Circles and Squares

It was well after midnight and I had just come of off two twelve hour shifts slinging beer to Teton Valley's unwashed masses when I found Eustace Conway in my mailbox. Eustace is the main character in Elizabeth Gilbert's The Last American Man, a biographical novel a friend gifted me because he thought I was ripe for it and that Eustace had something to tell me.

Despite the fact that my feet hurt like hell and I could barely keep my eyes from fluttering closed, I cracked open the spine. Because what can I say? I'm a junkie for the written word and couldn't resist a fresh score (especially one from this particular friend).

By page two I was hooked. This is your brain on drugs, egg in the frying pan, hooked. I couldn't put the man down even though I tried. I found him to be all at once charming, and alluring, and down right maddening. Because he's a man so committed, so hard headed, so selfish that at times he cuts his own nose off despite his face. Yet, at others he's the most connected, sensitive, charming pied piper of a guy you can't help be be drawn to him. Can't help but to want to sell all your stuff and walk right out into the woods and live with him in his teepee.

That's right. This girl. This city girl who owns 50+ pairs of shoes found herself wanting to walk right out into the woods and live in a teepee and eat squirrel and never come back again. That's the power of this man. This book.

Then the more I read the more I realized he sounded like every guy I'd ever dated (especially the last one). So maybe selling all my stuff and moving to Turtle Island to sit at his feet wasn't such a good idea. I mean if my dating history is any indication of how well I do with stubborn men who enjoy immense amounts of personal freedom well then I should probably steer well clear of Eustace Conway and his 1,000 acre nature preserve no matter how alluring. And boy is it. Is he. Alluring.

Because who doesn't want to be free of the stress of the modern world? To not have to worry about bills, and health care, and running here and doing this. Thoughts that have been pervasive since I packed up my car, sold most of my belongings, moved West, and got a not real job. Thoughts that have only gotten louder and stronger as I've started working one day a week on a farm, teaching more yoga classes, and picking up odd jobs here and there to make ends meet.

Which is a way of life I knew nothing about until moving here. Because bless their hearts, my family prides themselves on being well educated, upstanding, contributing members of society. Which is fantastic the world needs such people. And I'm very fortunate to have a whole host of incredibly talented doctors, and lawyers, and engineers I can call to bail me out when need be.

But this also means I was never granted permission to have those pointless but fun jobs, as college was a time for studying. Not for waiting tables or tending bar or being a ranch hand. And after college was a time for getting a real job that had benefits, and insurance, and a 401(k). Not for taking off across America or hiking Patagonia. So, now, at almost thirty, I find myself drawn to these things. This way of life. This kind of living. Which is an entirely different verbiage from working and is exactly what Eustace preaches.

That most Americans live and work in a box. Eat from a box. Drive a box. Do box like things. Never once considering breaking out of that box. Which is detrimental to the earth and everyone's health. So he offers a different way. A circular way. A way that is connected and integrated and whole. That honors the rhythm of nature. The cycle of earth, and life, and death. And isn't about filling a box with more boxes. Or in my case a closet with more shoes. But is about being mindful and respectful and breaking out of the box. About doing crazy things like riding across the country on horseback or hiking the AT mostly nude or living completely off the grid because you can. And why not?

And while I realize that I like my iPhone, and painting my nails, and electricity a little too much to go completely native the box metaphor does resonate with me. Especially since I was just offered a job that comes with so many boxes I could build a mansion sized fort with them. A job that by most people's standards is a good job with all the right boxes-health insurance including dental and vision, a 401(k), paid vacation, a hefty salary, a relocation bonus, paid CEUs and supervision and expenses, automatic increases in pay, etc, etc, etc. It also comes with some boxes that should be sent straight to the recycling bin as far as I'm concerned. Boxes like 24 hour call Monday through Friday and one weekend a month, a 40-60 hour work week, mandated clients, Medicaid paperwork, rigid counseling protocols, and a staff I haven't exactly connected with.

