I am 23 days into a Facebook detox. I’m getting off the app indefinitely. This is a story about my first 23 days. Check it out on my site, Gettingoutmore.org. I hope you are all well!
Yes, I know it’s shitty advice. A lot of the time we just cannot take five minutes out of our day to do something nice for ourselves. We are stressed out with work, commuting, family, prior obligations, kids, those extended warranty calls, that friend of ours who just keeps making sad choices, political arguments on social media, really stressing out about are we good enough. what the hell we are doing with our lives, and why sometimes it feels like not a goddamn thing ever goes right.
When I was into rock climbing, I had a teacher who was an excellent climbing instructor. He always used to warn us about “getting into that corner”. When you are climbing, you often go for the easy foot and hand holds. The path almost tells you where to go when you are on a pitch. The bummer is that sometimes, those nice foot and handholds take you right into a corner in the rock face. Then, you either become a better climber right then and there and try to figure a way out of it, or you scramble, slip and hope your buddy is on belay, because you’re about to go bungee jumping.
It’s not always easy avoiding corners. We get stuck in them all the time. So often that it feels like that’s where we live and when we are busy falling, we aren’t figuring out how to get out of them.
Lately, I’ve been stuck in my own headspace. If you are a regular reader or know me personally, you’ll know I’ve got a lot going on. So much in fact that my therapist’s reaction to a 45 minute screed of what is going on in my life is usually her just letting out a deep sigh. We’ve all got a lot going on in our lives. Those damned corners creep up all the time and we find ourselves attempting to keep climbing up, with a big ass ceiling right against our faces.
I’ve been working a lot, and recently I posted about how my life might sound boring because all I do is talk about writing. Yes, that’s my first mistake, worrying about what other people think of me. Among a thousand other worries.
So, the other day, I stuck a sticky note on my computer and anytime I feel my stomach clench up, I look at it. It reads thusly:
“I don’t need to worry about this.”
So, as I chase my dream, I also tend to worry about whether or not I’ll be successful. I’m working my guts out to write this book, to work on travel writing, to market myself, blah blah blah. That’s only some of it.
So, I just look at that note. A LOT.
Today, I looked at the note and decided I needed to bring out the big guns. I needed to sit around in a hot spring for a couple hours and sous vide myself into submission. I put my phone on silent, drove an hour into the mountains, made the obligatory Facebook FOMO post, and turned it off again. I visited with strangers until they were less strangers. I just sat. I just freaking sat. It’s amazing how quiet my mind felt after a while of that. I watched other people reading books, jabbering about where to get the best weed, some were having a dance party in a pool while wearing headphones. And I just sat and let the hot water draw all the stress out of my body. I let me Geralt of Rivia vibe fly. No fucks given. Just sitting in a hot pool of water.
The Romans used to do this, and they had an empire that stuck around for a long time. That’s the picture for this post. The Roman Bath’s at Aqua Sulis! The water I was in today looked just about that disgusting. haha
It took about three hours. Then I treated myself to a plate of green chile fries at a place in Granby, with a tall frosty bottle of Coke.
I drove home. Took a nap with Penny. And caught up with friends when I woke up.
This was a big present. Usually it’s just coffee. But today it was this. I needed it.
I hope whatever you are doing, whatever is stressing you out, you take time to just decompress. Disconnect. Relax. The purpose of play is action without purpose. And sometimes it’s very little action. The first hour I was there, believe me, it took everything I had in me to just. be. still. But eventually it took hold.
This is why I always annoy the hell out of my friends by telling them to be kind to themselves. We are often the last people we think of when we are doing all that giving. It’s the season of giving. Give yourself something nice.
It’s 5am and I have been up for over an hour. It’s strange, but I see this occurence as a weird sort of reverse nap, like a rest from sleep. The ideas start working around in my head and until I get them down, I cannot sleep. I hope after I’m done here, I’ll conk out again.
Tonight I went to the North Park Christmas, braving the wind and blowing snow for the two or three blocks to walk over to Main St. from my house and hang out in a big circus tent they have pitched, being fueled with a portable forced air heater, which is good, because the wind chill is probably around forty below zero. Which oddly enough is the same whether you are on Celcius or Farenheit.
