The Benefit of “Hanging Out”

English: Map of Lake Michigan. Category:Michig...

English: Map of Lake Michigan. Category:Michigan maps (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A vacation of any sort is good for the soul, but of course, there are many types of vacations, some full of activity and others with some built-in relaxation time.  The recent trip I had with my two small children to Michigan to visit my family there was a nice break, and it definitely had a little of both: lots of activity, but still low-key with enough down time to be helpful.  My kids had a fantastic time with their cousins and I was able to “hang out” and do very normal things, something that I miss on a regular basis.  Because my husband is so ill, my days are usually filled with helping to care for my husband, tending to his needs and the needs of our family, and there is usually very little time left for “hanging out”.  So, while in Michigan, I tried to savor these experiences.  One afternoon, we all went to Lake Michigan.  I watched with such joy as my kids buried each other in the sand, threw balls on the shores, and froze their toes off going into the cold water.  That night, we had a campfire, drank wine, and talked about all kinds of things.  Another afternoon we watched a niece participate in an Irish dance competition and then visited my alma mater, Michigan State University.  We walked by the river, had lunch in a restaurant, and drove around campus.  Other days we visited the zoo, fished and went tubing in the lake, and in general, just “hung out.”  It felt so good to be in this relaxed environment, woes temporarily on the back burner.

One evening, one of my high school buddies came over for a visit.  It had been several years since we saw one another and that last time was at a high school reunion, where talk is often minimized as people are so excited to see as many old friends as possible in the few short hours of the actual reunion itself.  It was so nice to talk with my friend this past vacation trip, just hanging out in my sister’s backyard, drinking a beer and laughing.  It was as if we spoke on a regular basis, without much time passing since the last time.  I was reminded of my friend’s genuineness, her infectious smile, and her overall kindness.  It occurred to me, upon reflection of the night that I am most fortunate in so many ways.  Here was this person, after so many years, still so lovely.  I know that if I needed her, I could call.  I know she would be willing to help.  I know that she cares about me and my family.  What a gift that is.

So what role does “hanging out” play?  Connecting with another person can remind you that there is goodness in the world is an obvious benefit.  Having some down time to laugh is good for the spirit.  Having those moments when you can reflect, even if it is just for a moment, on the small miracles in front of you is important.  In my case, to observe my children in action: how they behave, how they interact with others, how much they have physically grown – all these were all neat to digest.  Hanging out can also give you the extra encouragement or burst of energy you need to make it through the next emotionally-charged and draining time.

When times are so troubled, it may seem very counter-intuitive, but taking a bit of time to “hang out” with friends can be just what you need – medicine for your psyche.

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