Summer Camp: What IS This Place?
By Susanne Carlson
Last August, I experienced my first foray into the Looking Glass Summer Camp. This past August, I was lucky enough to attend a second time. Both years I got asked a lot of questions following the week at Camp. Friends and family were eager and excited to hear about the time I had. Last year, I tried to explain in detail how incredible Camp was and why. Somehow though, after these interactions, I felt some of the magic of Camp leave me, like I had somehow explained it away. Not wanting to repeat that experience this year, when asked how Camp had been, I would pause, feel my body ground into the earth, a solidity and peace washing over my body, a smile passing over my lips, and would say, “It was wonderful”. Summer Camp is a wonderful place, that’s all there is to it. Upon first arriving, as you breath in your first breath of fresh lake air, you feel home. Even if you have never been before, there is a welcoming, a sense that something special is about to unfold. You ask yourself, “What IS this place?”
In the same spirit of my response to family and friends this year, I would like to convey what the Summer Camp experience has been like for myself in a way that is more broad in nature than specific. I hope that in doing this, I will also speak to the experiences of the other staff, volunteers and Campers.
First and foremost, Camp is a place of calm and safety. Amidst all of the activities and all of the bustle, at the center of it all is an overwhelming permission to let go of the life that exists outside of Camp and to arrive in a full and present way. As the week carries on, there is a comfort and stability you begin to feel within yourself and within the amazing group of women that you are sharing time and space with. I don’t know where else this happens in such a profound way. Acceptance, love and honesty, these are all things that are valued and practiced at Camp, and in the most genuine ways possible.
Camp is also a place of vulnerability. A lot is asked of Campers when they come to Camp. They are being asked to put the eating disorder on the bench for a week, to try a different way of living. In realizing the enormity of bravery that is required to take on such a task, staff and volunteers often jump way outside their comfort zones during this week as well. The result is a group of very courageous, very vulnerable individuals, sharing in the experience of uncertainty and fear, but also in the experience of triumph and a feeling of “Holy smokes, look what I can do!”
Last, but certainly not least, Camp is a place of fun and bliss. There are some very special individuals on staff who bring an enthusiasm and joy to Camp that is absolutely contagious and this energy is what brings Camp to life from the very first day. Soon though, as the week goes on, Campers start to surprise the group with one liners that leave you in fits of laughter, with talents that leave you awestruck and with personalities and quirks that fill up your heart and soul. By the end of the week, all you have to do is look someone in the eye and you can see your own breadth of emotions mirrored back at you.
There is a shiny eyed, open hearted, grounded, strong and incredible spirit that exists inside each and every person that leaves Camp. Whenever I start to feel self-judgment or doubt creeping in, whenever I start to wonder about my worth or value or my place in this world, I think of Camp. This year in particular, I pick up my Apache tear (one of those things you just can’t explain) and give it a squeeze and know that the thoughts and hearts of every other person at Camp is still with me and that the same person that left Camp is still there too.
Susanne is constantly striving to grow as a person and to move forward with life after her experience of living with an eating disorder and anxiety.