As I sat down to write this letter, I felt a surge of the familiar impulse that tugs at me each time I find myself in front of a screen. It’s a forward motion that propels me toward the new and undiscovered. Its lighter side is an unwavering belief in possibility—that there must be something surprising and wonderful waiting for me on the other side of a search or at the upper limits of a feed. Its darker side is a worry that I’ve missed something terribly important since the last time I was here (which wasn’t very long ago).
With this letter as my purpose, though, I realized I wouldn’t find what I needed by looking forward, grasping at the burgeoning thoughts of other voices. I would find my material and momentum by turning in exactly the other direction, sorting through the memories, texts, and artifacts I’ve been collecting all along.
One of my favorite things about the internet, after its potential for connecting kindred spirits, is its inherent function as an archive. Each time we reach toward some elusive newness or share a half-formed thought, an entry is added to at least one of the histories, archives, or timelines that make up our digital geography. Without much effort, we leave a trail not only of where we’ve been but of who we’ve been along the way. Of course, the value of an archive hinges on the art of returning, remembering, and finding patterns.
A recent rummage through my own internet attic yielded these warm repetitions: “book,” “encouragement,” “stories,” “home,” “lovely,” “thank you.” — Lisa
Last week's dispatch asked, Is there a word that defines this moment in time for you?
Radiant. Because I am absolutely feeling that way. And that's also the state of the sun during summer in the place that I am. And, as a good friend of mine noted, when I told him this would be my word: "As a side note: radiant, sun-kissed, freedom and hammock go together so well." :)
I'd say the word that best defines this moment in time is content. It's interesting to consider this word as what defines me at this moment because to most, it's a good thing to be content, yet the enterprising side of me finds it to be too passive and is not thrilled about it. I'm most certainly pleased with how things are going for me in my life - I've got a wonderful girlfriend, the health of my friends and family is beyond well, I have finally made a dent in the career path of photography that I've pursued. Things are great. I am comfortable.
Except there is still a part of me that is not happy that I'm comfortable because it means I'm not pushing myself to become more successful at my ambitions. Some of the best things one can do stem from stepping out of the comfort zone and exceeding beyond contentment. Hopefully, I find the motivation somewhere and begin to pursue what I want to achieve.
I think fractured is the word that sums up this moment for me. Working on changing that.
My word for the present time is laconic. Why laconic? Because, it's a GRE word that I didn't know (thus a syndrome in some regards) but I now do. Between researching grad schools, Americorp possibilities, applications, questioning my "life" and how I am suppose to sell someone on it in an essay, I'm left with few words floating in my mind that are not consumed by this stage of being. I realized I have a capacity for reading right now, I want information to be as laconic as possible, because I have a rather low tolerance for long winded details and pages of repeated information. I think, "Don't you people realize you're evaporating all my brain juice?!"
Reconditioned. After a very intense and busy first half of the year, I "finally" made the time to step away from it all for 10 days. No work, no email, no social media - and for three of those days, no conveniences as I trekked through the Santa Fe National Forest with only the essentials strapped to my back. Unplugging and slowing down has helped to repair, renovate, and rebuild me from the inside out. It reconditioned me to something closer to what I am intended to function and feel like. Now, to maintain my reconditioned state.
The word that defines this moment in time for me is: adventure. I've just quit my job and don't have a new job lined up. However, something else is going on with me: I am acutely aware that my spirit is open to whatever comes my way in a positive and adventurous manner. My guess is that my leaving a toxic environment has welcomed back my sense of hope and adventure. I'm rather happy for this.
A word that defines this moment? I'd say whirligig. There's always at least one moving part, spinning furiously in response to the current winds. But it's also colorful and somewhat entertaining!
My word is wait.
Three months ago I began a new experiment with my Icelandic horses ("quantified pony"), around a dramatically different approach (for me) -- extreme patience. The plan: choose a tiny skill and take the time it takes to truly nail it. "Ab crunches", I decided, "I'll teach my horses to do ab crunches." This was tougher than I imagined.
Not for the horses… for me. I spent five minutes, every morning, working with my two competition geldings. The goal: on the verbal cue "shape", they would lift their back by contracting their abs, without my having to touch them. After the first week of trying,I knew it would take, like, forever. During the 343 previous times I'd tried this over the years, this was the point at which I either gave up or got greedy and pushed for too much. THIS time would be different. THIS time I had my little Field Notes "lab book". THIS time I would not take take it personally, because science.
So I waited. I walked into their stall and sort of suggested they back into a wall, and then I … waited. And they… just stood there. Even with their butt to the wall, they would not, willingly, do a crunch. "Six pack abs", I whispered, "you'll be awesome."
"No response", I scribbled in my Field Notes.
And then, after a week, it happened. Draumur accidentally "crunched" backing into the wall. I gave him a treat. I really really really wanted to PUSH him back into the wall so he'd do it again, but caught myself. I waited. Eventually, he did it again. And then again. And again. He realized, now, that HE was training ME to give him a treat each time he contracted his abs. He was a clever trainer.
This gave me the confidence to wait for my other horse, Vafi, to do the same. Within ten days, both horses were standing against a wall, doing half-assed "crunches".
For the next two weeks, it killed me to do only this. To wait. To wait for them to develop core strength and better posture. To wait before asking for what I REALLY wanted from all this-- for them to contract their abs while moving.
Within three weeks, they no longer needed the wall. They were just standing there, free, doing full-on crunches at the slightest suggestion, If I walked into the pasture, they'd suddenly appear behind me, ninja style, doing crunches. (Still freaks the neighbors out.)
Within four weeks their "six pack abs" were visible, even when they weren't doing anything. They were cut. Vafi had finally earned his nickname "The Vafinator", and Draumur's "Cream Puff" morphed to "Cream BUFF". What I'd dreamed of for YEARS was finally happening. They were moving with more power and athletic grace. They seemed happier. They were 50% more badass.
For a total of eight weeks, I forced myself to wait before starting to ride them again, doing only the crunches. By the time I got back in the saddle, these were not the same horses. My not-so-world-class-but-I-love-them geldings were moving more like my trainer's $100k show stallions.
Now, three months into the experiment, I'm fighting deep regret that it took me this long. Finally nailing this one exercise -- ab crunches -- was THE lever that shifted everything. I had always believed it would be, but I had, until now, been unable (unwilling?) to just… wait.
I have a new superpower. So inspired by my little experiment in wait, I'm viewing everything through this new lens. "What could happen if I waited just a little longer? What could happen if I have just a little more faith in the process? What's the worst that could happen if I give this a little more time?"
In October, I will take Draumur and Vafi to an international Icelandic show where I will try, for the first time, to earn a world-ranking. All other amateur Icelandic riders in our California club have improved their scores by upgrading to a NEW, better horse. I want to prove that it's possible to upgrade the horse you have.
Of course it was always me, not the horses, that needed the upgrade.
"Installing patience…. 12% complete… please wait…."
Fast Time and the Aging Mind by Richard Friedman:
It’s simple: if you want time to slow down, become a student again. Learn something that requires sustained effort; do something novel. Put down the thriller when you’re sitting on the beach and break out a book on evolutionary theory or Spanish for beginners or a how-to book on something you’ve always wanted to do. Take a new route to work; vacation at an unknown spot. And take your sweet time about it.
Do you have a favorite way to peruse the past?