Something special happened at our summer picnic drive

Something really special happened today at our Summer Picnic Drive.

Usually I’m pumped for our events and ready to get stuck in but today, it didn’t start well. Not much sleep during the storms last night, on top of coming to the end of a challenging week, saw me running late this morning. Things grew worse when nav unhelpfully told me the start point for our drive was further than it did last night, putting my ETA even further behind schedule.

The headspace wasn’t good. The weather matched it.

This was meant to be a summer drive, right?

After missing the turn off for BP Rockback Outbound (twice, yes tears followed, it was just that kind of day…) I finally arrived to see familiar faces and smiles. A few deep breaths and I was out of the car, layering on a jacket in the unexpectedly icy morning, to get registration underway.

As each of ‘our’ cars rolled into the carpark, my excitement crept up a notch. These were cars I knew carrying people I knew, and the feeling of being amongst community made me feel stronger.

Coffees and morning snack supplies were purchased, and our participants generously chipped in to buy raffle tickets for our delicious Christmas hamper kindly donated by Mel Savage and the crew at Patterson Cheney Toyota.

With all present and accounted for DJ briefed our group on the drive route and the plan for the day, highlighting that today was about cruising the stunning route David Henry had again expertly curated. No time pressure, no set lunch booking to meet. Just two beautifully scenic stops and time to enjoy the roads and company.

My turn next. Was I ready to stand up in front of everyone this morning? Was I up to this while feeling fragile inside myself? The smiles and welcoming energy told me that I was.

My explanation of today’s drive being to create some headspace before the Christmas rush, and to allow time to travel at one’s own pace, was met with nodding heads and a sense of “thank goodness, today is one of those rare slow days in life”.

We know at this time of year we aren’t just managing the usual task load; every day is packed with multiple demands and deadlines and it can get overwhelming. Fast. Today was about stepping back from that and connecting with others, our shared enthusiasm for motoring and ourselves.

After a little wish to the weather fairies to continue holding off on the torrential rain everyone was into their cars to warm up and set off. Keen eyes were already on the lookout for answers to the treasure hunt questions bringing that familiar sense of gentle fun competition and connection that we love with our days.

DJ and I cruised at the back of the pack with me happily following Piglet down the first stage of the course. To my surprise we soon pulled over and DJ insisted he drive my car, so I could jump into Piglet as a passenger with Alistair driving. Necessary? Nope. But ever so appreciated. The community had my back. I’ll admit my failings as a navigator today (sorry Al!) but what we lacked in sticking to the course we made up for with conversation.

After brunch in historic Daylesford the Summer Picnic Drive group headed up the hill to Wombat Hill Botanic Gardens to regroup, have a chat and check in on treasure hunting progress. The view from the water tower was far reaching (and windy!) and gave me the pleasure of looking down on our group mingling.

Nick was all style as he cruised through our day in the new Lexus LC 500 and after chatting about its slick looks and suitability to these lovely winding roads, Alistair took up the driving position with Nick as a passenger and lead us to our lunch destination.

Unique driving experience? Tick.

Today’s lunch was a self-catered picnic in the crater of the extinct volcano at Mt. Franklin. David and Belinda’s beautiful 1962 Mk II Jaguar Saloon set the stage for our picnic and as our group arrived for lunch, so did the sunshine.

Over the next couple of hours we chatted, laughed and showered praise and glory over our treasure hunt winners. The vibe was relaxed and fun, easy and welcoming. Different cars, different backgrounds, different mental health journeys, different stories. But all with the same common thread – judgement free acceptance of where each person is at and normalised conversations about mental health.

So this is the thing that struck me today: something amazing happens when you feel that space is held for you.

You feel your body soften a little, your breathing slows a little. The feeling of support without judgement starts to creep in and overtake feelings of nervousness or inadequacy or the other negative self-talk that we can carry.

The little black dog goes back in its kennel for a while and even though it can be known to hang around, it’s quieter. We have an opportunity to reset a bit, and with that an opportunity to take another positive step in our journeys.

Looking around I could see this so clearly with our group today.

It’s so humbling. And I’m so proud of our community.

In amongst all that’s been happening with life I didn’t realise how much I personally needed a drive against depression. Our whole premise for what we deliver for our community and our “why” started with Adam’s personal journey with depression, and mine as a support person. Although our charity aims to serve our community we are still in our own journeys too, and it wasn’t until we settled into lunch and I looked around our group that I realised how much I needed that time and space too.

Today was a wonderful day and I know we achieved our mission. My sincere gratitude to everyone who was with us – our inclusive community makes our events what they are.

– Sarah

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