Making the Most

In Walden, Or Life in the Woods, Henry David Thoreau said, “I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”

He wanted to live so simply that his focus had to be on the world around him and not on the things that he had surrounded himself with. A noble purpose, for sure. In his cabin near Walden Pond he was able to spend hours just listening to a fly buzz around him, and to watch the entire daily process of a bird. I read a lot of excerpts from Walden  when I was an undergrad in the English department, and I love how much detail and beauty he found in the simplest of things. I enjoyed A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold for similar reasons. Thoreau made it his business to observe and record the life around him in the rural American countryside. That was his version of standing up to experience life before sitting down to write about it. And I admire his dedication.

Some of the most relaxing moments of my life have been spent sitting in nature and just observing. Being surrounded by trees in the timber at my aunt’s farm and watching the squirrels. Sitting on a night time Alabama beach listening to the waves. Walking my dog in the quiet of a December snow. I love it. I feel small and like all of the things that I tend to worry about don’t matter all that much. I make the most of those moments, because I know that they only last so long. But then I go back inside and trudge myself back into the fray with just a little more energy than before. And that’s okay.

Thoreau, for all of his aggrandizing of his Walden experience was also just making the most of his situation. Yes he sat and observed and experienced the world around him. But the famous cabin was a temporary gift from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson wanted Thoreau to truly have the Transcendental Experience, so he let Thoreau stay in the cabin for free, and if my memory serves he even paid for his food while Thoreau spent his days following the path of that fly. Then once a week Thoreau stopped his nature watch and gathered up all of his dirty laundry and carried it into town so his mom could wash it. Because not only did he not have time (being so busy observing), he didn’t believe that he, as a man, should have to wash his own laundry. I know this about him, and thought it was hilarious when I learned this about the Walden experience, and I still value the works that came from this time at the Pond.

The fact that Thoreau’s immersion into nature was a patron-funded worry-free vacation and not a survival experience in the wilderness does not make his insights less important or poignant. He was able to take what he saw and make it into a beautiful essay on the nature of life itself that is still quoted some 150 years later. It’s his perception of his experience that is so powerful.

And so when I’m sitting in my house looking at the literal piles of things that I need to do and decide to drink a mojito and sit outside while my dog suns himself instead of handling them, I am controlling my experience. I have a tendency to let little things build up into big stressors, and when I get stressed my brain tries to just ignore the problem until it goes away. This has never ever worked as a tactic for dealing with my stress, and is usually the cause of my prolonged discontent. This is my perception of my experience. The process of house hunting, finding, and then buying a house was one of the most stressful things that I’ve ever put myself through, and instead of putting everything away where it goes I’ve left it in piles in my dining room and bedroom. But I am changing my perception of this experience. Once the piles of things are no longer the cause of my stress I can put them away and bring order to my life.

I am so lucky. I have so much privilege in my life that has allowed me to make the most of my situation. It’s been a long road to get here, and I have student loans and now a mortgage to show for it, but I’m making the most of my situation. I have a job that I love and will figure out the rest. And I will continue to think about Thoreau sitting in his borrowed cabin in clothes that he didn’t wash while appreciating the flowers and birds that he could see from his window and making them into a beautiful experience.

~Tristin

 

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A Deep Breath in the Rain

Do you like my dramatic title? Well, it’s not raining yet, but it’s going to very soon. Possibly it’s going to storm very soon. There’s a thunderstorm front moving across Iowa, and it’s headed this way.

Right now I’m sitting at an outdoor table at a market. I’m eating brownie batter ice cream made by a local business, and the compostable spoon is ever so slightly cutting my cheek every time I take a bite. But it is very good ice cream.

I was able to leave work a little early today, and it was sort of a stressful day, so I stopped at this place I pass every day on my way to and from work. And now I’m just sitting here. Existing. I’m breathing in the smell of rain and watching the clouds get darker. The breeze has gotten cooler and less humid.

I love moments like this. Being able to just sit and take in the world around me without feeling guilty or like there’s a million other things I should be doing is a skill I learned in grad school. The stress of today was nothing like grad school, but I have found that it’s important to me to take a few minutes every so often and just sit and exist in the world around me. It started in the Student Union one December right before break. I had an extra half an hour between finals, and instead of sitting and studying whatever information that I knew I wouldn’t retain I just got some tea and a lemon poppyseed bread slice and sat and breathed. And then I started doing it at the bus stop. I used the few minutes it took to wait in line at a store. And it became a habit. A very healthy habit at that.

I tend to forget to do this as often now, and my stress levels are very different than they were, but I always feel better afterwards. The rain can be such a cleansing thing. It washes the humidity out of the air and makes the air fresher, and it’s something I’ve enjoyed as long as I can remember.

The wind has just picked up and the first few raindrops have started. In the interest of phone preservation I should go inside.

Have you ever just taken a minute to breathe and observe and exist? I hope you have.

Tristin

Time

Oh wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted anything. This blog thing is going super well! I constantly find myself thinking about how I would make some experience or another into a blog post, and then I plan on doing it as soon as I’m home. And you can see how that goes.

So much progress…

But seriously, I’m going to try and get better at posting. And then maybe people might even start reading my posts! What a thought. I feel very sarcastic today. I actually do have a lot of different things that I want to write about. My work schedule is finally slowing down, so I’ll feel like I have more time in my life to actually follow through. Because, the truth is I do have the time. For the most part I work until 4:00 or 5:00 depending on when I go into work, and then I get home and am exhausted.

I also recently just bought a house, which has been incredibly stressful and time-consuming. That is also another thing that I want to write about. I am so lucky to have what I do, and I want to write about it. A Millennial who owns a house? Of course Ima blog about it. So, no promises, but I’m really going to try and organize my life, and that includes updating this blog.

Later, Friends!

~Tristin

PS: I’m about to go eat lunch, so I’m not going to proofread this post. Now that’s more information you have.