When you lose someone, sometimes you think you’re okay, but then something happens and suddenly the loss hits you like an oncoming truck, threatening to overwhelm you with grief, regret, and sadness. Some of you might know what it’s like. For me, it’s like a big, deep void opening up in my soul, threatening to suck me in. I’ve fallen into that swirling vortex of emotional doom many times in the past. But recently, after Burning Man, I figured out some things that have kept me from falling into the vortex since, despite losing Nikki as my girlfriend and close friend (something that would’ve surely drop-kicked me deep into the vortex before). But yesterday, the void appeared, and I felt like I was getting sucked in. I fell deeper into it than I have in recent months. There I was, sitting in a cafe in Mountain View, amongst strangers, having lost my one close friend, far away from my few other close friends. Grasping at straws, I tweeted a call for hugs.
Within 30 minutes, I was ok. Not only ok, but happy. But it wasn’t because of the virtual hugs (as grateful as I am for them). I was happy because I had an epiphany. Or a series of realizations.
When I’m in the city, around people, I feel incredibly lonely. Yesterday, as I was teetering on the edge of the vortex, I was IMing a friend, and told her “I need a friend, or two.” When I said that, an alarm went off in my head. Whenever you think you need something to be happy, it is almost certainly false, unless, maybe, that something is necessary for survival. So I thought about that statement some more, and realized how ludicrous that was. I’m a guy who goes off into the woods alone, winches a 1300lb trailer up a hill alone, and loves every inch of the way. I’m a guy who drove 3500 miles over 10 days alone, and loved ever mile and every day of it. I’m a guy who found peace and happiness at Burning Man, on the one day in which I hardly saw any of my “friends.” If there’s one person I know who can be happy completely alone and isolated from other people, its me. If I think I need a friend to be happy in the city, I’m deluding myself.
So I undeluded myself, and felt a lot better.
Later, I started thinking about why it is that I feel so isolated and frustrated in the city, around people, but feel at peace in the woods. And I figured it out.
When I’m in the woods, I accept the world as it is. Nothing phases me, because I don’t expect anything beyond what is. A tree is a tree, a rock a rock, the sun is or isn’t, and the weather simply is. I’ve faced many set-backs, just trying to get my stuff to where I want it on my property, and haven’t been phased in the slightest. Plan A failed when I found the dirt road to be too rough for the Ryomobile. Plan B failed when the truck couldn’t turn a corner with the trailer. Plan C failed when my pulley system failed. Plan D got me close, but still didn’t get the job done because, once I got to the edge of the clearing, I couldn’t find a tree close enough to anchor my winch to. Not once did I get frustrated, or mad. I know it’s silly to get mad at a dirt road for being rough, or at a tree for creating a tight corner, or at a clearing for not having a tree in a convenient location. My land is. And I accept it as it is.
But people. Oh people. People are deceiving. People aren’t inanimate objects. People can communicate. People can be persuaded. People can be won over. People can change. Or so I thought. I had high expectations from people. I wanted things from people. I wanted to be acknowledged, to be liked, to be loved. I had notions of what one should be able to expect from a friend, or a girlfriend. Expectations so lofty that few people have hardly ever met, at least not completely. So I felt unfulfilled, frustrated, and betrayed.
But then, I realized. Of course I felt frustrated and unfulfilled. What I was doing was like going to my land and wishing that a certain tree were located farther north by 10 yards, and this sapling were 30 feet tall, and this clearing had more trees, and that grove didn’t block the light. It’s silly, and pointless. The trees are where they are, or aren’t. They are what they are. And so are people. People are who they are, and do what they do. Just the same way an occasional tree on my property helps me winch up a trailer, an occasional person might help me, befriend me, or love me. But as most trees on my property don’t care I exist, most people don’t either. People simply exist. Independent of who I am, and what my needs and wishes are. Like trees in the forest.
The world looks like a different place to me now. I no longer look at people and feel unfulfilled and alienated. They’re not ignoring me, at least not any more than a tree ignores me. They don’t hate me, any more than a tree hates me. They don’t find me unlovable, any more than a tree finds me unlovable. They simply are. I simply am. The world, simply is.