Expectations, freedom and a walk in the woods

There’s something about being in the woods that heals my soul. It makes me feel alive and safe and invigorated and full of life and calm and peaceful all at the same time. It heals all the multitudes of me. There I let my mind wander as much as my body is. I don’t question. I don’t judge. I just roam.

We went and visited Sanspareil Rock Garden yesterday, and it was incredible. The way the moss carpeted the rocks. The way these giant boulders had so many intricate parts. The way the ivy vines snaked across the landscape. The way caves and passages opened up as we went along. We stayed in a small corner of this giant nature preserve and still there was so much to explore.


I feel like that’s how my mind is. As I try to sort and work through things, I keep unearthing more. Lots of parts go untouched or unseen because there are so many layers to uncover in the areas I am exploring. It’s overwhelming, really, trying to sort yourself out.

As we walked around and took in the sights, and I took pictures of almost everything, I had a thought. It’s me, I had about 100 thoughts. But this one feels important. This one is keeping me up at 2:30 in the morning. This one I need to share.

I thought that maybe we don’t need to be so caught up in sorting ourselves out. What the hell does that even mean, anyways?

I took in this beautiful array of vines and weeds and moss and wildflowers and rocks and dirt and roots and trees growing out of rocks and secret caves and realized this rock garden is no different than my brain. It’s a damn mess. That rock over there can’t decide if it wants to be a rock or a tree. These two tree roots are twisted in a fierce battle to occupy the same space. The ivy is twisted into impossible knots. Some of these wildflowers are no more than weeds that bloomed.


Anyways, my point is that everything in that landscape just as. It just existed and was there. It wasn’t sorted out, and yet it as still so peaceful.

So why do I think I need to be sorted out? Why am I under so much pressure, mostly self-inflicted, to put all of my ducks in a row and get my shit together hen the ducks swimming on the lake aren’t even in a row? It’s stupid. I try to make myself be a certain way, feel a certain way, be interested in certain things and present myself to the world in a certain way. I preach so much this “doing whatever the hell you want” attitude, but rarely do I live it. So rarely, in fact, that when I do I drown my problems in tequila and make really stupid decisions. I end up doing things I don’t necessarily regret, but also that I’m not exactly proud of. But that’s another story for another, far less public time.

I’m over it.

I’m over sorting. I’m over trying to force things. I’m over trying to make things be the way they are “supposed to be.” There’s no right way to live a life. It doesn’t come with an instruction manual, for good reason. You can read all the self help books in the world, but it really comes down to knowing what you want and unapologetically seizing it.

Nailing down what you want is the hardest part. As many things as I have going for me, if you asked me what I wanted, I’d probably stare at you blankly. I don’t have a concrete answer for that question. Parts of me know that’s okay, and other parts of me are still trying to be okay with that.

All I know is I want to be happy and proud of the life I’m living and the role I play in this world. I don’t always feel that way. Sometimes I feel more like I’m playing a part in someone else’s story than living my own. That’s something I’ve grappled with a lot lately, owning my own story. I thought to own my own story I had to kick people out of it. That’s not always true. I’m definitely a proponent of weeding out negativity in your life, but it isn’t always necessary. For me, I just had to redefine some things. I spent a lot of time trying to fit an expectation, but that doesn’t lead to my happiness or pride in the life I’m living. If I’m trying to mold myself into one specific kind of person, am I really doing myself any favors? I realized I can be a good wife without being defined by my husband.

I’m happiest in the woods because that’s when I just let myself be. I don’t think about what I’m “supposed to” do or how I’m “supposed to” live. I just walk. I take it all in. I enjoy it. I give myself space and freedom, and in turn I find peace. I can do that in everyday life, too, without being reckless. Damn, where was that knowledge two months ago?


We drove home yesterday going about 100 miles and hour down the autobahn, and I was just so damn happy. Chris even asked me if I was okay.

“Of course!” I answered. “I’m just happy.”

“I’m just not used to you being so happy,” he responded.

And he was right. Oh. So. Right. It’s sad how right he was. I’ve spent so long shoving myself into this little box, letting him shove me into this little box that I became a terrible person to be around. I was always grumpy, always irritable and forever changing my mind because I wasn’t allowing myself to be true to myself and what I really wanted. I’d try, but then I’d get so worried about fitting into that damn box so I’d change my mind to something that would fit.

Fuck that box. I’m taking a sledgehammer to that box. In fact, I already have over the past few weeks.

I thought it would take some giant cosmic shift to change things. I thought I’d have to go to the other end of the extreme to be rid of it. Hell, I did go to the other end of the extreme to get rid of it. There’s a way to have freedom and fun and spontaneity in your life without being reckless and destructive to what’s already there.

I had to remind myself that just because parts of things were bad didn’t mean that all of it as bad. I thought I had to chuck everything out and start over. I’m slowly making changes and getting rid of what doesn’t work.

Feeling free has become as simple as saying yes when I want to say yes and saying no when I want to say no. I spent a lot of time feeling like I had some sort of unstated obligation to do things I didn’t want to. I spent a lot of time letting others make me feel like I had to do things I didn’t want to do. Yes, life is full of things none of us want to deal with, but I was making everything –even the good things –that way.

I got so caught up in wanting to live with an open heart and do everything in love that I forgot it’s okay to set boundaries. Boundaries don’t mean shutting people out, not at all. It’s about respecting yourself.

I came across a quote recently that really resonated with me: “This is the messiness of life –that we all carry multitudes so we must sit with the shifts. We are complicated creatures, and the balance comes from that understanding.”

We all carry multitudes. 


I can have 100 thoughts circling in my head, some that contradict each other. I don’t have to pick a side. I don’t have to have everything sorted into neat little stacks. My life doesn’t have to fit your expectations. Believe me, it won’t. It’s not all sunshine and daisies (although there has been a lot of both of those things lately).

Some days it’s just shit. And that’s okay. We all carry multitudes. It’s okay to be happy and sad at the same time. It’s okay not to be thrilled with things other people think you should be thrilled about. It’s okay to want to punch them in the face when they tell you how luck you are or how perfect your life is –just don’t actually do it.

It’s okay to be unsure about things. It’s more than okay to be a bit of a mess. Life is anything but neat and tidy, and I need to stop expecting it to be that way. I’m much happier when I release my expectations and just go with the flow.

I live for the moments when I can walk in the woods and watch Sophie climb and explore. When I can be free in knowing that even if things aren’t what I expected, they’re still beautiful.

I have all the power to make this life whatever I want it to be, and that, that is big stuff.


2 thoughts on “Expectations, freedom and a walk in the woods

  1. beingmamabean4 April 4, 2016 / 4:13 pm

    I envy you for this recent revelation. I’m years older and yet I haven’t shaken the compulsion to make the shit that is my mind presentable. I don’t have that confidence in my ability to shape my life. Yet. But I feel exactly as you described when surrounded by nature. How wonderful for Sophie to be properly introduced to that safe, peaceful place!


    • Michelle Carpenter April 5, 2016 / 2:25 am

      I’m pretty good at putting the things together, not so good at actually living it. I definitely still feel the urge to sort some things out, I think it’s human nature. But I’m trying to practice letting it be instead of forcing it to be a way I think it should. We’ll see how that goes!


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