Friday, February 10, 2012

Just Eat, and Be Terrified of Being Alone

This past week for the mindfulness challenge, I've been 'paying attention to my hands'. This means I have watched them as if they belonged to someone else... and in most cases, I find I do that already. It might seem odd that I pay so much attention to my hands, but they are an outward symptom of my auto-immune disorder. One I am keenly, sometimes too keenly, aware of. This past week, I tried to behold them as the tools they are... graciously doing my bidding, helping each other, as perfect partners and as independent operators. One thing I take for granted about them is their deep communicative potential. I painted my nails each day a different color and I noticed the people in my life watching me with renewed animation. My gestures were set ablaze by the blue, purple and black polish on my nails. Like a signal light on my fingers, they signed the words I speak.

Of course each of these weeks has meant a significant self-examination, but today's has been especially poignant and painful. This week, my task is to 'Just Eat'. Don't watch tv, text, look up the news or daydream while eating, just eat. It brings to mind all of the things I do that are automatic and robotic.. I usually eat while working during the day, hunched over my computer, focused on the task at hand instead of my noodles/rice/sandwich. I probably eat too much as a result, enjoy too little, and lack connection with my nourishment. This will be a good exercise for me. To date, this week, I've done better than in any other challenge. I ate a few meals with my niece, which means I can't have my attention anywhere but the table. I made it a point tonight to eat at the table with Bart... something that we usually don't do, in order to focus more at my food. I really should respect food as fuel, not entertainment, or mindless comfort. Good luck doing the same this week.

In other news, I watched the movie 127 hours tonight. I'm irrevocably disturbed. At the beginning of the film, I literally screamed in agony that I am not currently in Utah, because I suddenly felt the ache to be there so badly it hurt my physical form. I realize my travelogue might have been vague and indescriptive about the real beauty of this place, but I can describe a little of it as - being on Mars, with no other humans around, no rover, no spacesuit, and the landscape is sucking the oxygen from your body with each breath. I saw so many of these unique and different breathtaking vistas in Utah that I'm quite sure I aged irreparably while there. If you haven't witnessed this place, email me. I'm going back as soon as I can and I want to take you with me.

Anyway, Utah was on my mind because of this film... 127 hours. In the film, a real dude, Aron, falls in a slot canyon and is stuck there for over six days. He has to endure some harsh realities while trapped in this canyon; his arm is clinched between two boulders, he's running out of water, and has no way to communicate to the outside world. Of course, having hiked recently in Utah's slot canyons (in a cast, especially conscious of danger), I immediately hearken to the fact that he is hiking alone. Bart and I disagree on a lot of things, and one of the fundamentals is that he insists on telling the world where he is, while I relish the times when I can disappear into the wilderness alone. Watching this film gives me a little pause, since Aron was only stuck in the canyon for extended periods because no one knew where he was. Isolation in its purest form is like a hug for me. I long to be away from everyone, alone on the face of the earth. In fact, that's what my walkabout was intended to do, put a little distance between me and humanity, and recoup some of my energy - alone. Alas, this is a lovely way for introverts to recharge, but if you fall in a canyon whilst recharging, shame on you if you don't bring a radio...

Which brings me to my second point. I've been well-cared-for my entire life. Long before I met my scout-like husband, my military brother kept me well-prepared for any life outdoors. I was not only equipped for rugged camping at all times at 16, I could set up a full camp, find water and firewood, and fend for myself against a number of adversaries. I felt empowered in the woods because Patrick had taught me how to tie a knot, build a fire, dig a latrine and keep myself safe. I'm not saying I'm a mountain-woman, just able to wield a pocketknife adeptly. When I packed off for Utah in December, it was Patrick who insisted I bring a Ham radio in case I was stuck out of cell range in danger. In truth, most times we were hiking in Utah, the radio was our only way of calling for help. Had I fallen into the same slot canyon as Aron, I would have been able to contact someone immediately. I also would have had GPS coordinates, because I asked to borrow Patrick's handheld GPS. I think the moral of this story is that if you want to be a cowboy, and isolate yourself from the rest of the world, that's fine. I know all about wanting to be alone. But if you want someone to find you when you fall in a hole, you better be willing to rely on others for help. If the extra 1.5 pounds in my pack mean I won't have to amputate my own arm, I'll continue to lug it around. How much does an arm weigh, anyway? Life is so much simpler on the trail.

Happy eating this week, readers. And if you feel compelled to isolate yourselves like I sometimes do, bring a radio. Simple enough.

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