”
And then everything changed.
When we step into the outdoors, we do so out of self-preservation. We do it to protect our own lives, to protect our futures, to protect our children.
It’s like a kind of life insurance, really. When you buy life insurance, you do so because it’s smart, because it makes sense, because why wouldn’t you? Not having it leaves you exposed. It puts your family in the balance. And so you make the investment. No one is ever sorry that they made the investment.
It started with a green kayak.
“I was thinking I’d go for a paddle today,” he said. Paddling didn’t really sound like me, so I never asked to go along. But when he would climb back in the car from the pick-up point, sweaty with a smile lingering at the corner of his mouth, you could see that over a few hours the river had healed him just a tiny bit.
I wanted to be healed, too.
Living with untreated, unacknowledged PTSD and the military is like living in a pool with a leak. In pours the water of life — all the events, and joy and happiness and the mundane, wonderful things that make up who you are — and out it seeps from the bottom, draining everything and leaving you so dry, so tired, so Done.
I can see our life unraveling during the week — the stress of work, the uncertainty of our future, the burdens of the past. They collect on the floor, like a pile of dirty laundry. At first you can ignore it, but pretty soon you’re tripping over it on your way to your bed. It overwhelms you with its magnitude and all the annoying steps you’ll have to take to get rid of it. Just knowing it’s there is an extra problem – like that feeling when stress upon stress creates its own whirlpool of worry.
How were we going to protect the life that was ours together? We were watching it all slip by, ignoring that it was bleeding to death.
The day I said “OK. Let’s go camping, let’s be outdoor people,” we went to an outfitter, dropped an embarrassing sum of money and bought what to me felt like All The Gear Ever. We left the store with a post-I-now-own-gear-but-have-no-more-cash glow. Just look at us:
That shine was the look of an investment, an insurance policy on the rest of our lives. When I said “yes” to going outside, I said “yes” to protecting our lives and our futures. I said “yes” to healing.
Life insurance is peace of mind, not unlike that calm you feel when the campfire warms your face as the sun sets. You buy life insurance because not doing so is too much of a risk. Like going outside, buying life insurance for myself from USAA using their life insurance calculator, which can easily help you know just how much you need, was the right thing to do to protect my family financially just in case.
And I’m not sorry. I’m an outdoor person now, protecting my future one hike, one campout, one paddle trip at a time. Instead of living as if I need protection from the outdoors, I let the outdoors be my protector.
It hasn’t let me down.