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Well, We Found Ourselves Here (Now What?)

Bucking bull chained.
His dangling septum ring clangs,
golden or iron-wrought,
winged or Atlassian,
8 seconds of madness then
unrecognizable sideways glances and…
You, an unbroken link
can trace your line in
puddle jumpers, layovers and
trans-Atlantic migrations, that
uprooting of plugs planted in new land,
tilled before and after by hands
that clasped your own. Locked,
intertwined, in bed
aboard the Lusitania that life
sank, but you are firm.
Grounded, entrenched, while others
found their beds in trenches. You
passed on beyond
letters, email chains, and encrypted MMS
to profess your perfectly
ordinary, depressive longing
for meaning beyond dumb luck.

Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

For the Sake of Self-Interest and Re: The Return to Europe

Europe, Round 3, began as a non-start. 

 

I arrived at Logan on Saturday night nervous about the next leg of my trip. Terminal E is laid out in a long corridor, and I began distractedly searching for Primera Air to check in. I walked down the length of the counters, back and forth. No signs. Nothing.

 

This seemed normal because when I flew with Primera in September, they had set up a temporary desk for check in. I watched the process in action and figured this might be the case again.

 

Impatience got the best of me and I decided to confirm (or discredit) my hunch. I approached a Virgin Air attendant and inquired, “I know this isn’t any of your (bloody*) concern, but where do I find Primera Air?”

 

He said, “They don’t operate here anymore.”

 

I says to the guy, I says, “Oh, you mean I’m in the wrong terminal?” My thoughts immediately concentrated on the logistics of a transfer and the remaining time until boarding.

 

“No,” he emphasized the word, “they are no longer in business. Didn’t you read the news?”

 

“Ummm.”

 

“You can talk to British Airways or Norwegian, they are offering discount tickets…” He failed to mention that Virgin was offering a similar deal.

 

Turns out, Primera Air had declared bankruptcy on October 2 (two weeks before my departure). Apparently, they decided it was unimportant to alert paid passengers that their tickets were now good for kindling.

 

Thus my attempt to leave the country crashed with a thud.

 

Inside Boulder Bar, Prague.
Inside Boulder Bar, Prague. Climbing is fun. So I went during a layover.

 

This scene was fitting for how I was feeling: The trip isn’t as easily navigable; I am ambivalent.

 

My main jam for the next few months is to focus on climbing.

 

Continuing the theme of 2017 and 2018, I’m pursuing activities that have long been of interest (but which remained neglected). Specifically, farming and traveling.

 

I believe you need to pursue interesting — the notions that you get truly excited by — because this teaches you about yourself.

 

Yet, there has been an associated compunction with these endeavors, that self-interest is a thin distance from selfishness.

 

I am grappling with two concepts that focus one’s energy in opposing directions:

 

1) To understand myself better while 2) broadening my concern for others.

 

One lens is angled inward, while the other enlarges your circle of care. My hunch is that expanding this circle from misguided principles leads to disdain and burnout. Or, you need to know yourself in order to truly care for and help others.

 

In advance of boarding the plane (eventually, on Sunday night), I kept deliberating:

 

What does a life focused around pursuit of self-interest and connection to community look like for me? 

 

That is now the central question of this trip.

 

*Because British

 

A New Favorite: Mt. Monadnock’s Pumpelly Trail

Pumpelly Trail is a White Mountains taster. It’s a mini-WM hike: The distance is a bit contracted, it’s less strenuous, and you don’t go as high up, but the ambiance and feel is all there.

This gem is now one of my favorite hikes in the area.

Mt. Monadnock is just over the border in New Hampshire and an hour closer than the larger peaks further north.

The trail features rambling dirt paths under a dreamy canopy, moss strewn rocks reside in rivulets of worn roots, and a carpet of ferns distinguishes unbounded nature from footpath.

The forest melds browns and greens and black into a mosaic of silhouetted titans who have no other care than to be there.

About two miles in the earth juts up… then down, then up, then a little less down, then up and up along the ridge of three small rolling hills. Exposure and light, the path gives you vast patches of unobstructed views to the north, of the Whites, sapphire lakes and New Hampshire freedom.

Approaching the Peak of Monadnock
Forest to rock to forest to rock.

Continuing upwards the path bursts open to the exposed granite top Monadnock is known for. Take your pick for summiting, the rocky desert of marauding boulders calls for traversing. The hike culminates in the bald dome with 360 views, and it is oh so glorious.

 

How to get there: AllTrails has the coordinates

Where to park: This took me awhile to figure out. As soon as you turn onto Lake Dr., there is a parking area to your left. Along the road there are ample places for parking, but it is all private property, and the signs let you know so.