Boxes so large that I wouldn't even have time to consider other boxes. Much less buy them or enjoy them. And the only circles I'd get to experience would be the ones I was constantly running around in trying to keep up. Which is not what Mr. Conway had in mind with his metaphor I don't think. 

So, now that I know Eustace. Now that I've experienced a different way. Now that I've taught yoga, slung beer, housesat, catered, done graphic design and PR work, pulled weeds on a farm... Now that I've pieced together boxes of work that allow me to have a more circular lifestyle. That allow me to live instead of work. To do what fills me up instead of what fills a box. I'm not sure I can take a job that is all boxes and no circles.

Because if I've learned nothing else from this book, from my year here, it's that ultimately once you break free of the box it's hard to go back in again.


PS-Don't worry your pretty little heads my darlings no final decisions have been made yet. And even if I don't take this particular box I'm still fairly certain all my boxes will end up back east. So everyone take a deep breath (especially you Dad).

Times are a Changing (and Quick)

"There came a time when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." —Ana├»s Nin

Oh Internet,
There are so many things I want to tell you. The words rattle around in my brain and I struggle to catch to them. To pin them down on this page because there are so many. So many stories to tell. Stories about boys. New boys, old boys. Stories about jobs. New jobs, old jobs. Stories about yoga, and meditation retreats, and finding God. Stories about stories.

Because this past month or so has been one story after another. One story dissolving. Another being created. Two more springing up. Three leaving.

A rush of new words and old words and unexpected endings and beginnings. So that when I start to tell you one thing it's quickly become another and I'm not sure what to say. Except that cliche is true, the only constant is change. 

And boy have things been changing. Have I been changing. Rapidly. So fast that I often go to sleep one girl and wake up another. That one minute I have a plan and the next I don't. That right is left and left is right and my world is upside down and right side up again. And again. And again.

And how wonderful is that? To be so tapped in that things are moving. Rushing around. Shifting. Changing. And fast.

Too often we resist this. We cling to the past or reach out to the future. We attach ourselves to what we should have done, or said, or been. Or to what we have to or must do next.

Bypassing the moments that actually create the done or going to. But this middle part. This force that through the green fuse drives the flower is so sweet. It's what makes the bud blossom. And the blossom decay. It clears out and makes room. It creates and destroys. And without it you can't have seeds or flowers. Can't till, and plant, and reap.

So I try to sit with it. To marvel at the growth it causes. And the destruction it brings. Knowing that they are both the same. That I can't have one without the other. That if I want the blossom I have to be open to the decay. To the shifting and changing.

As radical and forceful and unpredictable as it may be.

So while I wish I could tell you all my stories. Pick the blooms and present them to you in a neat bunch. That doesn't seem to be how this is working.

Because just as soon as I gather them up they've already wilted and they're are others that need to be plucked.

And I know this will settle down. That the process will slow and there will be time to present you with a final bouquet. A longer absolute. But right now those are things I cannot say. Can't tell you what, or who, or where is next. And I'm ok with that. Because the blossoms I've been given are beautiful even if they don't last.

Hope you are well. Miss you terribly.

Dylan Thomas

The force that through the green fuse drives the flower
Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees
Is my destroyer.
And I am dumb to tell the crooked rose
My youth is bent by the same wintry fever.

The force that drives the water through the rocks
Drives my red blood; that dries the mouthing streams
Turns mine to wax.
And I am dumb to mouth unto my veins
How at the mountain spring the same mouth sucks.

The hand that whirls the water in the pool
Stirs the quicksand; that ropes the blowing wind
Hauls my shroud sail.
And I am dumb to tell the hanging man
How of my clay is made the hangman's lime.

The lips of time leech to the fountain head;
Love drips and gathers, but the fallen blood
Shall calm her sores.
And I am dumb to tell a weather's wind
How time has ticked a heaven round the stars.

And I am dumb to tell the lover's tomb
How at my sheet goes the same crooked worm.

William Carlos Williams

There were the roses, in the rain.
Don’t cut them, I pleaded. They won’t last, she said.
But they’re so beautiful where they are.
Agh, we were all beautiful once, she said,
and cut them and gave them to me in my hand.