My mom was busy selling the soaps she makes herself, chatting with all sorts of people coming by to look at the assortment of things she is creating these days. Bath bombs. Lip balms. Soaps. Soaps with gnomes popping out of them. Lotions. Just all sorts of stuff. I’ve been serving as a sort of Sherpa to help her drag all of this stuff to and from her car. The live music was a nice addition, with the solitary guitar player probably wondering why nobody was up and dancing, but you could still see that townsfolk were just enjoying the songs.
Standing around like a goon, I look out of place. I’m the guy not wearing Carhartt. Or a cowboy hat. You can pick the out-of-towners out of the crowd pretty easily. I’ve been away for so long, sometimes I wonder if I qualify. I see plenty of people I recognize at these events, but usually they don’t know who I am. I feel like Odysseus, returned from Troy after a lifetime of misadventures and the only one that recognizes him is the oldest living dog in ancient Greece. (I mean, think about it, that dog was at least 20 years old when he came back).
I was reintroduced to some folks today. I chatted with my Fifth Grade teacher for a bit, as well as the lady who used to run 4-H Model Rocketry which I was a part of for years. She was a teacher too, but not for any of the grades I was in. Then later on, I visited with my First Grade (and Third Grade) teacher and her husband, my 7th and 10th Grade shop teacher. The school used to hire husband and wife teachers because it let them monitor how much money they needed to pay and it saved the school a bundle on health insurance premiums. No joke! One of the things that struck me the most was how I remember Mrs. Goulette being so much taller, but I really hadn’t seen her very much since I was 9. Now I was looking back down at her for once! Mr. Goulette was now my height. A little more grey, but other than that he hadn’t changed much.
We talked about the work I was doing on the old house where I’m living and he talked about how much he enjoyed my class. How we all had such dry senses of humor and he tried so very hard not to laugh. He did a good job of that because we used to think we irritated the hell out of him! I guess that whole time he was working extra hard to hold it in. It was pretty cool, because once the recognition of who I was under this grey beard and outlandish clothes hit him, his eyes lit up and I could see all those memories flooding back. We talked about carpentry, shop accidents, and he was really intrigued when I mentioned I built a secret door at home.
It was good visiting with them, even though I was in introvert mode, feeling a little bit out of place in my hometown, and not looking forward to the walk back to my house in that wind. When it hits, you can just feel the soul getting knocked out of your body. Sometimes I dread catching up with people because they always ask what I’m doing back. For a while, it used to feel like I was back because of a defeat. You grow up in a place where the kids are fighting to get out, and that becomes ingrained in you. I’m a nationally published travel writer, I write web-content for companies and this week I sold four assignments, and I am writing a book. I think I’m just getting settled in with my newfound “I’m not a fraud, damn it!” mind set and I can look people in the eye with a straight face and say, “I’m writing.”
That feels pretty good.
The town is much different than I remember. It is lit up to coincide with the Christmas festival that is going on, but that has been done almost as an overlay on top of what is slowly falling apart. The old theatre signs and cafe signs are stripped down to the metal by the wind, with only patches of the red paint and almost none of the neon lights left–hints of the glory that once illuminated Main Street as you came in from the north and dropped down from the shoulder of Airport Hill on a night drive. It’s almost like a Hollywood set, which shows what a small town is supposed to look like, but it’s only at the surface.
Kids ran around here, doing the things kids do. They had a “snowball” fight with big cotton puffballs, and teenagers hanging out being goofy. Not so long and a whole lifetime ago, my friends and I were these kids. Everyone just so eager to grow up and move away and never come back. And now that I’m back, I see how much now we really took for granted.
At the end, we loaded up my mom’s car and we drove around town looking at Christmas lights for a bit. People here still decorate, but all the hot spots have changed over the years. People come and go. The place is familiar, but in many ways a lot different. My son would have loved the whole thing. I wish he could have seen it. Maybe next year.
So, I’m up getting these thoughts down, rather than let them roll around in my head knocking all sorts of other things out of place.