There’s a terrible hollowness, an emptiness at the core of society right now that comes from our trying to exile ourselves farther and farther from nature. Nature is something that most people visit on weekends. Yet we evolved to be intimately tied to nature, to feel whole and natural when we belong to nature, and to respond to that ever-changing fantasia of the seasons. The harder that we try to deny that heritage, the more alienated we become.
~ Diane Ackerman
A few days ago, while experimenting with where I can pick up cellphone coverage around here, I pulled up Instagram and watched some of Glennon Doyle’s latest morning meeting. As I listened to her, I thought about reality and our version/vision of it. Ms. Doyle told a brief story about Christmas, and how Christmas never feels the way we expect it to feel. She talked about a Starbucks ad that was all red and green and warm and Christmas-y. She took her daughter, who said it wasn’t feeling like Christmas, to Starbucks for a treat and when she entered, she noticed lines of people masked and spaced apart, a woman pumping syrup into cups, shelves lined with plastic things for sale, and thought that this was not like the ad. There was nothing Christmas-y about the scene or being in a Starbucks.
Ms. Doyle then started talking about advertising and the media, and how we are conditioned by them, by our culture, to expect life to be a certain way, just as we expect Christmas to be warm and cozy and twinkling. She called it Life Porn. Just like pornography, it’s addictive and creates an illusion of reality. But that’s not life, that’s not reality. Instead, our lives are messy, awkward, sweaty, and all the other things that don’t appear in the ads. Even our joys and happiness can be messy and less than perfect. So, we buy things to try to make our lives more like the illusion. When that doesn’t work, we buy even more. On and on it goes until maybe, if we’re lucky, we wake up one day and realize what a crock of b.s. it all is. Because the good parts of life aren’t in that stuff. They are not in perfection. They are, in fact, in the sweaty, awkward, messiness of our lives.
There’s nothing new, really, about this. It’s the sort of screaming into the wellness-industry void that some women (mostly — maybe some men, but I don’t know about them) do when the new year rolls around and everyone is going on diets, starting new exercise programs, or otherwise trying to improve themselves in some way. There’s nothing wrong with self-improvement. Quitting smoking, becoming sober, exercising more, eating better, doing things to lower your blood pressure or get off the cholesterol meds, are all good things. The problem is that they come packaged and sold as “if you do this, your life will look like this” and it almost never, ever looks like what they’re selling. I’m never going to be 6 feet tall, slim and a beautiful model-type. The remarkable thing is this: I don’t want to be. I used to want to be (perhaps not 6 feet tall or a model, but certainly the slim and beautiful ideal). What this past year or so has taught me is how to appreciate myself wrinkles and all. That is valuable. That is the treasure that can only be found deep within.
We try to do our best as we float down the river of life, to go with the flow when we can. Just when we think we’ve got the hang of it, a piece of debris comes along and knocks us upside the head. We end up stunned and sitting on the shore, watching as life keeps going by. Or we tread water, barely keeping ourselves from drowning in it all. Then we find the flow again and maybe get to rest for a while. Our society worships at the altar of productivity and underrates the value of rest. We all need more of it. Good rest. Not binge-eating, binge-watching, rest. Taking a hike, eating a good meal with or without loved ones and friends, reading a good book, taking time to do something we love (even if it’s something that feels like work, but in the end, it’s good — like gardening), and the notion of speaking the good words. Because speaking the good words is rest, too. It’s a rest from the negativity. There are all kinds of good rest to be found. We just have to feel that we deserve to take it, and I am well aware that finding ourselves deserving and worthy is the hardest part of it.
My last post was a call to action. As I stated then, I have no answers other than to do what you can to bring us to a place where there is accountability followed by healing. I don’t know if unity is even possible. I read something recently about how we might have to come to terms with the fact that 30% of the population in the U.S. is, in a sense, gone. They are either so deeply entrenched in the golden age that never really existed and in their bigotry, or so far down the rabbit hole of conspiracy theories that all we can do is hold a place for them. A harsher response to that was that we need to somehow manage them (not in a sense of control, but in the sense of not letting them come to power again).
I feel better about the idea of holding a place or some space, maybe because I have hope that change is possible. I hold that space and that hope even after taking some time to read the posts and comments of people who strongly believe the big conspiracy theory associated with the Mad President. (I think you know what it is. I’m trying to avoid mentioning it in order to avoid feeding the algorithm.) It’s frightening stuff. It can be difficult not to ask, “How can people believe this??” It’s speculation on my part but I think the pandemic has contributed and helped to entrench some people in those beliefs. Fear is strong these days. I have my own ephemeral nightmares and fears, and that makes it easier to relate on some level. But fear is not a good place to be operating from.
That is why this post is a call to rest whenever you can, to do the little things that soothe your nervous system. It’s different for everyone. Immerse yourself somehow in nature. Read, nap, write, take a bubble bath, do whatever it is that feels like sanctuary and safety. My daily yoga practice is one of several things in my toolbox of comfort and joy. But there are days that call for more than that (most days, to be honest) and days that call for something else. If you’re not sure, take some time to think about what helps you breathe more naturally, more comfortably. What calms and soothes? Think about what warms your heart and soul and body-mind. If you’re a list-maker, make a list. Schedule if it, if needed. Sometimes we need to make appointments with ourselves to do the little self-care activities.
Whatever you do, take good care of you and those around you.
That evening, as I watched the sunset’s pinwheels of apricot and mauve slowly explode into red ribbons, I thought: The sensory misers will inherit the earth, but first they will make it not worth living on. When you consider something like death, after which (there being no news flash to the contrary) we may well go out like a candle flame, then it probably doesn’t matter if we try too hard, are awkward sometimes, care for one another too deeply, are excessively curious about nature, are too open to experience, enjoy a nonstop expense of the senses in an effort to know life intimately and lovingly. It probably doesn’t matter if, while trying to be modest and eager watchers of life’s many spectacles, we sometimes look clumsy or get dirty or ask stupid questions or reveal our ignorance or say the wrong thing or light up with wonder like the children we all are. It probably doesn’t matter if a passerby sees us dipping a finger into the moist pouches of dozens of lady’s slippers to find out what bugs tend to fall into them, and thinks us a bit eccentric. Or a neighbor, fetching her mail, sees us standing in the cold with our own letters in one hand and a seismically red autumn leaf in the other its color hitting our sense like a blow from a stun gun, as we stand with a huge grin, too paralyzed by the intricately veined gaudiness of the leaf to move.
~ Diane Ackerman, A Natural History of the Senses
Thank you so much for stopping by today. Thank you, too, for your responses to my last post. I know these are interesting and often difficult times. I appreciate you and I appreciate your kindness. Let’s meet out at the Point for sunset this evening. It’s breezy and chilly, but the sun has been shining today. The sun is always a welcome sight in the winter months. Sunset is scheduled for 5:01 PM. Look how the days are growing longer already! It happens so fast, don’t you think?
Please continue to be safe, be well, and be kind. ♥
A few of the 10,000 reasons to be happy: 1,671) Signing up for David Whyte’s latest offering (Start Close In, three Sundays in January). I just finished watching/listening to the recording from Seven Vulnerabilities of Giving which he offered in December. I took my time with it. It was a joy to listen to him read poetry, tell stories, and talk about the art of giving and receiving. 1,672) The gift of sunny days during the winter months. We’ve had a lot of cloudy days lately. That makes me appreciate the sunny days even more. 1,673) A beautiful red fox walking by as I sit here and type. 1,674) All that nature offers us. All that we can offer in return. 1,675) Plant and seed catalogs beginning to arrive.