Total miles: 8.3 according to AllTrails. 9 according to the signs on the trail.

The Delta Between Expectations and Reality: Anxiety in Lviv

I started to feel anxious in Lviv.

 

The month-long stay was coming to an end and I didn’t know much more about the city than when I arrived.

 

The only “museum” I visited was the masochism-themed bar, Masoch, eponymously named for Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, the 1800s Lviv author and sexual submissive (obviously). There were no information placards and I didn’t learn much more than he wrote Venus in Furs (about his trip to Italy as a subservient to his mistress). I did see some people get whipped (and took a few licks myself), though.
Whipped at Masoch
Two lads, shirts off, whipped by the local tavern dom.
Reflecting upon my stay in the city, I began formulating answers to “what did you do in Lviv?”. I concluded that I hadn’t “seen” much objectively, relative to the time spent there (and especially compared to the TripAdvisor lists).

 

Yet, my goals had been achieved:
  • Climb 3x per week. Check
  • Hike in the Carpathian Mountains. Check
  • Try salo (cured back fat from pigs) and varenyky (Ukrainian pierogi). Check
  • See a play at the Lviv Opera. Check
Still, I kept thinking, “I should have done more.”

 

The anxiety arose from the delta between what I “thought” I should be doing and what I actually felt like doing. 
I should have gone to the observation tower at the top of City Hall, explored the former site of the ghetto (and sneak into the sewers?), perambulated through the various historical museums and art galleries. But I didn’t.

 

Admittedly, I felt lethargic during my stay and didn’t love the vibe of the city. I spent quite a bit of time on the internet, meandering, and reading. Yes, there was an “exotic” world outside, but I just didn’t feel like seeing more of it.
img-4624-e1537967719496.jpg
Advertising copy from Lviv’s first brewery. Consumers were disappointed with the mis-set expectations.
Expectations shape your experience.

 

This incident is a microcosm of the larger chain of reactions that occurs in every day life. We adapt to and incorporate expectations, whether self-imposed or from outside forces (we see this in experiments with lab rats, in-group/ out-group, etc.). We don’t typically analyze how we are making decisions or where our ideas about how things should be come from.

 

The notion that I need to see a lot of a place is not how I like to travel, and yet it was on my mind. I knew this consciously and yet it still proved to be a nuisance.

 

What else is guiding my behavior away from what I know I want?

 

Upon further review (in writing this piece) I did actually see a lot in Lviv (thank you very much)…

 

Yet the point stands that anxiety crops up when reality doesn’t meet expectations, and the gnawing imposition from this generic-expectation-from-ambiguous-other actually influenced how I felt I experienced the city. It can feel like you’re a race horse but your feet are tied…

 

That’s some expectation-based jedi mind trick shit right there.

Travel and the Pursuit of Simplicity

For me, the objective is simplicity.

 

The aim of my travels has been about the pursuit of freedom, especially mentally. I want to live in a manner that feels authentic to who I am.

 

When I add undue complexity to my life angst and uncertainty are sure to follow. In this context, complexity is an accretive process that obfuscates the core of who and what you are.

 

Think: What do you really care about? What is truly of interest to you? Then move away from that… That’s complexity.

 

This process is like carrying extra baggage on a trip which adds physical and mental clutter; It is heavy and each thing has a way of wanting to be accounted for. (Oh no, did you leave your el ten eleven t-shirt behind? Where did my extra usb cable go? What happened to your adorable cable-knit gloves?).

 

We tend to hold tightly to the things we already have and focus on what we’ve lost. What if we instead appreciated the lighter load?

 

Robert Persig, in Lila, gives a helpful analogy to a cup of tea:

 

If you want to drink new tea you have to get rid of the old tea that’s in your cup, otherwise your cup just overflows and you get a wet mess. Your head is like that cup. It has a limited capacity and if you want to learn something about the world you should keep your head empty in order to learn it. It’s very easy to spend your whole life swishing old tea around in your cup thinking it’s great stuff because you’ve never really tried anything new…

 

When my mind is filled up, it is hard to think and see clearly, like trying to find something in a messy room. The “mess” tends to hover in the background of my consciousness, feeding into uncertainty and overwhelm because it’s one more thing to worry about.

 

For me, mental freedom is having the space to explore ideas/ events/ interactions as they arise, to be able to consider what is there, and process as needed.

 

With psychic openness comes clarity and with less obligations comes the ability to pursue interesting.

 

The key will be to take this manner forward and transpose it into new situations, for example, if/ when I get back to a “normal” life. (Gotta practice like you play, brah!).