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Monday, March 10, 2014

Camping Alone

I had my tent, my food, my whiskey, my wilderness. It was pretty much perfect, except for the gale force winds that were screaming through the tops of the trees and trying to kill my tent, my hopes, and my dreams. I was finally settled around the roaring fire, bundled up against the chill, and I started to think.

Going back a little ways for context sake, I had decided to go camping to get some perspective. Mountain air is supposed to be good for clearing thoughts and helping get the blood pumping again. I was tired of being in the city and tired of, well, just tired. I have been asking so many questions and I thought this would help with some answers. Plus, I'd never camped alone so it was like kinda a cool edgy challenge to myself.  So, on Saturday I set off to find the answers to my whole life. I had some pretty massive expectations for how this was going to go. I drove for a few hours and started to see smoke on the horizon. As I got closer I realized that the smoke was basically coming from the road that led to the mountain where I was going. I asked a few questions of the rangers who told me to turn around and go the back way up the mountain; AKA another 3 hours of driving. So, the back way I went. When I got to the top it was starting to get dark so I hurriedly started assembling poles and unfolding and unfurling everything. The wind at this point was so strong that it kept blowing the tent away. I had recently realized that the stakes I had were not going to do the job so I ended up using a screwdriver, a big branch, and a couple strong twigs to hold the tent to the ground.

As I got my fire going and sat there sipping cheap Bourbon, I started asking some questions. I asked God, I asked myself, and then I ran out of people to ask, so I started texting people, making small talk. The irony of going out into the wilderness and consciously secluding myself and then obsessively checking instagram was not lost on me, even as I did it. Feel free to judge me. So, seeing as how there is no one else to blame, it is completely my fault that I might have distracted myself from receiving a life-changing paradigm that windy night, but more on that later.

A couple hours later as I watched the flames fade to embers, and embers fade to ashes, I climbed into my tent and, through the screen at the top, watched the stars blink at the tops of the pines as the wind whipped and tossed my tent around in the dark. It was interesting, I thought, that it seemed so peaceful up there, while down in my chaotic temporary home everything felt as if it could fall apart at any moment. And it did. Several times that night the screwdriver came loose and one corner of the tent was ripped off the ground. The 5th or 6th time this happened it was about 1a.m and I knew the wind had me beat. So I took the tent down and went to sleep in my car. As I laid there, I thought about what a dumb night this was. All the problems I had 50000ft below, had followed me up to the mountain and I started to wonder: what is the point? What did I really think was going to happen? The wind and the tent and the chaos seemed to remind me of what I had come up here to escape. I slept fitfully that night, and woke up to the wind still blowing full force. I went for a hike that morning, made it 15 steps and turned around. The wind literally felt as if it wanted me off the mountain. It almost shoved me back to my car.

Now, the way my mind works, is to find meaning in everything. Maybe I shouldn't. After I got back home that afternoon, I started thinking about what I was supposed to learn from this. At first, I didn't think there was anything except to just do better next time. Maybe I should have stopped checking instagram, wishing I was somewhere else, and been truly alone. I had to look myself in the face for a while; maybe I was afraid to do that? That is definitely possible. Maybe I was just afraid to be alone; that my sense of self is justified by other people. Then I thought: maybe I was texting and wishing that I wasn't out in the wilderness alone because I just genuinely think that my relationships are the most valuable components in my life and I felt like I was wasting some sort of opportunity to pour into those.

I still haven't figured it out, and it might get clearer as more time passes, but for me it comes down to these two things: fear and relationships. I went to that mountain to find perspective. Maybe I found it, in a way that I didn't expect.

Its also ironic because another reason that I went up to the mountains was in order to better see the people around me, and to better understand myself so that I could be better for them. In a way, in my search for meaning, I may have taken myself out of the equation completely.

I feel like I usually wrap these up so they are all bite size and stuff, but I feel like in writing this, I have raised more questions then I answered and they, like the wind that night, have overwhelmed me. So this is where I'll be: hanging out on the edge of my questions, waiting for answers to echo off the walls and reach me.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

I Keep My Eyes Fixed on the Sun

There have been some cloudy days recently in normally sunny Southern California. The rain has been tapping on the roof of my car and sliding down the edges of my apartment, and when I try to look up, it stings my eyes and pelts my face with little furious drops. The rain brings life and so I'm grateful for it, but when I am surrounded by clouds, its hard to find my bearings and believe that life really is on its way.

You've probably figured out by now that I'm not just talking about the weather. Although it is really raining, its been raining for like two days and its totally not a big deal. However, the clouds have come in over my life recently in a suffocating way and looking outside today has given me a visual aid for what is going on inside.

In this kind of environment, when everything seems to be sad and hopeless and doubtful; that every turn I make seems to be the wrong one; when I can't decide what to run from and what to run to, that is where I am forced to admit that I am lost. I keep waiting for the sun to peek through and give me a ray of perspective, but it stubbornly refuses to do so.

I realize that my life is not the only one with these sorts of problems. I think humanity in general has dealt with feeling lost and confused and blind in it's long walk through life. I am not special in this way. I have not come to a fork in the road where no one else has been to, but it is the first time that I have been to it, and although I've heard about it, is suddenly real. Isn't it funny how you hear about something and you know its coming, but nothing really prepares you for it?

The point is, that in the midst of confusion and doubt and being lost, I have a choice. I can accept that this is all there is: the clouds, the rain, the darkness, and live my life in perfect contentment that there is nothing more. Or, I can look past the clouds to what I believe will come after them: the sun, the light, recovery.

The clouds and darkness and confusion of life is where faith comes in. Without times like these, there is no reason to believe that I am lost or that I might be making big mistakes or that I might need help. The clouds tell a story: they are so fragile and fleeting, but they keep us from seeing the truth. There is more out there than what we can see or even imagine.

 Its easy to get trapped into thinking that the limits of possibilities are just as far as the nearest barrier, until we see the sky open up before us in all its unfathomed depths.

So, even on the cloudy days, (I'm looking at you CTE) "I'll keep my eyes fixed on the sun."