I had a truly great day yesterday.
After a long week of traveling and interviews. I was glad to be home.
I’m upbeat and happy to see my co-workers and boss when I come into work. Though I had got back home at 2am and had to go to work at 7am, I was surprisingly unaffected by any degree of somnolence.
My boss turns to me and says, “Oh, by the way, there is a new guy moving into your house tonight.”
As some may know I work with the Nature Conservancy in northwest Minnesota. I live in a house they provide along with my grocery bill. It’s pretty alright. Provided that I live alone.
A new friend reminded me the other day of a Sartre quote I had long forgotten, but hold true for myself: “Hell is other people.”
Now don’t get me wrong, I like you, but most people tire me out and I need to recharge by myself often. I also like to eat chips and salsa in my underwear when I get home from work, which is a lot of personal exposure for anyone not acclimated to me.
“New guy?” I ask.
Here’s the thing. I can get outright mad here, I can get passive aggressive here, or I can accept the truth that I do not own the house and this is a fact of an agreement I subscribe to.
I say OK, and allow 90 seconds to feel indignant and self-righteously pissed.
How could they do this to ME? Who do they think they are? Don’t they know how much I bust my ass for them, asking so little in return except for the peace to eat my chips sans pants?!
Then I let it go.
I listened to a good podcast the other day where Tim Ferriss interviews Tony Robbins. A great interview through and through, but there was one part that really stuck with me.
Tony Robbins is an accomplished person whether you like him or hate him. But at one point in the interview, he is talking about while he does consider himself successful, he has a few personal hurdles. He believes that life is too short, precious, amazing, and full of opportunity to feel sadness, anger, fear, negative emotions in general. Yet he still has bad days. Or at least bad parts of days. He is sort of a superhuman. Research him on your own time if you wish.
So, he was telling Tim that he has a new rule for himself that he allows himself to experience negative emotions for 90 seconds only, then he has to let them go. No time for that shit. Next!
I leave the office surprisingly chipper, as my daily mission is to be a solo one.
My assignment that day was to take twelve photographs in total, in three separate locations, of a graduated PVC pole I would carry with me. Why? Because nature.
I went out alone and parked illegally on a country road about five miles from the Canadian border. My goal was to travel about half a mile to a point due east and take four photographs of the PVC pole from each of the four cardinal directions. How hard could this be?
I followed my handheld gps which led me to trespass through one cattail ditch and a face-scratchingly thick willow aspen forest. Then I emerge and see the swamp.
For miles all I see are cattails and waist high muck water. The photopoint is still a third of a mile away. In we go.
At first it’s up to my shins, and very quickly my knees. The rubber boots which so often keep my feet dry, are muck-filled anchors, resisting every step. Soon, I’m in up to my waist. I like a good physical challenge, so I go on, singing made up shanties, to entertain, and scare away any imaginary bear or moose that would be daft enough to wade into this quagmire.
Thirty minutes, an hour, two hours roll by. I am dehydrated. I am exhausted. I smell as bad as the rotting peat that squelchs with every step and deposits an oil slick on the water’s surface.
I reach down for my phone to tell the time, and it’s gone from my pocket. Ensue confusion, anger, panic, five minutes of frantic retracing my steps. How could this happen to me? I never lose phone. Ever. My pride hurts. I think of all the reasons I am an ass. The cost of an iphone could feed a family for half a year in some places on this planet! And I, so cavalier, go out and throw that away in a godforsaken swamp. I am starving families all the world round! Monster!
Then there I am standing alone in the swamp, breeze through the reeds, calling myself a monster. The phone is gone.
My phone is probably in tech heaven with this flat screen
Gone. The word echoes through my head and reminds me of the 90 second rule.
Detrimental emotions be gone! Life has happened. I can live with it or analyze and pity it.
The emotion of loss leaves me and I take the photographs of the PVC stick in the middle of the swamp.
The journey back to the truck is as hard as the initial one complete with more swamp slogging and thicket thrashing.
It was all good. I know I’m close to the road, but can’t see it, as I hear a truck go by. I am exhausted and struggling through a particularly dense brush tangle. I know I look like a cartoon of a drunk pirate holding two sticks of PVC, stuck in brambles up to my neck, raging. The emotions of unfairness are arising again.
I oughta go tell my boss a thing or two about how dumb this whole mission is. Really!? They are paying employees to go and photograph an endless swamp. I am fairly certain that no one will ever look at these pictures. And even if someone did there is close to zero scientific knowledge available from them. What a stupid bunch of smug nature goons!
Just then, as my head began to fill with vitriol, a fat little wasp came from some holy place and gave me a nice sting on my cheek. Pain! Rage! The injustice of life!
Then it is all gone. I relax my shoulders.
This is it. Peace. Feel the emotions then let them go if they do not serve you.
I stop struggling, extricate myself from the brambles and push ahead out onto the road where my truck and water are waiting patiently.
I drink deeply from my nalgene, my cheek swelling with the warm glow of wasp venom. I get in the truck and start driving.
Two more of these photo points to go to today, I thought, then I smiled.
It was truly a great day.