Something happened this week. Or rather, something has been happening slowly, like the sun rising or rosebud blooming. The real self, whatever it is at my core, my essence, is waking up from an unwilling coma, where it was shoved by petty circumstance and stress that I had not the strength to deny.
This requires a bit of background, mainly a synopsis of the past year. See, last summer was the best time of my life. I was learning, growing, thinking new and beautiful thoughts, bursting with creativity. It was philosophy and trees and sky and coffee shop writing sessions and acoustic folk music. My sister and I took a spontaneous road trip down to south Florida, visiting a cousin, making new friends, learning about permaculture, accepting the hospitality of strangers and partaking in nature’s bounty. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made (funny how the spur-of-the-moment choices turn out to be the most life-changing and meaningful).
Summer drew to a close far too soon. Usually, I’m ready for the semester to begin again, eager to learn. This time, no. Maybe because I had experienced realer, better learning. In the first two weeks of school, I had to move to a new apartment, and through sleepless nights of trying to clean and fix the apartment that had been through a few generations of inhabitants since the lease began, trying to deal with all the useless shit that I had accumulated (seriously, possessions are the so enslaving), trying to study and turn in assignments, all while working full-time…I was unable to function. I wondered constantly how I’d even make it through the semester (turns out, I couldn’t really). So, for a few hellish months, I tried to work full time and take 13 credit hours. I’ve done it before, and I’d do it again. But over the years, so much tension had built up, so much of my life had crumbled, and now I cracked beneath the pressure.
When I stuff too much into my life, busy all the time, what gives? Sleep, that’s what. Rest. All things deemed “non-essential,” which just means non-profitable. I lose sight of eternity, of what truly matters. Long story short, I regularly drifted into a doze at the wheel, and finally suffered the consequences. Late at night, I fell asleep, awaking to the terrifying jolt of running off a curb. Half-aware, I steered the car along the ditch, narrowly missing a light pole, tried to straddle the culvert and return to the road, failed. The wheel ran straight into it, the truck flipped. The sound that is burned into my memory: crunch of metal, shatter of glass…then silence. Terrible silence. Consciousness regained, I struggle out of the seat belt, disregarding the bleeding and bruising, scramble out the sunroof. Shaking. Fear. Disbelief. “How could this happen to me?” The night is a blur. I was already so spent, so exhausted. Flashing lights, bone-chilling wind, helpless daze. At 6 a.m., I finally stumbled into bed.
So for the last few months, the spring non-semester for me, I’ve been focusing on recovering the life that I somehow lost. I’ve been working with most of my time, as a substitute teacher, with horse-training and yard work after teaching each day. Many weekends, I travel to dance events, which is a significant part of the healing process in itself.
The way that healing is revealed for me is in creativity. See, to be able to give, to create, one must have input and regeneration. With no rest, I was empty. Last summer, I was bursting with ideas, beauty, love, words that begged–nay, compelled–me to ink them to paper. Under the self-subjected trials of the previous months, there were no words, no thoughts. Nothing to give. No beauty or joy, just running after some phantasm, furtively glancing behind my shoulder as deadlines snarled and loomed with sharp teeth and flaming eyes.
It took months this spring to regain myself, but one day, the need to write lit up my world. Suddenly, there was something to give. That was confirmation for me that this choice to step away from what I was “supposed to be doing” was the right one. Confirmation that healing was slowly, surely overcoming my being, awakening it.
Over the past year, I have realized that each worry and chain that strangled my life-force came down to one issue: money. How ridiculous and sad. Whether it was trying to find a new job, getting good grades to keep my scholarship, taking college full-time to finish a degree before said scholarship ran out, working full-time to earn the money for school while paying bills…WHY? How idiotic to let such an arbitrary construct rule a beautiful existence.
It took staring death in the eyes to learn to embrace life. I have let go of the non-negotiables, the things that everyone says I ought to do, the things that I thought I ought to do. Deadlines are just that–dead. Soul-killing. Already, I posses what I need to live. I possess nothing…therefore I am free. The illusion of ownership is that you are the owner. “These riches are mine, these fine trinkets and large sums of currency. These plans are mine, this is my life, and I make my own choices.” Nay, you are owned. Each coin a link in the chain, each plan set in stone a door that you forever shut, with pathways and wonderful lands beyond.
I’m done with wistfully saying, “I will do that one day.” I will live now! Let not a moment more of my existence be wasted in postponement of living, waiting until I am granted permission or certification. It was always, “once I have my degree,” “once life settles down,” “once ____.” No more. Nothing is required. The future lies in mist, beyond knowledge or control. This step is all I have, and more than enough.
In the maelstrom of tasks that we are told comprise life, an idea pokes its head through, taps me on the shoulder, extends an eager hand with shining eyes, saying “come live!” I smile politely, decline, and place it in a little drawer with all the others, saying “when I have accomplished such-and-such thing or earned this certification, I shall come back for you. Someday, you may show me life.” And they never see the light of day again.
