I'm sitting at my desk with three hours to go before I leave for the first leg of my journey, with my fully-packed travelling case sitting behind my laptop. It's staring at me. "Are you sure you're bringing enough?" it asks. "What if you find yourself dangling a makeshift rope made out of your torn-up clothing over a cliff to save September's life but the rope is two feet too short because you only packed one extra teeshirt? What if you meet the great love of your life [after somehow rearranging my personal philosophies to account for that possibility - but my suitcase isn't concerned with small details] at a dance but they ask someone else for a waltz because the other person is wearing a lovely dress and dancing slippers and all you've got is one pair of jeans and muddy boots? WHAT IF YOU FINISH ALL THREE BOOKS BEFORE LANDING?" *
These thoughts tumble and careen around my head, no matter how much I try to remind myself that I've exhaustively gone over the packing list at least a dozen times; asked for (and got plenty of useful) help from knowledgeable strangers on the internet for the refining process; and packed, emptied completely, and repacked the whole case four times over the past two days. Everything I want to bring that is currently in my possession is ready to go, and no amount of last-minute nail-biting and scrambling is going to improve on that.
I've been struggling to reclaim my ability to just be in the moment, instead of going mad over possibilities (good and bad) and replaying past scenes endlessly in my head. My wonderful ninja buddy Hank's birthday present to me is helping. Although I have to admit an initial blench at the perceived gimmickry and new-age hand-wavy-ness, the ability to separate your sense of self and identity from things that are happening to you - whether it's obsessive or intrusive thoughts or a punch in the face - and simply dealing with the issues as they arise is precisely why we train the way we do, and even my preliminary skimming has sparked some useful threads of thought that are strongly tied to previous ponderings on physical training. I'm hoping that a more focused mental application of that same basic practice will only help strengthen both aspects.
BUT (and I realize that I may be going directly against the concepts I just lauded with this next thought) that's freaking hard. And impossible to instantly master. And right now I just want to remind myself what wonderful adventures the future may hold by focusing on what I've chosen as my priorities for the next year. So perhaps consider this a well-belated "New Year" post.
Way back in late 2014, when everyone was talking about Resolutions, I saw a quote - I think someone had posted it on Facebook; one of those stock photos with curly text imposed over a sunset or the like - that initially seemed about as meaningful as most viral pictures on social media, but stuck with me. I don't recall the exact wording, but the gist was that one should
listen with the intent to understand, rather than to respond
I know I'm often guilty of the latter. Both sides of my family have always loved to talk, and all my best memories of holiday gatherings are filled with wide and artful webs of conversation stretching between a dozen different points of view and three rooms, each voice rising and falling in turn, and the whole becoming a beautiful, organic, effortless stream of words. And I still absolutely adore that sort of connection with a roomful of well-practiced and enthusiastic talkers, but I've begun to actively change my mindset when in a smaller group or part of a calmer conversational flow.
As much as possible, I put the idea of how I will respond to my partner's current thought out of my head, and focus only on what they are trying to communicate to me - in their quickly spoken words as well as those on which they pause and ponder, and in their body language and the movement of their eyes and hands. It's fiendishly hard to break the chattering habit, and I often find myself interrupting my partner's sentences as well as my own thoughts, but the more I make this my focus, the more I feel both a wonderful expansiveness to the world of all possible connections and a deeper and more intimate connection to the person in the current moment with me.
I know I'll be meeting enormous amounts of spectacular people on my adventures this year - at least if the trend of all past experience holds - but too often there are more brief, convenient friend-flings than extended relationships, and I'm in search of the latter. I'm a gatherer of stories, and the way to get the best ones is through deep and sustained connection.
No, I'm not opening an art gallery (although I'm not ruling out the possibility for later...). This concept ties into the whole mess with my ridiculously tiny pack above - I'm concerning myself with not only
having as few items as possible
having exactly the right items
I want to be a turtle. I can think of nothing more freeing than literally carrying every item I own on my person, and making my home wherever I go. The packing list for this adventure is something of a trial run, pared down as much as I dare - but I'm already having ideas about what not to bring on the next jaunt, and more useful iterations certain items (like the dear old clunky brick of a laptop that's served me so well for years). It might be a different definition of minimalism than others use, but it's the one that works for me.
That's my arsenal (or two of the main categories thereof, at least). Already this year, with those particular aims in the forefront of my mind, I've met some spectacular people whom I'm excited by the prospect of knowing better, worked to deepen the connection of existing friendships, lightened my metaphorical and literal loads, and said yes to so many adventures - both actual travels and new possible life paths - that I'm still reeling and breathless at the thought of what my life could become. And when life hands you an adventure of this grand scale, you don't bite your nails over whether your clothes will be pretty enough. You grab your passport and a little money, and you go!
Ok, and maybe a toothbrush too.
* this is in fact a distinct likelihood.