Moving With the Current
On a date a few weeks ago, I was sitting across from a well-traveled business consultant. The kind of person who doesn’t have to think twice about their daily $7 latte. I remember listening as he spoke about the countries he’d traveled to as places he’d “done.” That he’d “done” South Korea and Peru and Ghana. I couldn’t stop fixating on the way these robust countries felt distilled to the likes of an amusement park ride at Disney World. Each country boiled down to its best tourist attractions.
I’ve been thinking about the word impoverished and how it can be used to describe not just someone’s economic state but the condition of their spirit. The more we live as though capitalist exchange is our only access point (or sole barrier) to adventure, joy, intimacy and pleasure, the less we can recognize those ubiquitous, human sensations in our everyday lives. Even the most majestic experience becomes flattened to the credit card it took to get there or overlooked entirely in our quest toward greener grass elsewhere; a generic ticket to ride the same rollercoaster as a million others.
At the core of it, I’m thinking about reciprocity. I’m preoccupied with the incessant, constant labor that we choose to do, simply by being alive. If we’re fueled by hope and connection, where can we can find that kind of tenderness in the world and offer it with consistency?
A little over a year ago, I made the decision to leave my job of nearly five years. I remember so clearly the feeling that my energy and essence was being dragged and hurried and constrained by a force that was outside of myself. I wish it was as simple as saying I’d outgrown a specific job or that I felt called to entrepreneurship, but neither was true. I felt called to return to myself — To return my life force back to its site of origin.
In the months since my last day, I’ve encountered a kind of overflow that I’d only known before in theory. Working minimal hours last summer left the warmest (and best) days of the year open to my own creative direction. Many of them I spent in my community garden, often alone, pulling weeds. That kind of unmonitored, devout laboring might be as close to bliss as I’ve ever come. I feel similarly about arranging beautiful produce in a fruit bowl on my kitchen table; lifting and turning a record to the B side. The pleasure of watching how the tended garden grows. Of knowing the disappearing fruit bowl nourishes me and those I love with shiny, brightly colored foods. That the hours spent listening is preparation for a time in the distant future when, at a concert in some small venue, I’ll sing-along with a group of stranger to those very lyrics and harmonies.
This kind of exchange is so impossible to quantify and so abundant. When my mind and my energy isn’t oriented around acquiring the largest dollar amount or proving and performing my worthiness, I can float. I can float on this constantly moving river of care and communion instead of trying to buy expensive boots to walk against the current.
While on a long plane ride from Europe back to Chicago, I asked the flight attendant for a complementary glass of wine to go with my heated box dinner. She smiled at me mischievously, said “How about two?” and handed me the mini bottles of airplane wine. Her wink and brisk advancement to the next row of passengers brought me a kind of delight I don’t know how to name. Did I actually want or need the extra wine? No - not at all. But now it sits on my kitchen counter unopened like a little relic of naughtiness — of play.
In Ross Gaye’s The Book of Delights, he explores the often overlooked moments of delight that color his days. The essay collection has many themes, but as I’ve read it slowly over the last few months, I continue to come back to this idea of unexpected resources: these treasure chests hidden in plain sight. Or the ripple of something from years ago that reappears in the present as the very soul medicine we need.
I am thinking about the hours spent on friends’ couches talking about nothing. I am thinking about waving at babies in public places and the unexpected compliment from the woman at the post office. I’m thinking about how a dozen glances can carry the weight of a gaze: a heavy and constant kind of benevolent seeing. As though the world is saying, I’m glad you’re here. I’m conspiring to keep you here.
There’s no currency that can offer that security. And what I mean is not security as something to be acquired or enforced but as a state of being to be recognized.
And when I say security, what I’m really saying is love. To recognize that we are loved.
How you see and share joy…what a gift. Thank you for sharing, and for your lush language bringing to life the many little beauties that come with being alive.