Can’t you see, self? There is no time to waste on caution and delay. This false tale of “someday” that you comfort yourself with, it will only render you an empty shell. You will reach a someday that looks nothing like the one you promised yourself, or your final someday will arrive, and as your time to pass draws nigh, you will survey a world of little beings scurrying in a frenzy, chasing wafts of smoke until they drop from exhaustion and the light in their eyes is extinguished. And you will see yourself in them, each and every one. You will wish to turn back the hands of the clock, but who are you that Time should care? You will beg for a few minutes to warn the poor souls who follow in your footsteps, but neither shall this be granted. Why would they even listen to an old lunatic like you? So over a panicked soul, eyelids close in eternal sleep like a heavy black veil. Is this the life you wanted, or the death?
Clarity of mind, overwhelming joy, is what I have discovered. In the past week, I was hired at two jobs for the summer, and the final dark clouds over my head dispersed. But more importantly, the realization sank in that I am free. All the chains, these delays on life that I considered requisite, what good have they done? Here and now, I resolve never to put life on hold again, never to sacrifice rest or creativity for money or “education” or baseless expectations. The most valuable things are not things at all. They are immeasurable and free. They are the reflection of clouds in a peaceful lake, the laughter of children running in the mud, the callouses on hands that swing from tree branches, the peace of a summer evening as bonfire sparks join the stars in a hazy dusk. For two days now, freedom has become a reality. Celebration, laughter, more inspiration than I have time to set on paper. Anything is a possibility! And there is no need to worry about the variables beyond my control. What shall happen, shall happen. Why worry? Anxiety never did anyone a service. As I realize my own insignificance, so does the confidence that nothing can truly go wrong sink in.
Each day, there has been a sacred time. I hesitate to make such memories public, as if exposure might desecrate them, but they are an integral part of this learning experience. My sister is a wonderful woman, who has beautiful thoughts and loves life (you should totally check out her blog; it’s a lot better than mine. Go to leavingbagend.wordpress.com!). Also, she puts up with my craziness, and it usually gives us the best memories. Yesterday, we tried a new route, no real reason, and found ourselves sort-of lost. Not entirely, but enough that when we saw a cemetery, we thought, “what the hell, why not?” and left the car to go explore. As we walked through the gates to an ancestors’ haven, such a feeling of peace washed over me. We walked among the tombstones, reflected on life and death, felt the grass and dirt between bare toes, read names and imagined the beings that once held those titles. Isn’t it strange how tombstones only record the most meaningless information about a human? The name assigned to one at birth, and the length of one’s lifespan, as if quantity of years has any bearing on the quality of a life.
Tonight, an impromptu adventure found us again. Walking on a beach (may or may not have been trespassing), running through the waves, walking on a pier, talking about the sea and life and how one’s influence can be so vast for being so insignificant a creature, while our toes danced with the lapping waves. Then, “let’s jump in!” and who cares that we were in normal clothes? The stars and seaweed had no time to listen to such formalities and excuses. So we swam and danced in the soothing, salty ocean tide. Ran, soaking wet and laughing with the thrill of spontaneity, home.
Maybe it could be called foolish, a waste of time. Perhaps a phase that we shall outgrow, when we learn to play the world’s power game and forget the joy and simplicity of youth, the ability to see the world with fresh eyes each moment, experiencing each sensation anew. Let the day that I cease to wonder at the dirt and trees, forget to gaze at the night sky, neglect to dance with joy, be the one that I pass into oblivion. No, let me pass the day before that; let me be absorbed into the earth a happy, whole being.
Now, there is a “problem” when I awaken, when I open my eyes, when deep thoughts swirl in my head and must be released into the world. Everything suddenly seems meaningless. By “everything,” I mean all that normally occupies our time and distracts us from the truth that silence and stillness would reveal, plain and wonderful as daylight. There is so much passion for life and truth and running around like a madwoman in the forest coursing through my veins that I physically cannot focus on anything trivial, any diversion. I just want to make everyone SEE how satisfying and mysterious life is, but they all think I’m crazy or ignore my exuberance. They say I’ll “get over it,” as if joy is a disease. NO! can’t you see? I just “got over” the real disease: busyness, petty anxiety, the pressure of societal expectations. Gone is the need to accomplish feats to prove the worth of my existence. It is enough simply to be.
So come with me. Be still. Listen. Learn the secrets of the earth, free to all who will lose themselves. Love all, laugh always. Live in the present. The past will always be a part of you, knit to your being. If you try to bring it to the present, you will only rend your own flesh. The future, who can know it? Let it be, in its own time. If you try to chase it or determine it, you will find it always beyond your weary, frantic fingertips. The moment is enough, and it is all you can be sure to experience. Be.