Please, I whimpered at the 45km/h gusts of wind, the shower tent currently plastering its cold self against my wet, half-showered body.
“Please just fuck off!!”
New Secret Man was back at work and I had gone away camping again – alone this time – in an incredibly beautiful, remote spot in southern NSW.
Unfortunately, my flimsy shower tent was not coping with the sudden change of weather and nor was I.
It was the last week of my big mojo-resetting holiday, and I was determined to find some peace and clarity after an enjoyable yet sometimes-stressful holiday break which involved all of our plans being cancelled multiple times by various Covid outbreaks in all the places we had planned to travel to.
I’d kicked off my solo 10 days feeling a bit scared, and very lonely.
I wasn’t hugely concerned about the loneliness though, I know that heavy feeling in my heart well – I’ve come to expect it from the first few days of all my solo travelling adventures.
Wading through loneliness and existential angst on the first days of my solo trips seems to be the prerequisite for coming out the other side with clarity and contentedness, so I let it come and do its thing.
I’d started to come through the other side and was experiencing moments of deep presence and gratitude for life, nature, and everything in it.
Except not everything, because now it was windy. REALLY windy.
And I was pissed.
It was so windy in fact, that my tent poles were bending the opposite way and the roof of my tent had bowed down to nudge me in the face multiple times overnight.
Neville, (and my nervous system) was not happy about any of it. Gratitude for life was gone, gratitude for nature was definitely gone, and all was not well in solo camping land.
Neville kicked off his usual overanalysis regime to try to figure out the root cause of my unhappiness, because suuuuurely,
it must be something more complex and problematic than the weather.
“Maybe I’m losing my resilience??” Neville muttered. “Maybe everyone’s Covid stress has finally gotten to me. Maybe I’m being too selfish, trying to ‘get my mojo back’. Maybe I’m going back to my old ways! Gah, maybe I’m going back to victim mode? Hmm maybe it’s just really bloody windy? Maybe my nervous system is just shot. Maybe my amygdala got bigger last year. Maybe I’m not doing enough gratitude journalling?
Maybe everything is just fucked?”
“Neville!” I thought-shouted –
“Still. Not. Helpful.”
I tried to be present with the swells of fear in my chest as the wind whipped through the valley, but Neville was on a rampage, and I couldn’t seem to observe the fear and the anger as I usually would try to.
So I hopped in the car to go for a drive.
Recently New Secret Man (now called Bloody Good Bloke from hereon in) and I bought a mini book of Pema Chodron excerpts. Everytime we jump in the car, one of us (me) shouts “Mini Pema!” Then whoever is the passenger flips to a random page and reads out the excerpt and we discuss.
More often than not, the message is roughly the same: embrace pain, suffering, and “bad”, welcome all the highs and lows.
I knew it was time for a reminder.
“Mini Pema!” I shouted to myself, flipped to a random page and smiled.
“The way to dissolve our resistance to life is to meet it face to face.
When we feel resentment because the room is too hot, we could meet the heat and feel its fieriness and its heaviness,
When we feel resentment because the room is too cold, we could meet the cold and feel its iciness and its bite. When we want to complain about the rain, we could feel its wetness instead. When we worry because the wind is shaking our windows, we could meet the wind and hear its sound.
Cutting our expectations for a cure is a gift we can give ourselves.
There is no cure for hot and cold. They will go on forever. After we have died, the ebb and flow will still continue. Like the tides of the sea, like day and night—this is the nature of things.”
Nice one Pem.
Life (and weather) often behave far from how we want it to behave. We’re always being challenged by external circumstances, in big ways and small, but we always have a choice in how we respond.
If we resist our external circumstances, and shout at the wind like a madzer, we pile on layers of unnecessary stress, and we suffer for it.
If we accept that, goddamnit, I planned to have a warm, peaceful holiday and got 45km/h gusting wind instead, we remove all the extra layers of resistance and are left with the same situation, minus the suffering.
With Pema’s wise insights in mind, I drove to the beach where I practiced fully feeling the wind whipping through my hair, listening to it roaring through the trees, noticing the adrenaline racing round my body.
For at least 15 seconds.