I sat on a covered porch in a rocking chair with my knees to my chest and listened to the thunder tear through the silence and watched as lightning cut across the sky between the gaps of the trees.
I sat, and I contemplated life and love and the state of the world and everything in between. I had just hiked, and the woods always make me pensive. The trails were wet and overgrown from days of afternoon rains. I’d stripped off my muddy converse, and I sat in complete contentment feeling the fresh air and listening to nature.
I’ve realized lately that the moments I feel most desperate and frantic to be surrounded by people are the times I most need to be by myself. They are the times I need to submerge myself in solitude, usually amongst the trees, in order to sort out my brain and calm my anxieties.
It’s one of those things that I always knew, but it took me a long time to realize, if that makes sense.
Like sometimes you know that certain people or things are good (or bad) for you, but you aren’t quite ready to do anything with that information. Then one day it kind of dawns on you, and you finally incorporate that knowledge into your life.
It’s the difference between knowing something and realizing something. I wish I had more words to explain that concept, but it just is.
Anyhow, this difference between knowing and realizing is why I’ve spent so much time in the woods the past week or so. I always knew it was good for me, but after my anxiety attack a couple of weeks ago, I realized I had to start prioritizing it.
I’ve done a great job of surrounding myself with the most incredible people, but I’m only going to push them away if I make them responsible for my issues.
I can hear him in my head, “I’m not going anywhere, but you can push me away.” I would hate that.
I’m grateful to have had someone to take care of me, but it wasn’t his problem to solve. I’m not his person to take care of, and I refuse to let my anxieties ruin yet another relationship.
So I go to the woods. When I’m desperate for a hand to hold, I hold my own, and I go to the woods and I walk and I take pictures and I braid ferns into my hair. Sometimes I sit on the side of the trail in a puddle of tears because I have to get my emotions out somehow. Sometimes I stop in my tracks to scribble down a thought that comes into my head, a story idea, a poem lead, something I need to tell someone –whatever it is. I just surrender and let it happen.
I’ve submerged myself in self-care the past few weeks.I buy myself flowers because it’s a hell of a lot better than sitting around wishing I had someone to do it for me. I deep conditioned my hair. I had quite a few sessions of shower karaoke (sorry you have to listen to me terribly sing Whitney Houston, mom, but not that sorry). I’ve taken naps. I’ve buried myself in the things that make me feel whole and alive.
It’s made me less desperate for and dependent on other people. I’m still an extremely social person and crave human interaction, but I feel less like I’m going to fall to pieces every time the anxiety strikes and there’s no one there to hold my hand.
I used to long for someone to share my hikes with, and while company still would be nice, I’ve come to look at it as some sort of sacred alone time. I’m picky about who I’ll let be in those spaces with me, the vulnerable spaces.
It’s an incredible feeling, this contentment. I’m documenting it here so when life gets hectic, and I forget, I have it written here in black and white to remind me that I am enough for myself.
It’s really easy to get caught up in what everyone else needs from you. A lot of times I feel like I’m being pulled in 100 different directions, and everyone needs something. But I’ve realized that the people who love and care about me will want me to take care of myself first. This doesn’t change my undying loyalty to those I care about, but it does mean that I don’t feel compelled to do things for people who don’t appreciate it or who continuously take advantage of me.
So back to the story I started out with: sitting on the porch after my hike as the storm came in.
I was lost in my head. I had thousands of thoughts competing for attention. There are boxes in my notes of things I had to separate because I was trying to write down three different ideas at once. The woods (and swamps) are abundant with inspiration. It’s the best kind of overwhelming.
So I’m sitting there, and everything feels so loud. There are crickets and frogs and birds and my own thoughts and so many sounds I couldn’t name.
But at one point I looked up from my notebook, and the ringing in my ears went silent. It had felt like everything was screaming at me, and then they’d either thought I got the point or realized I wasn’t listening to them and gave up. I sat there and listened to the thunder rolling in and watched the sky grow darker even though it was hours from sunset. A mosquito pestered me lightly brushing my skin as it tried to find a place to latch on, but I didn’t want to leave my chair or the trees because I’d found silence amongst the craziness of life and this city. I didn’t want to let it go.
I’ve found that my attachments to things usually come because I want to live in my happiest moments forever because the ones in between often hurt too much to handle.
The storm came, and I had to leave. My moment of bliss interrupted by the earth’s temper tantrum, but I sat in my car and watched the rain and found bliss there, too.