The past 10 days have been, what can best be described as a ride of extremes. Part of me wants to tell it in facts and photos, because facts and photos are simple and concrete and easy to describe, but that would just be a superficial coating over what happened in the other 86,399 seconds of each day.
I can summarize though: I played on mountains. I climbed a huge granite slab. I was happy. I was sad. I was excited. I was angry. I camped for the first time. I did not get eaten by a mountain lion. I did not get eaten by a bear. I only fell once, luckily not while on a granite slab (but tree roots hurt). I had great conversations. I had horrible ones. The extreme highs (literally and figuratively) were bookended by impenetrable sadnesses that have all abruptly leveled back to the consistent neutral that is what makes up the majority of life. But the details matter less than the bigger picture, so instead we’re going to talk about perspective.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am a dark and twisty person deep down – and I have been that way for as long as I can remember. Even as a young child, I used to play ‘games’ with myself where I would imagine the worst possible scenario (Smedley the dog being hit by a car, something happening to my parents, nuclear bombs, and my personal favorite, thank you Anne Frank and Lois Lowry, German WWII somehow reoccurring from my bedroom closet), not necessarily to work myself into a panic, but to preemptively mentally prepare myself for whatever awful thing was coming so that I would know how I would react at the time. In a way, I’ve carried over that way of thinking into adult life, in a slightly less dramatic ‘prepare for the worst but expect the best’ sort of mentality. Unfortunately (fortunately?) if there’s one thing I’ve learned over the past year, it’s that as much as you think you know how you’re going to react to a given situation and think you can have everything under control – sometimes feelings are feelings and feelings trump logic, and you just can’t.
Anyway, while I don’t consider myself a pessimistic person, I understand reality, and reality isn’t always perfect. For a long time, it was easy for me to make big problems out of little problems or to obsess over details and things that mattered so much at that moment. Luckily, it’s never been in an angry, cynical way; rather, it’s always been more of a personal anxiety or angst or quest for my idea of self-perfectionism and the need to please and satisfy everyone around me before taking care of myself. It’s been a gradual process, partially of self-acceptance, partially of forcing myself to be selfish, partially of finding ways to center and drag myself out of my worst case scenarios or alternate realities in my head, but over the years I have reached a point where I know what I have control over and can act on and know what I don’t and can accept. I’m not perfect in it, and I’ve watched myself slip in and out of my default opposite state a lot over the past few months, but it’s more skewed toward being second nature now than it ever was.
Part of this past few weeks was awful, but like I’ve been doing without much effort for the past few months, all I’ve had to do is look around me and recognize that the world is so much more powerful, so much more beautiful and so much more intricate than I could ever be. I am an insignificant interloper living on something that does not need me to be here. It’s a privilege that I get to see it, and it’s a gift that my body is strong and healthy enough to carry me around it. I can choose to wallow in every little misery and obsess over the small and large things that are so wrong with myself and with the world to turn jaded and bitter, or I can accept that some days I’m going to cry on the sides of streets and some days I’m going to dance around on the tops of mountains, and keep stomping through the rest of my life a la Timone and Pumba and see – really see – what is there.
Perspective, kids. It’s all about perspective. And with that, I leave you with the ever-so eloquent words of Zac Brown:
Keep your heart above your head and your eyes wide open
So this world can’t find a way to leave you cold.
You know you’re not the only ship out on the ocean
Save your strength for things that you change, forgive the ones you can’t
Let it go.