Conceived At A Holiday Inn

adventure by Shannon Thompson

dreaming at the holiday inn

I was sitting in a bleak conference room at the Holiday Inn near the airport in Bangor last week, buckled in to a 9-hour session of continuing education for real estate brokers, when I hatched my plan to survive embrace December.

It doesn’t come naturally: I fight with the cold, bristle at the clutter of snow boots, mittens, brushes, and shovels, and push against the darkness like Princess Leia in the trash compactor. Give me the sunny hugeness and ease of a July day any day. Every day. Someday I’ll live somewhere that promises 365 days of summer. (Q: Won’t you miss the seasons? A: No.)

Meanwhile, here I am in the place I love except for seven months of its weather. Here, with a good life and a deep determination to be happy and have fun. I know that the only thing separating misery or delight is my approach to it.

Last October, after 25 years of planning on downhill skiing but never actually going, I had the guys at Sidecountry Sports outfit me with new gear, which radically changed my perspective on snow. Before the skis, I was seriously Scroogey about snowfall: pretty, I guess, yeah, but what a huge pain in the ass. Who needs it? Get me to a beach, man. After the skis: checking forecasts and jumping for joy as the flakes fall. It made me consider all the other things that I’m persistently grouchy about and how they can be completely transformed by one small action or thought pattern. It’s just a matter of finding the happy thing that turns the grouchy thing inside out and practicing it.

As a kid I loved the rituals of Advent. Before I can even remember, my mom made us a felt and burlap advent calendar that had felt ornaments with snaps on the back and a big felt tree with the other side of the snaps sewn all over it. My brother and I took turns each day sliding an ornament from its numbered pocket and snapping it on to the tree. We’d light the candles on the advent wreath at dinner every evening, pushing the early darkness away. These were the first things I thought of when I slid out of bed each morning. These small actions made every day feel significant in a way that the days of other months didn’t.

I no longer celebrate advent in a religious way, but I love the idea of consciously recognizing the specialness of each day. In that spirit, I decided to celebrate advent with adventure this year, choosing something new each day. It’s an idea I believe I stole from my friend Jessica’s excellent blog, The Maine. I have a full-time job and a very limited budget, so while the options for adventuring are limited, the opportunities for creativity are huge.

My criteria are broad. For this month, an adventure is anything that 1) takes me out of my comfort zone; 2) I’m not 100% sure I can do; 3) I’ve never done; 4) I wouldn’t normally do in December; 5) is ridiculously fun; or 6) is something I’m so glad I’m doing that I don’t have to actually enjoy doing it.

A call for ideas among friends yielded some doozies and some great offers. Today an Alaskasmokejumper offered to teach me how to use a chainsaw. (YES.) I’m looking forward tosurfing, rock climbing, ice climbing, tennis, cave-finding and -exploring, lobstering, sea-urchin diving (not actually diving, just tagging along), hiking, birdwatching, downhill skiing, cross country skiing, skinning, swimming one hundred 100s, open mike night, karaoke, kayaking, photographing strangers, test driving a Tesla, mountain biking, lighting up the Mt. Battie star, taking an African dance class, reading to YMCA daycare kids, 100 burpees, skate skiing, and more. (Attending a public hearing and going for a long run/getting drunk after donating blood are the only two I’m not giving serious consideration. Maybe by the end of the month when I’m warmed up.) Some of these things scare the crap out of me. I’m still looking for more ideas, especially those that can be accomplished before and after office hours on a weekday, and I love adventuresome company.

So here comes the beast that is December. This year I will not cower and scowl: I’m coming out with my fun guns blazin’.

Editor’s note: Check out Shannon’s first day of ADVENTure at Sunday River here.