The thing that sucks about growing up is that we get too attached to our mundane patterns of existence. You wake up, go to work, come home, cook food, watch TV, and go to bed. Maybe every once in a while you go out to dinner, get laid, or attend a party where you awkwardly chat until you’re tipsy enough to flirt with someone you’re not supposed to. But even when fun presents itself we often shy away because, “we have to get up early the next day.” So we say “no” to taking ecstasy on the beach with a bunch of strangers with lotus flowers weaved into their blond dreads – even though maybe 10 years ago you would have been the one dry humping the waves.
Now that I’m in my 30’s, I have different priorities than I did in my 20’s – my work, making my work meaningful, and being successful at work. Oh yeah and my child/family/personal growth/health… snore I just feel asleep. There are more meaningful parts of my life that pull me away from frivolous fun because I know that I have to work hard in order to get the work done. Oh and also spend time with people I love.
Even though I may not be as reckless as I was in my past, I still feel this undying urge to break out of my own shell. I don’t want to lose myself in a schedule, or in a regime of my own making. When my weeks blend together like an amorphous routine, time becomes indistinguishable. I find myself wondering, “Did that happen that last week, or 7 months ago?”
The days of doing cocaine on a rooftop may be behind me (probably because more than my soul blew away that evening), but that doesn’t mean I want to live everyday like I did the last. The way I make memories is not by doing the same thing day in and day out, but instead by doing something out of the ordinary.
When I do something unusual it makes me think of conformity, and reminds me how desperately I want to push against the status quo. I used to do that with bong hits and watching conspiracy theories, but that resulted in eating a lot of cereal. I want to be responsible, but I don’t want to be conventional. I want to be doing things that other people aren’t because being on the fringes of culture is where I like to be – it’s just that now I have to be more creative about finding those moments.
ESPECIALLY BECAUSE I LIVE IN THE WOODS and am hard pressed to be seduced into making bad decisions by hanging out with the wrong trees.
In my quest towards making memories I do things that challenge me, scare me, or make me uncomfortable. The more I struggle through something, the more it imprints in my psyche. So if something is hard, you bet your sweet ass I am going to try and do it.
So last full moon I decided I wanted to bathe under its luminescence and swim across the lake. Now, this is not my first time doing this. Swimming across the lake is something I have done for most of my adult life. The lake has a 3.5-mile circumference, so you do the math of how far that is because I cheated in high school geometry. The probably with this adventure was not the act itself, but the fact that it was the coldest day of the summer at 55 degrees.
I asked my friend to join me, and she was down… yet as the day went on, we had our doubts. All afternoon it rained, and my friend and I went back and forth on whether or not it was worth it. The rain stopped so we met up, but still deliberated. We sat in our sweatshirts and looked out at the dark water – smoking weed and losing our courage. We took off our clothes and dipped in our toes, both shivering uncontrollably.
My Friend: Should we do this?
Toni: I don’t know. I am getting eaten alive my mosquitos though.
My Friend: What should we do?
Toni: We don’t have to do it?
My Friend: But maybe we should?
Toni: Let’s do it.
My Friend: But it’s so fucking cold.
Toni: I know. We don’t have to if we don’t want to.
My Friend: But we’re here.
Toni: So let’s go.
My Friend: But I’m freezing.
Toni: We have to decide this is crazy.
My Friend: So what should we do?
Come to think of it, maybe being stoned was not helping our decision making process.
My Friend: If you go – I will follow you. But I’m not going to be the one who makes this happen.
I counted to 3, and dove under. I swam as fast as I could until my body no longer felt numb, and then looked up. Around the corner I could see the moon rising, and it was SO FUCKING WORTH IT!
It seemed insane that we were the only people making this life choice that night. Yes it was cold. Yes it is cozier inside. But nothing could rival the beauty we experienced, and it was only highlighted by the effort it took to be there. It’s like we were in on a secret that no one else knew. If you push past the discomfort, there is a glory to behold that is a much greater gift.
For the next hour, my friend and I swam towards the open arms of the full moon. We talked, laughed, thought, and dreamed. From the second we submerged ourselves we were so grateful that we had. Everything that we went through, the struggle, the cold, the indecision, made it all the more memorable.
I realized something about myself in the middle of that lake. I almost need things to be hard and arduous to fully lose myself in the process. My friend is the type of person who could just go for a night swim. She could swim around, enjoy her self, and then get out. But not me. I’m the type of person that’s either swimming across a fucking lake or not at all.
When I do something with a specific goal, like getting to the other side of the lake, I can let go of thinking about all the discomfort of getting there. I don’t allow myself to dwell on how my body is cold, or that my neck is tired from holding my head up. Anytime my mind wanders to complaining, I just say, “Well there’s nothing you can do until you get to the other side – so think of something else.” Having a goal keeps me in the moment. It frees me up from thinking about all the things that make it challenging, and anchors my mind in the present. It’s when I’m in that kind of headspace that there is the potential for spiritual awakening. When I am not thinking, but being. That is when I am most myself. When I am most creative. When my heart is most open to listening to my soul’s cries.