Last night I posted a picture to Instagram and Facebook with the hashtag #welovenighthikes. It’s true—we do love night hikes—but the hashtag could easily have been #welovewhatevergetsusthroughit.
Wondering what’s fair play in social media is a valid question and a worthwhile conversation. We criticize those with piles of unfolded laundry as the backdrop as much as those with nary an item out of place. We criticize those who whine about how hard life is on them as much as those who gloat about being #blessed and #grateful. Sometimes we are those people and sometimes we hate those people.
I have a diverse group of friends and posts in my feed run the gamut from “Look at us going from skiing to surfing in one day!” to “Can someone bring me a bottle of wine and a sandwich?”
Finding the balance on social media is a slippery slope. I’m not sure I understand why we care, but I know that we do. I’d estimate that over 50% of my Facebook feed is news and information, which I love because I mostly get what I signed up for, but it’s overwhelming and I don’t have time to actually read it all. I read very few articles in full, and the rest I skim for the gist before saving the link for the ubiquitous “later” and, well, you probably know the rest of that story.
Like many of us, I show up mostly for the pictures both to post and to peruse.
After I posted the night-hike picture I wondered if it was fair as a stand-alone photo. It was and it wasn’t. A photo is not a film, and a single shot is not a documentary; that’s the thing about any kind of expressive art: it allows for interpretation. And while deriving personal meaning is the beauty in art, it can also be the downside. We’re all free agents here.
Some people (maybe the ones asking for wine and sandwich delivery) look at social media photos (maybe of the people in the members-only lounge at the airport en route to or from a beach or a mountaintop) and they only see the smiles and the wide-open eyes and not the delays or the diarrhea or the fits.
And this is how it is.
I have to say that last night’s hike was crucial to my mental health. I’d had a headache all day. I’d gone to the gym, ran a few errands, walked Lucky in the park, and gutted the crap out of my closet. Nothing had helped the headache, and the headache got in the way of my writing, and then I was just grouchy because I wasn’t using the day the way I’d wanted to. I’d failed to meet my expectation of myself and it was nearly crippling.
I’d also slipped on the ice as I was getting into my car outside the post office and saved myself from hitting the ground (thanks, Pilates) in a way that has my deep abdominal muscles feeling shredded today. Because I’m no stranger to adding insult to injury, I came home and spent some time pulling half-frozen dog poo out of the melting snow. I cleaned out the fridge and the pantry and the linen closet. I cursed myself for saving this or that. I wanted to go for a hike in the sun, but there wasn’t any. It was starting to get dark and I knew there was one last-ditch option for saving the day. I needed that hike.
The truthier, extended version is that I shed some tears on that hill last night. I ran into a guy with his dog, a dog who attacked Lucky and sent him rolling backwards on his bony, old-man spine a couple of months ago. I confronted him about the attack, and although I’m a proponent of dogs running the hills unleashed, when he described his dog as a rescue who is “unpredictable” it boiled my blood. He told me he was sorry, and I’d say the exchange was overall positive, but my takeaway from the encounter was a reminder of was how damn fragile life is and, well, unpredictable.
With that man and his dog heading back down to town, Lucky and I had the whole mountain to ourselves. I kept him on his leash because I couldn’t bear the thought of losing him in the dark and I blasted some of my favorite songs and sang my heart out for no one to hear. I ran, I cried, I lost my breath, and I dropped to my knees. And I felt a lot better. Toward the end I let Lucky off his leash, confident he’d stay with me in the bluish light of dusk, and I took a picture of him because sometimes it’s hard to see where we are when we’re in the thick of it. I needed to shift my perspective.
I saw where the city lights roll right up to the mountain and the companion I’ve had for a long time. I saw a truth that I always end up seeing, that life can be both heartbreaking and beautiful at the same time.
I returned to the cleaning when I got home. I skipped dusting and vacuuming in favor of culling toiletries and tea. I cleaned out as if moving, which I appreciate both in theory and in practice. In my last blog post I wrote about how content I am to be here—and that’s the absolute truth—but then there are those days where I want to be anywhere but here.
Here is relative. During the years I was near constant motion I felt an exhausting weight whenever anyone asked “where do you live?” If my car was near I could point, because it was obvious with a glance that there was a lot of living going on in there, but sometimes I had no props and was reduced to using my words. Sometimes I’d give a long-winded response of explanation and excuse, but then I discovered a better answer. “Right here,” I’d say, pointing to myself, “I live here in this body.”
Because “wherever you go there you are” is true whether running away, moving toward, or sitting still.
My heart has this edgy feeling right now as if poised to spring into action. I might not have one foot out the door, but I’m light on my toes like a boxer or tennis player. I’ve moved so much and gotten rid of entire households several times over, and although I’ve felt tinges of regret over handing over some items I can say without hesitation that I haven’t actually missed any of them.
I hadn’t felt compelled to read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, but I visited a friend last weekend and found myself thumbing through the book. I knew the theory, but hadn’t put it into practice until yesterday when I asked myself over and over if various items “sparked joy.” If it wasn’t a quick yes then it was a no and into the giveaway bag it went. It’s a process, though, and there are a few items remaining on my hit list because I have to do some deep digging to figure out if I still need them in my space and if they spark joy or, it’s opposite: regret.
I never got around to the vacuuming or dusting, but my house felt “clean” in a deeper way than if I’d wiped surfaces and stuffed unfinished projects into drawers and closets. By the time I went to bed my headache was gone and I got the sleep of all sleeps. I could’ve gotten up earlier than I did for writing, but made an adult decision not to beat myself up over that one. Luckily there’s also a book called The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck so in the spirit of balance and riding that slippery slope like a wave…