The Great Outdoors

I hope some of my readers are old enough to get this blog title, so that I don’t feel too terribly old.

I am a person that, by nature, loves the fresh air and sunlight. I liken myself to a dog with it’s head out sticking out the car window. Sun on my face, wind in my hair, and copious amounts fresh air is my happy place. Add in exploring, and it’s basically my perfect day.

My mood has been particularly topsy turvy lately, and so I’m making a concerted effort to be outside as much as possible (when the weather cooperates).  The days are getting colder and darker, which I don’t love, but I’m trying to take as much advantage of the daylight hours as I can when I’m not working.

This past weekend, I decided to take a solo hike in nearby Wissahickon Park. The park is quite expansive, but parts of it are 15 to 20 minutes drive from my house, which makes it pretty convenient for an early morning hike. When I arrived, there were three other cars in the particular parking area I’d chosen, which meant that, unless people were just crammed into other parking areas, other hikers would be few and far between for the time being. Perfect. I spent about two hours hiking, all in all. I’ve hiked this area before, or at least some of it, so I experimented with trails I hadn’t taken before. I did know that there was a mini waterfall (I love waterfalls, and anything water-related!) that I hadn’t gotten to visit on prior trips, so I was determined to find it, and find it I did.

 

 

I arrived home before 11AM, several miles hiked, daily step goal for the already achieved, and renewed hope.  Being out in the peacefulness and relative solitude of nature, spending time among the changing leaves, with only the sound of running water, squirrels rustling through the trees, and the occasional fellow hiker is exactly what I needed.

 

Life with a mood disorder and chronic illnesses is never easy.  And sometimes, I’m not able to be as active as I’d like to be. But I’m vowing to spend as much time as I can in the great outdoors going forward. I may have to get creative in the colder months, because the cold and my body do not get along, but I will do what I can.

 

50 States of Hope

Every day, I read about different community projects happening in my home city of Philadelphia and the surrounding areas. It truly inspires me, and I think of the hope that these people are bringing – to those that they’re helping specifically, to the community, and to each other (being surrounding by others wanting to make positive change is certainly hopeful). And hopefully, pun kind of intended, to themselves. I know that for me, the fact that there are good people in the world, nearby even, and that we can bring about positive changes together gives me hope.

And yet I realize how few of these projects I participate in. Not because I don’t want to, but because I learn about them and think, “Oh I should look into that”, and then life happens and I remember about it too late, or there’s a scheduling conflict, or I get overwhelmed and need to take a step back from involvement. Or perhaps, I don’t hear about these at all. Maybe it’s a small, local project that I’m unaware of until it’s too late to participate. Or I hear about it after the fact somehow.

So I decided I needed to do something about this. I want to be more involved in these efforts, to bring awareness to some that may not get as much notice, and to participate in more of those that I keep saying “next time” to.  With that, I’ve started the the 50 States of Hope goal. I would like to be involved in at least one project that helps at least one person in all 50 states. Now of course, I could pick one large event for a cause that affects people in every state. And I might well participate in this simply because I think it worthy. But I’d also like to participate in those that are more local. Perhaps it’s simply a locally organized event of a larger organization. Or maybe it’s writing an anonymous letter of hope to someone struggling. Or a toy or book drive for children who are in the hospital.  It could be participating in something to help local community arts. Maybe it’s a local community garden project, or something to help local school children. What I want is to really feel my contribution is helping people, and that perhaps I’m bringing awareness to a worthy project or cause that may not have enough awareness on it.

But I of course don’t regularly frequent all 50 states to know exactly what local events and projects are going on. So that’s where you all come in. I’m looking for suggestions. What’s going on in your area? Do you have a project, perhaps one that helps your community, or one nearby, that you’re passionate about? Do you know someone, or know of someone, who could use a letter of hope. Do you know someone who runs a local project or campaign for a cause?  I’d love to learn more about it.

Now please keep in mind that I have a day job and am not independently wealthy so, while I’d truly love to one day do so, I cannot currently travel the country full time offering hope, and may need to get a little creative with some. And I’d rather it not be strictly a monetary donation, not only because I’m not independently wealthy but because I’d like to get my hands dirty a bit. To feel more actively involved, even if it’s simply collecting toys or books or games or school supplies or food or whatever it is. So please, send your suggestions my way either here, on social media, or via email at thespreadhopeproject@gmail.com.  If I am able to participate in the project you suggest, I promise to give it a shout out on social media, the blog, wherever I can, and if you’d like, to give you one too for making the suggestion (this part isn’t mandatory if you’d prefer to stay anonymous).

Thanks in advance! I look forward to hearing your suggestions!

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What Is Hope?

Since starting Spread Hope Project, I’ve been asked this question several times. It’s a completely valid question, being that my goal is to spread hope.  And yet, it somehow trips me up. Hope has always been to me one of those things that just is.  It’s difficult to describe without using the word itself. And yet, to each of us, it most likely looks a little different.

In terms of spreading hope itself, my goal is to help people that are struggling to feel that something good, positive, or at least better than how they currently feel, is possible. When used in the context or mental health, it could mean that their depression can improve with proper treatment, or that they’ll find a way to work through their anxiety, able to manage it better, or simply that the anxiety attack or bout of depression won’t last forever.  For others, it could mean learning confidence and improving their self-esteem when depression knocks it so low. For some it could have a broader reach – it could be feeling less lost in life, or less alone in their illness. It could be feeling like they and their life matter. It could be connecting with others who understand, who can offer support when needed, or who can help motivate and inspire them.

Hope is surprisingly tricky to describe in and of itself, I’ve found upon trying. It isn’t even, at least to me, a determined belief or strongly held conviction. It’s a possibility. A possibility that things could improve, that there’s something to look forward to. It doesn’t have to be based in fact or knowledge.  It can come from a feeling, even a flicker of one.  It can come from knowing that there’s even one other person who may understand, or one instance of feeling like you matter. It doesn’t require evidence or proof.  You don’t have to know that something will happen to have hope. You just have to feel that their may be the possibility. At least that’s how it seems to me.

And so, in my efforts to spread hope, I try to work with both the details and the general feeling. At times, I speak specifically to mental health and chronic illness. Other times, I try to focus more on confidence or self esteem. Other times still, I try to simply let people know that, however they are feeling, they aren’t alone, and that they matter.

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365 Days of Hope Starts Tomorrow

June 1st is the day, all! The day that we start our 365 Days of Hope campaign.  We are off to a good start: 107 items, places, and activities so far for us to take photos with/of in our Hope gear.  We have everything from sitting in a new coffee shop to being on top of a human pyramid, so don’t be shy about your suggestions! (Note:  it’s a family friendly project, and we would like to keep out of jail or the hospital, and keep our day job! :-). 

Why? Because we want to reach people in all places of all ages who enjoy all different types of things.  Chronic illness can feel isolating, and we want to let these people know that, whoever they are, wherever they are, whatever they like to do, they are not alone, even when it feels like it. And maybe we’ll even make them smile a little.

So fire away! Have a favorite outdoor activity? A favorite historic site, landmark, or city? Maybe you want to see us do something silly, or relive our childhood? We’ll be running through sprinklers and swinging on a swing set, so feel free to add more! We don’t mind being a little goofy in order to spread a little hope to those who need it. In fact, we’re pretty much kids at heart!

We don’t have an endless supply of money, so we may need to improvise on some suggestions, but we’ll do our best to make them happen!

Can’t wait to see your ideas!

Much love and hope to you all!